Phoebe Ryan On Turning Heartbreak Into Gold With New Song 'ICIMY': It's 'A Sad Song With Good Energy'

Phoebe Ryan
Ron Dadon

Phoebe Ryan

Phoebe Ryan has been a prolific songwriter since 2014, working with artists like Bea Miller, penning tracks like "Man on the Moon" by Britney Spears, and featuring on The Chainsmokers' single "All We Know." Now, she's ushering in a new era with her latest single "ICIMY," released Friday (Dec. 6).

"ICIMY," which stands for "in case I miss you," solidifies her status as a solo singer. With upbeat synths interlaced with lyrics like “Who's gonna hold my hair back?/ Who's gonna help me fight the pain?/ Who do I call when I fall into something I can't escape?," she turns her heartbreak into pop gold. 

Ryan tells Billboard she channeled Sufjan Stevens' 2010 album Age of Adz when creating the songs on her upcoming debut album, wanting "glitchy-smooth instrumentation" to accompany a heartfelt reflection on the last two years of her life. 

As "a sad song with good energy," "ICIMY," she says, is the perfect track to "springboard into the rest of the album."

"There's been some intense heartbreak and I've written about that," Ryan admits. "But there's also songs that just touch on loving myself. They're all songs about love, but maybe not like you'd think."

Ahead of the release of "ICIMY" -- which will appear on her debut album How It Used To Feel, due in early 2020 -- Billboard chatted with Ryan about her upcoming album, fangirling over Carly Rae Jepsen, and why she loves being an independent artist. 

What's the story behind "ICIMY"? 

It was written last spring -- months after a breakup. I was like, "I should be getting over this. I should definitely be moved on by now." But it really consumed me and I felt like something was missing. It happened very organically. I just kept thinking, "What am I supposed to be doing to get over this? What am I supposed to do in case I miss you?" 

Will the other singles you've put out this year -- "A Thousand Ways" and "Build Me Up" -- be on How It Used To Feel

"A Thousand Ways," definitely. That song is super important in terms of how cohesive the rest of the album is. "Build Me Up" is just a fun bop that we released because I'd been sitting on it for three years and I was like, "This song rules. It needs to be out there."

What was this album process like compared to your EP and single releases?

I was on Columbia for years, and it was overall a really good experience. We split on good terms. But the amount of creative freedom I feel like I have now has been so invigorating. I feel like I can say and do whatever I want, and musically there's also freedom because I don't have to worry about like, "Is this going to be on the radio? Is this going to sell a million copies?" I'm not concerned about that. I'm really just concerned about having a cohesive work of art. 

I don't think I've ever been artistically as proud of something as I am of this album. A lot of s--t has happened since I put my first song out. I'm so excited for the people that have been following me for years to hear it. They're the ones I'm most excited to get feedback from. 

How do you feel like you've grown since your last EP? 

I've just been through so much, especially the past two years. I have bipolar disorder and I feel like me balancing that on top of the artist's lifestyle has been interesting because I need structure to be healthy. With a freelance artist's lifestyle, that's not always promised.

I've gotta give a real big shout-out to my therapist and psychiatrist. It's interesting because once I started taking medication, I felt like I was myself again for the first time in a long time. Everything that I talk about on this album comes back to that. When I started writing, it was when I started this new dosage of all of the medications that I take. It's been super eye-opening. I just wanted to be honest about it in case anyone else out there is worried about confronting what they've got going on or they feel alone. They're not alone. I'm dealing with s--t, too.

You just wrapped up a tour with Carly Rae Jepsen. How was that? 

It was amazing. She's such a nice person and she's so pleasant to be around. I would sneak out and and catch pieces of her set every night. It's cool seeing somebody that's really good up close and personal. Dedicated is such a good f--king album. I was such a fangirl. 

Will you be touring next year?

Yeah, we're actually in the midst of planning a headline tour for next year, which I'm really excited about. That's always my favorite part of the job. 

Are you planning on writing for others in 2020?

It's interesting because sometimes I love it [writing for others] and sometimes I hate it. I guess we'll see how I feel in the new year.

I think it sucks when you're thrown into a room with strangers and then A&R comes in and says, "We're looking for something sexy, but not too sexy because she's 15 years old." That's the s--ttiest part of songwriting to me -- being told what you have to write. I want freedom. 

Who would be your dream collaborator?

I feel like a lot of the people I've collaborated with are some of my dream people. Quinn XCII, The Chainsmokers, BlackbearTove Lo.

I think doing something with ASH would be super cool. I'm such a fan of her music. Maybe Broods or Donna Missal. There's so many badass chicks out there right now.