You would think a 24-year-old musician with attention-grabbing seapunk-coloured hair, two pop singles that have ridden the wave of the blogosphere, a swiftly rising list of influential music contacts and a self-confessed love of R. Kelly and Hip Hop music would declare themselves as “the world’s greatest“. However, Phoebe Ryan is refreshingly humble as exemplified by the lyrics in her latest single “Dead“.
“It’s about having a great life and wondering if you truly deserve it“, explains Ryan. She goes on to express a rare sense of gratitude from a potential hit-maker, “Sometimes I think I’m not a good person, but I’m healthy, have a roof over my head and I’m surrounded by loving, amazing people“. The oceanic pop of “Dead”, which was released on the 9th of March, is a follow-up to the crashing energy of “Mine“, which contained a music video that symbolized a common theme of Ryan’s song-writing. Ryan deciphers: “I think I mostly write songs about my relationship with myself [and the ‘Mine’ video] is about owning up to your mistakes and loving yourself regardless“.
The first part of the aforementioned music video shows Ryan undertaking a lot of furniture movement and tidying up as if R. Kelly is about to visit, but instead it’s all part of a plan to build herself, a D-I-Y cocoon that represents part of a self-healing process. “I wanted the video to be about cleaning up a mess and creating something beautiful out of it. My director Jon Hoeg and I decided to build a giant fort to express those sentiments“, she confirms.
Jon Hoeg also worked with Ryan previously on the video for her mashup of R. Kelly’s “Ignition” with Miguel’s “Do You…”, which alluded to her admiration for contemporary R&B music, but her musical inspirations are a lot more eclectic than expected. “I also listened to Bob Dylan religiously. My dad took me to a lot of his concerts in middle school“, Ryan also goes on to admit, “I even when through a serious heavy metal phrase in seventh grade“.
Her modesty also extends to her hair colour. Noticeably vibrant and unique. It’s the first thing that stands out. It could easily be used as a publicity stunt in the same way it’s worked for Nicki Minaj (Pink), Katy Perry (Blue) and Hayley Williams (Orange and Red gradient), but “it might impact my work a little bit“, Ryan concedes before rationalizing further: “only because I’m obsessed with the colour green but there’s a lot of people out there with colored hair. [It] Can’t pretend like I invented it or anything“.
As close to her musical heart as the R. Kelly cover was, Ryan states that her career highlight was an unexpected form of flattery: “My manager just got an email from a member of The Corps of Cadets and army ROTC at Virginia Tech asking me to go to their junior dance and class ring ceremony with them. Shout out to Casey Scott“, even though she’s unable to attend due to a music clash, “I wish I could make the dance but I’ll be back in LA preparing for my show on the 30th at the Bardot“. Ryan is already treating her music as a professional priority and modestly states: “I’m fortunate to say yes, music is my full time job“.
Possessing a great balance between a down-to-earth personality, level-headedness and ambition, she sets out her wish list: “I want to write a hit song, whether it’s for me or a bigger artist. I want to have an outstanding live show [and] I want to continue to grow as an artist everyday“. Whilst furthermore explaining her plan of action: “Most of my friends in LA are producers, songwriters and musicians [and therefore] I’m surrounded by this crazy artistic energy. I soak it in as best as I can [and] I make it a point to be around people I idolize and adore, both as artists and friends“.
In Ryan’s rapidly growing LA contact book is new friend Skizzy Mars. Like Ryan, he is also a star in the making and released his debut album The Red Balloon Project this year. He asked Ryan to feature on his mid-tempo track “The City”, which has given Ryan a foot in the Hip Hop door. It was an experience that manufactured great enthusiasm: “We will definitely be working together in the future. He’s the best. We will get married someday“, Ryan enthused, before also recommending The Knocks, Powers, Børns and Oh Honey as artists to look out for.
Ryan doesn’t quite have a blueprint for international success despite wanting “to have a solid international fan base and touring presence everywhere in the world” but like a lyrical theme, she is “learning to stay positive” and appreciates the little overseas attention. “Every once in a while, I’ll get nice messages from fans in India, Columbia and Finland…“, she adds.
With insightful direct answers to most of our questions, her most befuddled moment comes when she dwelled on her hobbies outside of music: “I barely have any hobbies, I just joined a book club but I didn’t even start the book yet. [Nonetheless] I like video games and hanging out with my friends. I’m lame. Suggestions for hobbies are welcome“. The big and most important question though is when she plans to release her debut album and even though Phoebe Ryan is a fresh artist, she already possesses professional skills at dealing with burning queries from the media with tight-lip integrity, replying that “I’m going to keep writing songs, that’s all I can say for now. We’ll see folks“.
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Words by Matt Hobbs // Edited by Ayo Adepoju