Musician Phoebe Bridgers has undergone a stunning transformation. Known for her folk-adjacent and edgy music, her candid social media presence, her surprisingly goth aesthetic, and her innate female strength, Bridgers is one of the most exciting new talents to have emerged in the late 2010s. Heralded by some as the next Bob Dylan, Bridgers brings something new to the music scene she’s taken over, a delicate and self-effacing attitude that, combined with her talent, has proven to resonate with indie fans — and even garnered a Grammy Award nomination or two. Truly, she’s one of the reasons to be excited about the future of music.
While Bridgers may be a quintessential millennial icon, unafraid to tell the world that she’s often sad and hungry for physical intimacy, in a way she really is just like you and me. And while her early years were sprinkled with happy and sweet memories, Bridgers has definitely dealt with her fair share of hardship, too. But despite all of it, Bridgers would be the first person to tell you how amazingly privileged she’s been throughout her life. Read on to learn all about her transformation from an angsty kid to an alternative icon.
Phoebe Bridgers grew up in Southern California
On Aug. 17, 1994, Phoebe Bridgers made her grand entrance into the world. The daughter of a scenic carpenter in the entertainment industry and a part-time house manager, an infant Bridgers would accompany her mother to work, where she first fell in love with music. “Phoebe loved it,” her mother revealed in an interview with Fader. “She would just stare at the piano, listening and totally mesmerized.” Clearly, the seeds were planted at an early age in that fine arts building.
While Bridgers’ upbringing wasn’t entirely placid, mostly due to her father’s behavior (more on that later), there were still happy moments, such as listening to ample vinyl records with her brother, Jackson Bridgers (named after musician Jackson Browne). She also started playing piano and guitar and could play the songs she loved by the tender age of 11 years old. “I don’t remember making a decision about music,” Bridgers recalled. “I just always knew it was what I was going to do.”
At 13, Phoebe Bridgers discovered her biggest musical idol
While Phoebe Bridgers had a wide variety of musical influences growing up, arguably one of her biggest was (and still is) the late indie legend Elliott Smith. When she was 13 years old, Carla Azar of Autolux introduced Bridgers to his work.
To understand just how much Bridgers loves Smith, who was a Los Angeles fixture before his apparent suicide, she wound up sobbing one day when she realized her proximity to the Silverlake mural that commemorates his life. “I don’t think I ever imagined him as an entity that was real and close to my life,” she lamented in a chat with Fader. “Living in East L.A., you walk around and people say things like, ‘Oh, that was his favorite bar,’ or, ‘He used to do that walk every morning.'”
That realization brought Bridgers closer to Smith, which stung since she realized she could have been so close to meeting her idol. “I realized that had he not died, I would have fully run into him at some point in my life,” she continued.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
In high school, Phoebe Bridgers threw herself into music and experimented with her identity
Since Phoebe Bridgers always knew she wanted to be a professional musician, it’s not surprising that she opted to attend the prestigious Los Angeles County High School for the Arts for high school. And while Bridgers struggled with depression as a teenager, one thing she appreciated about those years is how they helped her cultivate her work ethic. “The best thing about that high school was just the amount of practice I got,” she told The Ringer. “I don’t know how much I learned about songwriting other than just life experience, but I sang every f**king day and took Music Theory class.”
In addition to her musical development, Bridgers also experimented with her gender and sexual identity in high school. “I feel like a lot of people who were experimenting [with their sexuality] experimented with me, because [of the way I looked],” she revealed in an interview with Them. “Then, either they didn’t take it seriously or I would be held responsible for them figuring their s*** out and it was a lot.” Bridgers eventually came out as bisexual, too.
Phoebe Bridgers' parents divorced when she was around 19 years old
While Phoebe Bridgers cultivated activities that she truly enjoyed growing up, her home life had its fair share of turbulence. The reason? Bridgers’ father was reportedly abusive — “textbook domestic violence,” as she describes it. This often resulted in Bridgers and her mother getting out of the house when they were afraid for their safety. “There was an element of having to escape the family dynamic,” she shared in an interview with Fader. “I think that’s why she drove me to concerts and went out of her way.”
While Bridgers’ parents stayed together for a long time, in spite of her father’s behavior, by the time she turned 20, they divorced. “I think everybody who has had parents separate knows the feeling of watching people who used to care about each other just f**king hate each other,” she explained to The New Yorker. “But it was so nice that it was happening. My brother and I were just so relieved.”
Bridgers is still in touch with her father after all these years later, though their relationship is strained. “I feel so much f**king empathy and so much f**king anger toward him,” she added.
This is how Phoebe Bridgers broke into the music industry
So just how did Phoebe Bridgers get her start in the music business, a notoriously difficult industry to break into? Well, it started when the punk band she was in during high school, Sloppy Jane, was selected to appear in a 2014 iPhone commercial. After appearing in several more advertisements, Bridgers began playing gigs in Los Angeles and caught the eye of former Lemonhead and music industry lawyer John Strohm. “Based on her magnetic personality, the strength of her songwriting, her incredible voice, and ultimately, her ambition to do it, that she was somebody that was going to have a career,” he told The Ringer. “There was no way that she could not.”
Eventually, after securing Bridgers various shows, Strohm helped her ink a deal with the indie label Dead Oceans. And while Bridgers was poised to embark on a meteoric climb in the music business, Strohm was worried about the slow speed of her songwriting. “I just wish she was more prolific. Because there was a period of many months when she didn’t write any new songs,” he continued. “But now we understand why she was blocked.”
