Phoebe Ryan is not just another pretty face. The NYU alumni learned the ins and outs of the industry and already had a successful career writing songs for other artists before she lit up the blogosphere with her first solo work: a catchy mash-up of R. Kelly’s “Ignition” and Miguel’s “Do You.”
After her cover gained over 1.2 million hits on YouTube and 1.5 million plays on Soundcloud, it was clear that Phoebe Ryan had arrived on the scene and she wasn’t going anywhere. After releasing her debut EP Mine in June, it wasn’t just the blogosphere that took note. She has quickly garnered fans in high places, including Tove Lo and Taylor Swift. Phoebe was one of the lucky artists on a handwritten note entitled, “New Songs That Will Make Your Life More Awesome (I Promise),” that Swift posted on Instagram in early October.
When you listen to her EP, it’s clear why. Her sensual voice and raw, relatable lyrics make her hard not to like. She seems laid back, down to earth–the kind of girl you wouldn’t mind kicking back a drink with at a local dive bar. It’s her perfect brand of unique accessibility that makes her a force to be reckoned with. And if Taylor Swift’s seal of pop approval isn’t enough to convince you Phoebe is the next pop goddess, I’m not sure what is.
You started your career as a songwriter for other artists. Was the goal always to expand to launch a solo career or did your goals change over time?
When I started writing songs for other artists, the goal was simply to become a better writer. Of course, in the back of my mind, I knew that honing in on my skill would help me be a better writer for my own project someday.
Do you think writing for such diverse artists has helped you evolve to find your own sound?
Absolutely. I am inspired by so many different genres, I need to be constantly experimenting with new sounds to fuel my own creativity I think. Honestly, I get bored pretty easily, and I feel like I need new and exciting music to be happening around me at all times, and being involved in writing for other genres keeps me going.
Your voice has such amazing clarity and tone. Have you always been a singer, or did singing come after you began writing?
I’ve been singing since I was super super young. Whenever my parents left the house when I was in middle school (I was terrified of singing in front of them), I would walk around the empty house belting anything from Les Miserables to Ashanti.
Who do you hope to collaborate with on songs in the future?
Too, too many people to list, but I will say Jeremih has been on the list for a good while.
Your mash-up of R. Kelly's "Ignition" and Miguel's "Do You" made it to the #1 spot on Hype Machine. What made you decide on that mash-up as your first release? And did you have any idea how much buzz it would get?
We wanted my first release to be something familiar enough for people to recognize immediately, but put a twist on it to make it fresh. The amount of buzz we got still blows my mind. But also, "Ignition" is one of R. Kelly's best songs, and adding Miguel’s “Do You" in the mix really made it something special, so I guess I was expecting people to really like it.
Tell me a bit more about the inspiration behind your original songs, "Mine," "Dead" and "Homie." How was the writing process for these similar or different than writing for other people?
I was just writing what I had been going through. “Mine” is about picking yourself up after a rough time, “Dead” is about being so grateful for all the good things in life, and “Homie” is just about making out all the time. I think that covers all the bases of what I was going through at the time pretty much. Writing my songs is always different than writing for other artists. With other artists, I try to get into their head, into their mindset, like an actor in a way, you know? With my music, I have to get deep into my own head, which is usually a way more vulnerable/scary/freaky thing.
You recently moved to LA from NYC. What made you decide to switch coasts?
I had been living in NYC for 5 years and I needed a change. I wanted to meet and work with new people, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and I wanted to be warm all the time.
What's next for you as a solo artist?
Writing, writing, writing, putting out a record and touring, touring, touring.