On a beautiful summer day in New Egypt, New Jersey, Phoebe Ryan set out in a $100 wedding dress from a local thrift store to film a video for her new song “Ring.” “Everyone thought that me and Matt (the director of the video) were on our way to get married,” recalls Ryan. They were actually on their way to a nearby wooded river, where Ryan would submerge herself, wedding dress and all. “I was worried about getting leeches stuck to my butt,” she says.
“Ring” is an emotional outpour of the anguish of being in love with someone who is in a relationship with someone else. “At the time I was quite enamored with someone who had a girlfriend,” Ryan tells EARMILK. “I kept having bad dreams, waking up in a cold sweat, worried that they were going to take the next step in their relationship and I’d never get a chance. It was honestly torture.”
Ryan has crafted a perfectly tragic pop song. “Ring” opens with a mellow sentimentality and delicate vocal that quickly blooms into a unflinching projection of heartbreak. Her bold and emotional chorus demands, “don’t you dare put a ring on her finger.”
Over the past five years, Ryan has released a series of singles and EPs. These include collaborations with major pop artists (including blackbear and the Chainsmokers) as both a songwriter and a singer. After working with different styles of pop, she has come into her own and grown up, perfect her synth-charged pop. Her childhood dream was to make an album, and now felt like the perfect time. Listeners can expect a new air of maturity on her debut album How It Used To Feel.
One thing that Ryan hasn’t changed through the years is her signature green hair. “I’ll never mix it up. I have no desire to try any other color,” she says. “When I went brunette for a month during the filming of my movie Dakota, I was having an identity crisis the whole time! I need the green. It’s my comfort color. It makes me feel like myself.”
Her personal favorite song from How It Used To Feel is “Fade,” an upcoming song about gracefully letting go. It is a contrast to the burning desire for a chance and refusal to let go of a possibility Ryan feels in "Ring." “Sometimes it’s better to walk away from someone you love because it will be better for them in the long run," says Ryan. "When I wrote the song, I thought I had a good understanding of it, but it’s honestly a lesson I’m still learning. It’s a steady reminder.”
The album is a candid rollercoaster of Ryan’s highs and lows, as the writing process marked a tumultuous time in her life. From navigating relationships to grappling with sobriety, Ryan is honest about the obstacles she has encountered in life.
In this trying time, Ryan is wishing well for everyone affected by COVID-19. She gives a special shoutout to the nurses on the frontlines (some of which are her family members). “I think what they are doing right now is incredibly brave… I love them and am proud of them.”
Photo courtesy of Acacia Evans