Few artists can capture the familiar pang of heartache quite like Phoebe Ryan. Embracing upbeat pop anthems while leaning all the way into poignantly honest lyrics, her music touches on the visceral insecurity that come with putting your heart into a relationship that just didn’t work out. In the two years since the release of her game changing EP, James, she’s done a lot to make a name for herself, all while staying true to the achingly relatable authenticity found in her music. She’s penned songs for artists across genres from Britney Spears to All Time Low, starred in an indie film, and even opened for Carly Rae Jepsen on her ‘Dedicated’ tour this past summer. 2019 marked a new era for Ryan, with three new singles and music videos out in the world. Now. she’s preparing for the release of her highly anticipated debut album while reflecting on the changes in her life that brought her to this point.

Back in May, Ryan released her first solo single since James, “A Thousand Ways,” an anthemic track that captures all of the ways a heart breaks when a relationship is coming to its end. The accompanying music video was her first since her Jaymes Young collaboration, “We Won’t” and marked a new realm of creative expression for Ryan. “They’re all projects that I’m really proud of,” says Ryan on the three videos she shared this year. “They always take a lot of work but I always walk away feeling really great about them.”

Before coming back to her own music, she took just under a year to focus exclusively on her mental health, putting her love for music and writing on the backburner. “It was really hard I’m not going to lie, it felt like everyone was getting ahead of me,” says Ryan. “I didn’t write and only focused on getting myself in a better place before I would release music.” Ryan, who struggles with depression and bi-polar disorder, learned how to manage her symptoms by getting on more effective medication and learning different coping mechanisms. Although the shift in perspective was difficult to accept at first, the resulting growth in her personal life was well worth the pause professionally.

The time off allowed her to gain perspective on many parts of her own life, ultimately helping her write some of her most personal songs to date. Ryan’s ability to craft infectious pop songs inspired by painful experiences is unmatched, the juxtaposition between the two becoming Ryan’s signature as a songwriter. “I thought about it and I really only have like one real love song and it’s like really sexual,” she jokes. “Maybe one day I’ll write happy love songs but not on this album.”

The album, How It Used To Feel, is expected to drop sometime in the spring and reflects on all of the aforementioned changes that have occurred in Ryan’s life in recent years. Another one of those changes was her relationship with alcohol and learning how to better take care of your own mental health in order to love yourself more effectively. “Try It Sober,” a currently unreleased track that she has been playing for fans at shows, describes her own journey of figuring out her own balance of drinking to have a good time and learning to have a good time without it. “I had been completely sober for two years,” says Ryan. “I just think that it’s important to figure out your own balance and know how to have a good time without always relying on alcohol.”

Her most recent release being the single “ICIMY,” a high energy track that sees Ryan explore why she was having trouble moving past a relationship. “I was going through a really hard break up at the time and I was having a lot of trouble getting over it,” says Ryan. “One day, I just wanted to go in and write a really happy, upbeat song about what I was going through.” The heartache tinged single channels elements of Sufjan Steven’s Age of Adz to highlight the specific heartbreak of ending a relationship that was significant chapter of your life.

The music video sees Ryan star alongside Joey Rose, a trans and non-binary actor and musician. The pair met on the set of Dakota, an indie film in which Ryan played a young musician whose love for music causes her to come to terms with her reliance on drinking and toxic relationships. “It was just really important that I got to work with such a talented actor to bring out the emotion of the song.”

Ryan also shifts her focus to the things in her life that make her happy, including connecting with her fans on a more personal level. She excitedly mentions how one couple even named their baby “Phoebe” after their favorite indie-pop artist. She recognizes familiar faces at every show and stays in contact via social media long after she has left their city. That connection to her fans is why she is so excited to be back on the road in the new year, heading out on tour with Eric Nam in February.

With her debut full length album slated for release this Spring and tour dates planned for the new year, there’s a lot for Phoebe Ryan to look forward to in 2020.