- Ryan: 'Hollywood, for me, was an absolute nightmare.'
Earlier this month, Taylor Swift tweeted her list of 11 "New Songs That Will Make Your Life More Enjoyable (I Promise!)." Coming in at No. 2 was the relatively unknown Phoebe Ryan and her whimsical folk-rock earworm "Mine," from her 2015 debut EP of the same name.
A simple online shout-out from Swift — who always makes a point of sharing music with her 64 million followers — can practically change an artist's fortunes overnight. But ultimately, Ryan, 24, is just glad that "Mine" has finally been released.
"I have been waiting forever to have my music out in the world," she sighs. "You have no idea how crazy it's been."
With classic features that harken back to silent-film-star days, thick eyebrows and a long, luxurious mane that's perpetually dyed her favorite shade of green, Ryan is one of rockdom's freshest young faces. But the New Jersey native has also been at it since she was 16 and first auditioned for American Idol on a weeklong trip to California. She sang an original, then a Norah Jones song, but didn't get far.
"Hollywood, for me, was an absolute nightmare," she recalls. "The best part about it was, I got to miss a lot of school. I also became a bit of a hometown celebrity. And I got out of a few parking tickets, which was cool. I blew past a stop sign one time, and the officer looked at my ID and went, 'Oh! Phoebe Ryan! American Idol! Go ahead!'"
Since then, Ryan has kept on going. Leaving behind her high school Grateful Dead cover band, she began attending prestigious colleges like NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied music from a production and engineering angle.
"In some of my first courses, I was making tracks and learning how to run an actual analog console and record things to tape," she says. "But all the required classes I had to take, like accounting, science and math, I was just like, 'Ugh. These are just horrid.' I realized I was not an academic; I just wanted to be in music."
After graduating — by the skin of her teeth, she jokes — Ryan made the big move to Los Angeles, where she still resides, and dove headlong into composing. Her material was soon being covered by performers like Oh Honey, Skizzy Mars and even the EDM outfit Tritonal. Still, something was missing. So she began visiting Nashville, where she teamed up with producer Kyle Shearer and branched out into serious co-writing.
Mine was a product of those sessions. "We got the whole EP and then some," says the singer, who is currently readying her full-length bow. "I'd been writing for all these other artists, but I decided it was finally time to pursue my own project."
Meanwhile, Ryan has learned from the discipline of the Nashville scene, where songwriters tend to work on their craft from 9 to 5.
"In L.A., we start around 1 or 2 p.m. and work till 8 or 9," she says. "But it's also the way my parents brought me up. They weren't strict by any means, but they inspired me to work very hard."