How Phoebe Bridgers Got Her Grammys Good News11/25/2020
When Phoebe Bridgers’s phone started “going crazy” on Tuesday afternoon, at first she feared the worst. “I was like, ‘Who died?’” she said.
But the news, of course, was much happier: The 26-year-old singer and songwriter from Los Angeles had earned her first four Grammy nominations, including a nod in one of the four big categories, best new artist. (The others are best alternative music album for “Punisher” and best rock performance and song for “Kyoto.”)
“Punisher,” Bridgers’s second studio album, features bleak ballads suffused with a 20-something’s candor. The LP is “a showcase of Bridgers’s great strength as a songwriter,” Lindsay Zoladz wrote, reviewing the album in The New York Times, “weaving tiny, specific, time-stamped details (chemtrails, Saltines, serotonin) into durable big-tent tapestries of feeling.” Bridgers brings another side of herself to Twitter, where she’s a funny and irreverent voice guaranteed to liven up your lockdown.
On Wednesday afternoon, Bridgers talked about women nominees dominating best rock performance, how that “Iris” cover with Maggie Rogers came about and how she knows a song is complete. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
How did you find out you were nominated?
I was in bed with a migraine — these things give me a lot of anxiety. Then I saw all these messages from my mom — she was crying and sent a picture of a bottle of champagne she bought two days ago that she hadn’t wanted me to know about, just in case nothing happened.
Did you watch the Grammys growing up?
My mom and I watched pretty much every award show, but this one was always more fun because I actually give a [expletive] and pay attention to music.
Do you have any plans for the ceremony? Have you been asked to perform?
No, but I hope we get to do some semblance of something fun, whether it’s from this apartment or elsewhere.
This is the first time the rock performance category has all women nominees. Do you think the Grammys are pandering after being criticized for poor gender representation?
Maybe. But it’s also funny and shocking because it’s probably been all men for every award ceremony at some point. But who gives a [expletive], they’re great choices. I’m honored to be nominated with those people.
You scored your first Billboard Hot 100 single this week for a cover of the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” you recorded with Maggie Rogers. How did that come about?
It started as just a riff. I’d rediscovered that song after watching the movie “Treasure Planet,” and then I just made a joke on Twitter that if Donald Trump loses, I’ll cover “Iris.” And I let the tide of the internet take me wherever it would. I wanted to do it for charity, and Maggie suggested Fair Fight, which was such a good idea.
How long have you been politically engaged?
I saw Obama’s inauguration, which was this huge moment. And I thought that white privilege and racism were over, and that everything was good now that Obama was president. Then I took part in SlutWalk in high school, which is this anti victim-blaming march, and we had a feminism club. I just slowly realized that just because we had a Black president didn’t mean that every problem was over in America.
Where are you finding songwriting inspiration right now?
I’m doing a new type of therapy and lots of memories are resurfacing, so I don’t need to look for it. I’m processing a lot of [expletive] because time is so stagnant, and I feel like I have songs just building up inside me. I’m like, “How will I write every song about everything?”
How are you a different person than you were a year ago?
I hope I’ve experienced some sort of ego death with not being cheered for every night. I’ve been forced to come into my own and self-soothe, in a way. If the worst that happens to me all year is that I’ve been bored, I will have had a great year.
Is the candor and stinging honesty in your music something you’ve had to work up to, or have you always had that confidence?
I maybe still am working up to it. I wrote more songs before where I wanted to portray emotion and darkness, but I was shielding myself a bit and my lyrics weren’t as good. And I think “Motion Sickness,” from my first record, was where that really shifted. I was like, “What if I wrote like this instead of doing more frilly songs?”
How do you know a song is finished?
When every line brings me sort of joy, which is weird in the context of my music, but I don’t want there to be any parts that people skip to get to better lyrics.
The Grammys love to bring together artists from different generations for performances. In general, who would be your dream collaborator?
If I could conquer Bob Dylan, I feel like life would be pretty complete.
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