When Phoebe Ryan gets on stage she has a tendency to lose herself in the moment. Feeling comfortable on stage is key to a good live show, she says, as is feeding off the energy in the room. At her performance at the Billboard Hot 100 Festival in Wantagh, New York last month, despite a “really stressful” start to her day (just before our interview began, she admitted to missing her alarm clock and later having car problems on her drive to the festival), there was no doubt she’d lost herself- in the best possible way.
There’s something immediately likable about Phoebe. Her newest single “Forgetting All About You” details getting over a breakup in a way that’s realistic without wallowing, and while on stage she makes everyone in attendance feel like they’ve been a fan for ages, even if they haven’t. Many of her fans have been supporting her for years though, and she tells us that the backing of “hardcore fans” has inspired her to have “a whole different perspective” as she heads into her second headlining tour this fall.
We spoke with Phoebe Ryan about “Forgetting All About You”, what makes a good live performance, and coming full-circle with the upcoming tour; read the full interview below.
Substream: You just released your single “Forgetting All About You” with blackbear- tell me about that song.
Phoebe Ryan: I’m very excited that it’s out now- it’s time. I’ve been sitting on it for a minute and it’s really fun working with blackbear. He came up on stage with me today and that was a treat- that was really fun.
Substream: How did that collaboration come about?
PR: So basically- the song was written but he put a verse on it and I was like, “Oh, this is exactly what it needed- I didn’t even know it needed it but it needed it”- it was amazing. He just took the song from a seven to a ten, which was great.
Substream: The artwork for the song that shows you throwing up into the toilet, you designed that, right?
PR: Yeah I did!
Substream: I just watched the music video that came out yesterday, it’s fantastic- that’s also a cartoon- did you do any of that?
PR: I collaborated with my friend Moistbreezy- she’s phenomenal, she’s also a musician, she’s crazy awesome- I hit her up cuz she’s great at animation and I have just started learning animation so I’m not that good at it- but I love it. I was like, “Yo, I need a whole video- here are all my drawings- can you just make it a cartoon?” And she did it and she killed it. It’s my favorite video- I’m so excited about it.
Substream: It definitely fits the spirit of the song.
PR: Yeah! It’s just fun and simple- I feel like it has this feeling. A vibe.
Substream: What I appreciate about the song is that it’s very real- when people talk about trying to forget about someone, a lot of times it’s like, “Just live your best life, and go on as normal!”
PR: No, I detail it for ya- I detail how to get over someone very quickly, yes.
Substream: What’s the best way to get over someone, to forget about someone?
PR: I would say you gotta just rage, you gotta just go for it, you gotta go freaking crazy- but also just take care of yourself. Be crazy, but don’t be too crazy. Take care of yourself, make sure you get enough sleep- drink a lot of beer- you’re fine. Boom.
Substream: For sure! So you recently announced a headlining tour.
PR: Yes. Yes! I did a headliner last summer, so this will be my second time out and it’s gonna be the best, I just know– I just have a whole different perspective on it. I’m so excited.
Substream: How so?
PR: Well, I just feel like I am much more comfortable on stage.
Substream: Do you think that came from just the factor of doing so many shows, or was it getting to tour with an artist like Tove Lo, who just commands the room?
PR: I feel like it’s a little bit more of what’s going on within. I feel like I’m just way more willing to share more of myself and be more intimate with fans…. I really wanna connect with people this time around. Because my first headline tour I was like, “I don’t know what the fuck is gonna happen, I don’t know who is gonna show up”- this second time, it’s gonna be a lot of those same fans coming out and I wanna see them again, but really have a moment with them and be like, “This is us.”
Substream: Have you found that a lot of your fans are people who have been following you for years?
PR: Yeah, it’s really awesome actually! A lot of people are hardcore fans and I love that. I’d rather have like, two hardcore fans than two thousand whatever fans. I want the real deal- I want the real deal always.
Substream: When you posted about the tour, I saw that you’re playing the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn- and you said you had been to a lot of shows there.
PR: Yes! I went to so many shows there when I was in college.
