Phoebe Ryan

L.A. based singer/songwriter Phoebe Ryan has turned heads and singed hearts with her stunning debut EP Mine.  Her electro-tinged brand of sultry, self-empowering-indie pop has been called ‘feverish and fearless’;  She’s received a full-court embrace by the tastemakers of the pop blogosphere, eliciting comparisons to Ellie Goulding, Tove Lo and Lights, but Ryan is propelled by a dreamily-arrived-at sense of wordplay that rises above pop newbie-ness. 

Her taut, textured songcraft never relies on filler.  Seductive exclamations mirror-fog into world weary wisps of hope and defiance that draw you even closer, all purled into a powerfully evocative vocal style.  Whether it’s the alluring self-resolve  of “Mine,” the rippling resignation of “Dead,” or the more casual, of-the-moment confessional, “Homie,” Ryan packs some wallop in that breathy delivery of hers that disarms and enchants with every line.

“I think this batch of songs still focuses on trying to reach that best part of one’s self,” says Phoebe.  “Highlighting, deep down, that we’re all trying to be good people.”  When specifically asked about “Mine,” Ryan recently told one magazine interviewer: ‘It’s an ode to fighting through a tough time and accepting the circumstances with strength and grace.’  That refrain could also apply to some of the life-lessons learned growing up in the close-knit fishing/beach village of Sea Bright, New Jersey. 

“You don’t bruise easy, growing up there,” she says.  “And you can’t help being surrounded by music, hanging at the beach practically every day,” she says.  “But when the summer ended you’d get a little bored.  I remember practicing my singing when I was still in middle school, but only when I was alone, when there was nobody home.  I think it was around 7th grade that I discovered Dylan and other folk music.  I also listened to a lot of pop and R&B too.”  She riffs influences as thoroughly as she tumbles out lyrics: “K-Ci & JoJo and R. Kelly - from Broadway music to A Tribe Called Quest to 50 Cent.  And remember, New York City was only a train ride away, too,” she adds.  Ryan’s proclivity for gently crossbreeding styles is deftly woven into her work, but it was the bolder sonic mash-up of R. Kelly’s “Ignition” and Miguel’s “Do You” that first brought her to the attention of the music world in the beginning of 2015.  The clever hybrid reached #1 on Hypemachine and went on to top more than 10.5 million Spotify streams.

“It happened very organically,” she says.  “There was a track going on in the studio and I just started to freestyle.  We were like ‘it would be crazy if we turned it into a mash-up and added some Kesha (splicing the instrumental from “Animal), but somehow it all worked.  The only funny thing is it seemed to pop out overnight, so a lot of people never see all the other hard work it takes to get you even there.”

For Phoebe, a prior significant turning point was attending NYU’s Clive Davis School of Recorded Music after high school. Her original pursuit of what she calls the ‘more practical’ musical skill-sets eventually morphed into real songwriting chops and the prospect of her own solo career.

“I studied engineering there and production – a little bit of everything until I engaged in some of the performance classes; Worked on my songwriting.  All of a sudden I saw what I was strongest at.  I began writing songs with friends and pretty soon I started collaborating with other songwriters.”

Soon she was writing with artists such rapper Skizzy Mars (a remix of “Mine” from Michael Keenan featuring Mars is included on the EP) and EDM stalwarts Tritonal, as well as Brooklyn indie band Oh Honey.  She also contributed a song to X Factor alumni Bea Miller.  “All of this was preparing me for a chance at following my own dream, I suppose.  I’ve always been confident, but I’m still trying to figure out myself how this all went from being something you do in school to something that happens in real life.”

Phoebe’s recent signing with Columbia Records is the capstone of what, so far, has been an incredible 2015.  “I’m so fortunate that it all has brought me to a place where I can say ‘this is what I’ve been training for; This is what I’ve been working towards.’”

And that includes her poise as a performer; The charismatic Ryan has garnered solid live reviews for her West Coast live run with The Knocks, and her understated performance in her video for “Mine,” hinting of more tantalizing star-turns to come.  “I’m a studio rat but I think I love the live experience the best,” she says.  “There’s nothing like standing on that stage to get your whole point across.”

Recalling the unique experience of being part of a National Shakespeare competition when she was still in high school, Phoebe wonders out-loud if she may have forever caught the performance bug then.  “It was wild, I got to study in Oxford and do all this crazy Shakespeare shit,” she says.  “It sounds funny to want to be a pop singer and say ‘yeah, Shakespeare was a huge inspiration – but it’s true.’”

You might think it’s a stretch until you absorb one of the many elliptical lyrical volleys she serves up  on the new EP, ala this self-imposed query from “Homie”:  ‘What’s the point of being anything more or anything less…’