Last month, singer-songwriter Phoebe Ryan caught the attention of the music blogosphere when she released a sensual cover of R. Kelly‘s “Ignition (Remix)” and Miguel‘s “Do You…” that mashed the two R&B songs together and spliced in the instrumental from Kesha‘s “Animal.” It was an ambitious, well-received debut — “Ignition/Do You…” performed well on Hype Machine upon its release and has collected 349,000 Soundcloud plays to date — but Ryan didn’t bask in the success for long, quickly following the mash-up by releasing with the stunning single “Mine” in late January.
For the 24-year-old new artist, earning attention with “Ignition/Do You…” was a pleasant surprise, but “Mine” represents her real first step. “I feel like I’ve been waiting forever and ever to put out my own music, to make it official,” Ryan tells Billboard. “And now everything’s starting to get super real. One of my favorite songs I’ve ever written is now out in the world. And people seem to like it!”
“Mine,” which received an official music video last Wednesday, is hard not to like: the blinking keyboards of the song’s verses give way to a crisp, percussive breakdown of the hook, in which Ryan professes, “I found gold in the wreckage, put it in a necklace/Keeping it ’cause I, I, I, I know that it’s mine.” The singer’s voice possesses a natural breathiness that recalls Ellie Goulding, and “Mine” gives her a delicate self-love anthem to serve as a proper introduction.
Ryan has lived in Los Angeles for a year now, after growing up in northern New Jersey and attending the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU. “I studied engineering, production and business, and I basically realized pretty early on that I was interested in songwriting and felt that I had an ear for it,” Ryan explains. “I was really hesitant about going out and doing the artist thing. It would come in cycles — I’d be like, I want to be an artist! No, I just want to be a songwriter! Once I got to my senior year, I was like, I should just do both. Why can’t I just be like a Sia and just make everything happen all at once?”
By the time Ryan graduated from NYU in December 2013, she had notebooks filled with various writings, including what she describes as “long short stories and long-winded randomness.” She wrote “Mine” last June, after heading to Nashville to work with producer/songwriter Kyle Shearer (Tove Lo, Augustana) and latching onto the phrase “gold in the wreckage,” which she had discovered jotted down in one of her many notebooks.
Ryan wrote songs for folk-pop duo Oh Honey, rising pop artist Bea Miller and up-and-coming rapper Skizzy Mars while waiting for her solo career to launch, but she rarely questioned whether or not this day would come. “I’m so stubborn,” she admits. “Every time people tell me it might not happen, I’m like, ‘Hmm, well, get out of here.'”
Although Ryan does not have a release date for her debut EP, she promises that more music is coming very soon, and that she has “a billion songs ready to go.” A few of them might be performed when the singer-songwriter performs at New York’s Baby’s All Right on Wednesday night (Feb. 25) and at the Bardot in Los Angeles on Mar. 30, the latter as part of their ongoing ‘School Night’ performance series. And as for her label attachment, Ryan says that she and her small team is “trying to get this thing off the ground before even thinking about such nonsense as a record label,” but firmly believes that her goals will be achieved.
“There are times in my life where I’m doubtful, but I feel it in my heart that something’s supposed to happen that’s going to be wonderful,” she says. “I’m just too optimistic, really.”