Interview: Phoebe Ryan finds the perfect mix between alternative and mainstream


When Vanyaland phones pop’s newest up-and-comer Phoebe Ryan, she’s shrugging off the last of her morning grogginess in Minneapolis at 3 p.m., true rockstar style. Her late start to the day is the result of playing video games — Minecraft, specifically — until 6 a.m. that morning. It’s been a long drive across South Dakota, she explains, and the pickings for entertainment while en route to her next show in Minnesota have been slim.

“My whole band is so healthy, they all went out to brunch together, they’re all listening to music, and I’m just stumbling out of my bunk,” Ryan admits by phone.

Phoebe Ryan is part of a new wave of women who are pushing alt-pop to the forefront of mainstream, all of which interestingly sport candy-colored hair as some sort of profession of unorthodoxy (Ryan currently dons a lovely teal, other examples include Halsey’s old blue locks and Grimes’ penchant for pink and purple hues). Ryan’s gold single “All We Know” with Billboard “it” dudes The Chainsmokers leads the pack in her growing arsenal of hits, and finds a nice home amongst the raspy appeal of Bebe Rexha and the flounce of Daya.


Since her Chainsmokers collab, Ryan has released her new single “Dark Side” to prep for her debut album, and is on the road with Swedish pop queen Tove Lo as a part of her “Lady Wood” tour.

Prior to the pair’s show this Sunday (February 19) at the House of Blues, Vanyaland chatted with Ryan about her history with Tove Lo, her (perhaps unpopular) opinion of The Chainsmokers, and her past as a songwriter.

Victoria Wasylak: Genre-wise, you’re kind of alternative pop, which has really been on the rise recently. How would you categorize your music?


Phoebe Ryan: I think that’s probably close, the alternative pop vibe, that’s about right.

Are you trying to be different from “regular” pop music deliberately, or are you going with the trends? Or is this just how you made it?

I don’t know! It’s so weird. I rarely think about it. All I know is that I love super mainstream pop music and I love alternative-indie stuff. I don’t really think about how to categorize it too much.

Genres are kind of obsolete now because of the internet — there’s so many genres and subgenres.


Ryan: That’s what I’m saying! I wish I could make up my own on the spot right now.

Since you said that you love really mainstream music — what was it like collaborating with the Chainsmokers?

Those guys are so awesome. I love those guys, they’re really great. They’re huge right now; they had the craziest year last year, and it was just fun to be a part of it, to be a part of the “mainstream.”


A lot of people have been hating on them recently. I read one article that called them the Nickelback of EDM. What do you think about their recent success? I know they just bagged a Grammy.

They honestly deserve everything that they have because are super fucking smart, super nice — I don’t have anything bad to say about them. They’re just really nice dudes and they deserve everything they’ve gotten. I’m stoked about them winning that Grammy. Two of my close friends also collaborated on that song, “Don’t Let Me Down.”

Once you did “All We Know” with them [The Chainsmokers], I’m sure that brought a lot more attention to your career, and you’ve released new music since then. What was that like [for your career] before and after?

I feel like there was a lot of space in between the release of “All We Know” and the release of “Dark Side.” Sometimes I wish there wasn’t that much space, sometimes I wish I had put out a song immediately just to follow up and keep people’s attention. It was a weird waiting period in between, but I think ultimately everything has worked out the way the way it’s supposed to work out, and people seem to love “Dark Side.” It all feels like a pretty positive release overall.


How did you get involved with touring with Tove Lo?

Ryan: Maybe a year and a half ago was the first time we met. We got to hang out last New Year’s Eve. We kind of bonded in Nicaragua, we were hanging out with friends down there. And I guess she had this tour coming up and asked me if I wanted to come along, and I was like “fuck yeah, let’s do it!”

Do you get to spend much time with each other on the road, or is it pretty separate?


You know what’s insane is this is our fifth show and we just had four days off, so we were driving across and she flew to Minneapolis — basically, we haven’t gotten to see each other that much, which really sucks, but I think once we’re set on the east coast we’ll have more of a schedule that lines up with each other, we’re gonna get to hang more. I know we’re both excited for it.

How would you compare the style of your music to hers?

Hmm… that’s a good question. What I admire about her most is that she is just like — she’s so confident and she’s so sexy, and just so fucking cool, and I guess I’m working on that. So I don’t know how that is coming across in the music, but I don’t know, she just has this magic to her music that’s hard to put a finger on. Maybe someone else thinks that my music has that magic too, I just can’t really put a finger on it.

You’ve written songs for some really big artists like Britney Spears and Melanie Martinez. What is one song that you wish more people knew that you wrote or that you worked on?

Oooooh, let me think. You know what’s crazy is everybody’s like “Oh, you’ve written on Britney Spears’ album, blah blah blah,” but I want to know how many people have actually listened to that song because I’m so fucking proud of it, and I feel like people are like “Oh, she’s written for Britney Spears, okay,” just the name of it says enough, but people need to actually really listen to that song because I love it and I’m so proud of it.

Which song is that?


It’s called “Man on the Moon” by Britney Spears. I really feel like people ought to listen to that.

Is it ever irritating that you put all this effort into writing a song, and then someone like Britney Spears sings it and her fans automatically associate it with her [and not you]?

No, not at all. When it’s Britney? No. She can literally do whatever she wants, and I’ll just be a fly on the wall.

TOVE LO + PHOEBE RYAN :: Sunday, February 19 at the House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St. in Boston, MA :: 7 p.m., all ages, sold out :: Live Nation event page :: Featured photo by Jon Hoeg