Phoebe Ryan Debuts "Dead," Talks Cybersex Rapping, and Her Love for R. Kelly
The 24-year-old may be a pop newbie but her music is perfect and fully formed.
Phoebe Ryan has been a around for a exactly one hot minute, releasing only one track of her own—the plush synth-pop cut “Mine”—plus an R. Kelly/Miguel mash-up of “Ignition/Do You…,” and yet the 24-year-old LA-based singer is already causing ripples to the tune of nearly three quarters of a million Soundcloud plays. Following her studies in audio-engineering and production at NYU, plus some time cutting her teeth with other artists, Ryan realized she wanted to step into the spotlight herself. Premiering below is Ryan’s second ever original song, “Dead,” which showcases both the singer’s ethereal vocals and her innate pop nous. Think Say Lou Lou plus Tove Lo, a pinch of Imogen Heap's vocal manipulation and a trace of Sky Ferreira at her most mellow. Have a listen and find out a little bit more about the green-haired singer—like why her middle name is Holiday and her thoughts on cybersex—below.
Noisey: How long have you been writing and performing? I know you’ve done a lot with other artists.
Phoebe Ryan: I started writing when I was in high school and it just grew from there into making it more professional. I really got more into it in the past year, writing as constantly as possible—working with bands like Oh Honey, Skizzy Mars, and Bea Miller. It’s been really fun.
Did you help them write? At what capacity?
The Skizzy Mars and Oh Honey stuff were all collaborations. In Bea Miller’s case, she just took the song that we had written.
I feel like your voice could be categorized in a variety of different genres. You were on that Tritonal dance track—is there a particular area you’re trying to be in—like more pop or more electronic? How do you want people to perceive your music?
I definitely want to be in the pop world. My dream is to bring more indie-pop vibes to top 40 pop vibes. I want to collaborate them somehow. I definitely want to go pop, that’s where my heart is.
So, we’re premiering “Dead.” What does that track mean to you?
Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with how fortunate I am and with my friends, how good we have it—when everything is going so great and so wonderfully. For some reason, I have this negative reaction, like, “I don’t deserve any of this, and I have to be dead right now. This has to be a dream.” I had come up with song title ideas and I thought “Dead” was an interesting title if we could spin it in a positive way. My producer Kyle Shearer and I co-wrote that song, and he helped me hit the nail on the head. I think what I was trying to say came across—hopefully people agree with it.
What color is your hair right now? Recently I saw your hair was aqua.
I’ve been keeping it green. I was experimenting with different dyes for a while and I couldn’t really get the shade that I ever wanted. When I was in Nashville working on the songs, I went to a salon and they tried a new dye. It turned out to be the exact shade I wanted, so I’ve just been rocking that now.
Are you going by Phoebe Holliday Ryan or Phoebe Ryan?
I’m going by Phoebe Ryan. I feel like it’s interesting that people know my middle name is crazy, but I don’t use it. I feel like that’s funny.
Why did your parents give you the middle name Holiday?
This is gross, but I’m pretty sure it’s because I was conceived during the holiday season. They wanted to name me Holiday, but they were like, “No that’s too crazy.’ I realized that a couple of months ago. It took me that long to realize it.
That’s so crazy.
Isn’t that horrible? Yeah, maybe that’s why I’m not going by Phoebe Holiday because it reminds me of gross shit.
So will you be putting out an EP or LP officially?
Right now what we’re focused on just involves us putting out singles, remixes and videos—seeing how people react to them. We want to understand the fanbase first before releasing an album. As a new artist, you have to know who you’re aiming for.
I really loved your R. Kelly cover. Did you get a response from R. Kelly himself?
Thank you. It’s really sad that I wasn’t able to get R. Kelly’s attention about this because I am a huge R. Kelly fan and it would have meant so much to me if he had gotten the chance to see it. I would have lost my shit. I think someday when I meet him I’ll be able to show it to him and laugh. It’ll be fun.
Maybe he’ll read this article. You never know.
Make the title of it: “Look here, R. Kelly.”
That’s a good idea. What’s your style like when it comes to complementing your hair?
I guess I’m pretty picky about the colors I wear. Obviously, anything green I’m not terribly afraid of wearing—unless it’s a lot of green. I don’t ever wear the color red because I don’t want to look like Christmas. I love bright purples and bright yellows, like banana yellows.
I feel like you have an eclectic mix of influences. Which bands or musicians have played parts in that?
It’s interesting because I grew up listening to mainly folk music. Somehow I got really into R&B—K-Ci & JoJo and R. Kelly. Those dudes were amazing to me because those melodies were like nothing I had heard in folk music. I was also really into pop. When I got introduced to Swedish pop I was like, “This is next level.” How can I combine this with an R&B thing and make it super cool?
Is there a 90s R&B track you want to cover, but haven’t yet?
I would say something like “Pony” by Ginuwine or something by K-Ci and JoJo. Something absurd.
Do you have any rapping skills?
It’s so funny because I’m in the studio right now and I’m about to spit some bars. It’s about cybersex.
Um, no comment. Just in case my mom reads this: unconfirmed.
Ilana Kaplan is a writer living in BK! Follow her on Twitter.