Phoebe Green: Introspection Over Observation

Phoebe Green has created a name for herself with dreamy, guitar-led hits, but her debut album ‘Lucky Me’ turns this image on its head as she delves inwards.

She describes her latest album as being far more introspective than her previous work, focusing on her internal thoughts and feelings – rather than on lived experiences and external relationships. Introspection and self-reflection are both concepts we’ve all grappled with during the Covid-19 lockdown, so lyrics like “Bad habits don’t fill me up like they used to // lately, I’m so empty I’m see-through” will surely resonate with her fans – particularly those who experienced similar feelings of isolation and loneliness during the lockdown period, as well as with those who continue to experience them now.

As such, Phoebe’s newest album is certainly an interesting and relevant take on the current zeitgeist, detailing ideas and emotions that will likely mirror those of the listener – it is as she said: during the period of enforced isolation, there was really nothing else to analyse but herself.

In a similar vein, the titular ‘Lucky Me’ grapples with the experience of feeling guilt over the symptoms of mental illness, conjured up as the result of your perceived privileges in life. In the age of social media, songs like this have never been more relevant. In this particular track, and, indeed, throughout the entire record, Phoebe is able to effortlessly invoke the seemingly universal experience of young adults in 2022 – undoubtedly, fans will find something to relate to in the album.

Working alongside producer Dave McKracken (Florence and the Machine, Sports Team), Phoebe creates an album with a clear idea of what it wants to be, and what it is; her lyrics are simultaneously playful and deliberate, and coincide well with the visual elements of the album. The result is a satisfying narrative, detailing the inner thoughts of a young woman experiencing life in this social climate; listeners are made to feel as though Phoebe addresses them directly, regardless of whether their experiences match those she details in her lyrics – the introspective elements seem far more important than their external triggers, which feels intentional and clever.

Prior to the release of ‘Lucky Me’, and a run of UK tour dates this November, Phoebe spoke to Wax Music to chat about the album, the process of its creation – as well as the idea of introspection over observation, her main musical influences, and the strength of this generation’s pop stars.

The album is very cohesive – was there a clear vision when you started writing for the record?

Yeah. I wanted the songs to sound different from one another, but for there to be a definitely recognisable theme throughout the album, for it to sound kind of like a story in a sense – like a journey from start to finish.

And how do you feel about it, seeing it all put together – the finished product?

It’s insane – it’s such a surreal feeling. I don’t think I was prepared for it at all, but it’s exciting! It’s just so nice to have my experiences in a tangible thing.

Do you have a favourite song off the album?

Do you know what? I don’t think anyone’s asked me that yet!

It changes a lot. I think, at the minute it’s I Don’t Wanna Make You Cold, which is so weird because it was my least favourite when I finished. It’s the last track on the album and one I find myself humming the most at the moment. I think, though, my favourite in most ways is Clean because it feels like the most heartfelt out of all of them.

Make It Easy was the first single, and it was released in March – what made you decide to release that one first?

It’s the one that’s the most different from anything I’ve done before, so I wanted that shock factor.

And what was the writing process like for that song in particular?

I got in a room with Dave (McKracken) and said I want to make something completely different – I’d been listening to more hip-hop, so I wanted to start with a beat and a bassline, and that is where we started. So he was working on that while I was writing the lyrics. I wanted to do a more lighthearted song, anyway.

The whole album is quite distinguishable from your other works – there’s a clear evolution. Was that intentional, or the result of you growing as an artist, do you think?

I think it did happen naturally, and I also think it’s been happening over a long period. The first album I self-released when I was eighteen. My sound kind of progressed and changed as I was getting older and finding my own thing. I wanted this shift to sound intentional.

On that note, how do you think you’ve grown and changed as an artist? In what ways do you think you’ve evolved? Because I noticed you sort of moved away from that guitar sound.

I think I just got really sick of playing guitar and, to be honest, I’m such a dance-y person, and I’ve also found that I’m not very good at multitasking, so I found it hard to not fuck up my performances on stage because I was focusing on playing guitar. And, as well, I have no patience to practise anything, like guitar, and I found I couldn’t translate what was in my head to the guitar so I started moving towards more electronic sounds. I found it represented what I was going for more.

You grew up in Lancashire, and the North of England has produced some incredible musicians, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries – do you think that partially inspired your own music?

A lot of the musicians I listened to when I was younger were Northern – like the Arctic Monkeys. I think I’d hear regional dialects and it would feel more intimate, in a way. It was like you’d get it and other people wouldn’t. It made me feel less self conscious, especially because I feel a lot of pressure for other people to be able to relate to my music. It made me realise that people can relate to things without having had the exact same experience.

I read an article, once, where an artist was talking about how he finds it hard to kind of write about our internal struggles because it tends to make you feel defensive – did you find it hard to be brutally honest in your lyrics?

For sure. I think that’s why it’s taken me so long to write in an introspective way. It’s easier to analyse your surroundings and your relationships. I definitely used to write as an observer, but I think lockdown really made me get inside my own head – there was really nothing to analyse but myself.

I also wanted to ask you about your influences – I think I read you mention Phoebe Bridgers and Frank Ocean, but are there any others?

Strangely, Tyler the Creator, James Blake, Muna – they write incredible pop songs that aren’t cringey. Who else? Lorde. I think they’re all very current – I’ve been asked what my older influences are but I can’t be bothered with that, sometimes. The pop girls are just so iconic, to be honest.

I think lots of people will be able to relate to ‘Lucky Me’ and the notion that we feel sad despite all our privileges. Do you think that’s a product of social media?

Oh, yeah, definitely – the more aware I become of everything, the more there is to feel guilty about. It’s such a difficult thing because you want to be the best person you can be, and sometimes I forget that I haven’t caused all these problems in the world. It’s hard, I feel like I’m always trying to fix things I have no control over. And I need to stop deeping everything because it’s not going to get me anywhere.

Do you think there is too much pressure on young artists to engage with their fans on platforms like Instagram and TikTok?

I think there’s a lot of pressure to be accessible at all times; I find it hard to set boundaries for myself. Obviously, you want fans and followers to see you’re a real person, but I’ve learned recently that that doesn’t mean you have to post every night out. I think I am getting better at finding balance, but it’s hard sometimes. I want to have some level of communication but it’s hard to know how to reply and how often to.

The album itself feels relevant to many young women in 2022. Was there an intention to write for this audience? 

It’s what I was saying before: when you write about personal experiences you don’t realise how many people will relate. I think you don’t need to write about things in a general way to get people to get it. I’ve found that when I get specific, it connects with more people. It’s funny, because everyone always thinks we’re so unique, but we all have similar experiences.

Also, I’m desperate to know, the album is called ‘Lucky Me’ but it’s got thirteen tracks, which is notoriously unlucky. Was that deliberate?

Yeah, it was on purpose. Actually, originally, there were fourteen and I was thinking ‘I don’t really like this song that much’ and eventually we cut down to thirteen. 

I didnt think people would stay engaged for thirteen songs long on a debut album. But then I was like, ‘well, whatever – it fits’.

Words: Rosie Smith // Photos: Lewis Vorn

‘Lucky Me’ releases Thursday 18th August via Chess Club Records. Stream and purchase the album via bandcamp

1 comment

  1. What a fantastic article! A great read! Looking forward to more articles from Rosie Smith.

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