Cover Feature Phoebe Bridgers: Conversations With Friends

With her smart, self-deprecating take on indie-folk, Phoebe Bridgers has become one of the world’s most in-demand singer-songwriters. Who knew that being professionally sad could make you so happy?

“Ugh! Can you hear me now?” It’s 10am in California, and Phoebe Bridgers is sitting in the garden of her Silver Lake home, hood up and hunched in front of the laptop that she’s trying to wrestle a decent Zoom connection out of. Like most of us, she’s barely left the confines of her house in the last two months, and is teetering on the edge between welcome rest and nervous energy.

“I go through phases, and I’m trying to allow myself that,” she says. “I talk to a couple of my bandmates and they’re all like, ‘Why don’t you use this time to do that thing you always talked about doing?’ I’m just like… excuse me? This is the most psychologically taxing time of my life! But I’ve been learning my own songs on piano, and I’ve got a treadmill, so I walk on that like a crazy hamster for like, way too many hours in the day. The weird silver lining for me is that everybody is being honest right now. You say ‘How are you?’ and it’s like, well… I’m not sick, but my friend’s mum is sick and it’s just crazy to get really deep with people right off the bat, but that’s kind of cool. My therapist tells me that therapy is all just about one thing right now for everyone, and I guess that’s quite connecting too.” She takes a deep breath, smiles. “So, how are you?”

Born in Pasadena in 1994, Phoebe Bridgers has spent her life in the heart of Los Angeles, the city that makes dreams come true. Where most young musicians have to wait until they’re old enough to set out on the pilgrimage for their big break, she was already in the right place, set on becoming a musician from the age of 13. Encouraged by her mum, she studied vocal jazz at LA County High School For The Arts - a cornucopia of rich kids and determined fame-seekers, carving out their own slice of Hollywood.

“I do forget what California means to people who aren’t from here,” she admits. “I had the least money of anyone in my friend group, but if I lived somewhere else I would have been rock-solid middle class. My parents aren’t in entertainment, but my friend’s mum was the director of Hannah Montana, and my other best friend’s dad is the AllState guy [a high-profile American Insurance advert personality]. Everybody around you is involved in something. There were straight-up American Apparel models in my class at high school, people doing drugs in the bathroom. There were two camping trips a year, and the musicale - with an e - where everyone got to perform a song. I sang ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’ at that talent show, but obviously, because it was a hippy school, it wasn’t really called a talent show - kids, it’s not a competition! There are no grades here! Every year I’d look forward to it so much, and end up talking to lots of parents who were in entertainment or in bands.”

Grateful for her own privilege without being entirely at ease with the jazz hands and ruthless networking of her peers, Phoebe describes herself as something of a high school misfit. She was outgoing and well-liked, but very aware of the cookie-cutter mould of expectation that the city rewards. “It does come with a level of pressure, but I like, loved attention,” she laughs. “I say loved, as if it’s past tense… But yeah, if I wasn’t raised here, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to play a club and get scouted for a commercial, which was what my early 20s were like.”

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As featured in the June 2020 issue of DIY, out now.

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