Substream: So now you’re kinda having this full-circle moment.
PR: Dude, it’s so crazy– honestly it’s such a dream. I just can’t even imagine what it’s gonna be like up on that stage. I had the same thing when I played Webster Hall- I used to go to Webster Hall all the time.
Any of those big venues in New York that I used to go see shows at when I was in college- that is such a dream. Next is Terminal 5- I have to play Terminal 5; I’m so excited.
Substream: What do you feel is the key to a good live show? Whether you’re doing a support tour where you have to win over Tove Lo’s fans or headlining- what’s your key to a strong live performance?
PR: Man- I don’t know. I would say I just have to feel comfortable on stage. Maybe I’ll learn otherwise when I am a little more seasoned, but for now I really feed off people’s energy and when people are excited I am losing my mind- sometimes to the point where it’s not good, where I’m so hyped up.
Substream: Do you ever lose a sense of where you are?
PR: Yeah, sometimes! Sometimes I’m so in it I’m like, “I don’t know what the next word out of my mouth will be”- in a song, I’ll be like, “I don’t remember what this next verse is- I don’t even know what song I’m singing.” And that’s when it’s maybe a problem.
Substream: Do you have a printed list of your setlist on stage?
PR: I have my setlist on stage, but I don’t look at it. I don’t know- sometimes I just get really wrapped up in moments, and I think that’s okay. I think that’s really a genuine thing that I experience but I would like to have a little more control, if possible!
Substream: How do you think you’d be able to find that control?
PR: I don’t know- maybe play a thousand more shows in my life and time- we’ll see. I’m just gonna keep it rolling.
Substream: Do you tend to write a lot when you’re on the road playing shows?
PR: On the road, not so much- really when I’m on the road I like to just focus on where I am, if that makes sense. I have to just soak in the moment when I’m on the road and just be with my band, see friends in different cities- I take a break from writing whenever I’m on tour. Then whenever I’m not on tour I’m just in the studio all the time.
Substream: You also write a lot for other artists. When you’re sitting down to write a song, are you thinking in your head, “Okay, this is my song that I’m gonna sing” or “No, this is gonna be for someone else”?
PR: It depends what the session is like. If I go in feeling like I’m writing for another artist, I feel like there’s a lot of freedom that I have whereas if I’m writing for myself, I’m way more focused and analytical. But I think there’s pros and cons to both. It’s always surprising when I’m like, “I need that song for myself”- it’s just a gut instinct.
Substream: Are there specific things that you feel define your music- or songs that you’re like, “This is gonna be on my album”?
PR: Man, I don’t know. I feel like there are- maybe keywords or something, I don’t even know what they would be- but when I hear a song that I know is meant for me, it just fucks my world up. I’m like, “I need that song right now.” I just know it.
Substream: You have to know that gut instinct.
You released an EP, Mine, about 2 years ago- can fans be expecting an album anytime soon?
PR: Yes- soon, but I have a lot of new music coming out but it might be in the form of an EP rather than an album. There’s gonna be a ton of new music and I’m gonna take the next few months to really focus on releasing that music and getting ready for the tour.
Substream: One thing that I always like to ask artists- how do you either deal with internally or respond to any kind of negativity or “haters” regarding your music?
PR: I was actually just thinking about this. There’s some fans that will say something that’s meant to be nice but it’s actually not nice- kinda back-handed where they’ll say something like, “All of my friends don’t like your music but I like your music”- and I’m like “Okay that’s great.” Or they’re like, “I don’t really like your music but your hair is really cool”- what? I don’t know- I am trying to have a thicker skin about things, and I feel like I do but sometimes it’s upsetting- I’m a human, I’m a person, I don’t like when there’s negativity, and if there is, I really have to put my guard up and kind of just be like, “Fuck it”- you know? Who cares?
Phoebe Ryan will be hitting the road for a headlining tour from October 31 through November 14, with support from morgxn and Molly Kate Kesner. Head on over to her website to see a full list of tour dates, and be sure to stay tuned for more new music from Phoebe Ryan before the tour begins!