Phoebe Bridgers made many connections in the business biz
It was during these early years in her career that Phoebe Bridgers was eventually introduced to singer-songwriter Ryan Adams; she met him when she was just 20 years old, when a mutual friend brought her to his studio. After hearing one of Bridgers’ songs, Adams was immediately fascinated. “Meet me here tomorrow at 4 p.m. and we’ll record,” he told her at the time, as per Fader. He also called her “the next Bob Dylan” — quite the compliment! Adams also helped Bridgers produce her first EP, Killer, and released it on his record label.
It was also at this time that Bridgers got a manager and began to meet other bigwigs in the indie music industry. Most notably, she connected with Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes, who told Bridgers he was a huge fan of her music. She also enlisted the help of Mike Mogis (also of Bright Eyes) to help mix her first album. Our girl was on her way up!
Stranger in the Alps, Phoebe Bridgers' first album, dropped in 2017
Thanks to the income that Phoebe Bridgers earned from her work in commercials, she was sitting pretty and had everything she needed. That’s when she buckled down and started working on her 2017 debut album, Stranger in the Alps. “My rent was paid, and I would go to the studio every day like it was my [f**king job] until it was my job,” she gushed in a chat with Rolling Stone. “There’s no advice you could give anybody to have that same experience.” She added that she felt extremely lucky to be in such a privileged position.
But Bridgers didn’t work on the record alone, as it was produced by Tony Berg and Ethan Gruska. During production, “unbelievable musicians were constantly dropping by unannounced: T Bone Burnett, Blake Mills, and Tony’s daughter Z, to name a few,” Bridgers told Uproxx. “Then when it was time to record, we would pick something from Tony’s wall of instruments to start with, and build from there.” No wonder making Stranger in the Alps was, indeed, a “magical experience.”
Phoebe Bridgers formed a supergroup in 2018
After Phoebe Bridgers released Stranger in the Alps into the world in 2017, she was on fire, quickly generating a ton of buzz about her fledgling music career. Additionally, Bridgers branched out from her solo project and started several other groups, releasing music with them.
For one, Bridgers formed the supergroup Boygenius with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, as noted by The Ringer; the trio dropped a six-song EP in 2018. Additionally, Bridgers and Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes teamed up to form Better Oblivion Community Center, which released an album in 2019.
In addition to working on those notable collabs, Bridgers has, at one point or another, jammed with amazing people like Fiona Apple, the 1975, Hayley Williams, Lord Huron, and Matt Berninger, to name just a few. That’s seriously impressive for anyone, especially someone who’s so young! It just shows that Bridgers is as ambitious as it gets, which is likely why she’s finding so much success.
In 2019, Phoebe Bridgers went public with allegations against Ryan Adams
When Phoebe Bridgers was offered the opportunity to work with Ryan Adams back in 2015, it seemed like a dream come true. “There was a mythology around him,” she explained in a 2019 interview with The New York Times. “It seemed like he had the power to propel people forward.”
And propel Bridgers Adams did, though he also reportedly started flirting with her, leading to an intense romance between the two who were more than 20 years apart in age. However, things quickly turned sour, as Bridgers accused Adams of texting her constantly, demanding to know her whereabouts all the time, and threatening to harm himself if she didn’t pay enough attention to him. She also claimed that when she eventually ended the romance, Adams allegedly used the professional opportunities he could provide to her as leverage.
Bridgers did try to work with Adams one more time in 2017, opening for him for a few tour dates. “Then, the first day, he asked me to bring him something in his hotel room,” she alleged to The New York Times. “I came upstairs and he was completely nude.” And that was the end of that.
Punisher garnered Phoebe Bridgers multiple Grammy nominations
In June of 2020, Phoebe Bridgers celebrated another milestone in life: She released her second full-length album, Punisher. The critically-acclaimed record made Bridgers even more of a star, given that she’d clearly grown and evolved since her first release. That’s something she credits to her musical collaborators. “I felt like having those other bands was accelerated life experience, as far as being a songwriter,” she confessed in an interview with The Forty-Five. “If I had not had those two bands, my record would have sounded totally different.”
Bridgers also co-produced Punisher, showing that she’s growing not just her creative chops, but also her executive abilities. “I slowly started to grow out of [my self-doubt], and [realize] what my strengths were,” she continued.
In fact, Punisher was so well-received that Bridgers snagged four Grammy Award nominations: best new artist, best rock song, best rock performance (for “Kyoto”), and best alternative music album. Congrats, Phoebe!
Not touring in 2020 was difficult for Phoebe Bridgers
2020 proved to be a difficult year for just about everyone, including Phoebe Bridgers (we sure can relate!). The pandemic has especially impacted musicians who play live concerts, and, for Bridgers, that’s been a bitter pill to swallow. “A true ego death is putting out an album and not being on tour,” she told Rolling Stone. “I didn’t realize how much I relied on people screaming at me every night. It’s just super-weird.”
However, that’s not to say that Bridgers isn’t proud of herself for doing something when it’s so hard for folks to focus. “I’m also super-grateful that I did anything, that I released this album,” she continued. “I feel like I don’t exist unless I make stuff and get to talk about it.”
Oh, 2020, we all — even music superstars — look back on you with such fond memories.
Phoebe Bridgers became a social media master
One thing that Phoebe Bridgers has become well-known for is her irreverent and often hilarious social media presence. Her Instagram feed and her Twitter page are peppered with fun memes, off-the-cuff reflections, candid observations, and revealing snaps. And for Bridgers, like music, it all comes about super naturally. “I basically tweet out of my a**,” she admitted in a chat with NME. “I’ve barely finished a thought and I’ll tweet it.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, earlier in her career, male record execs told Bridgers to tone it down online, as they didn’t think her music and her media presence meshed. Fortunately, she didn’t listen, even though looking back she does cringe a bit. “At the time I didn’t think it was ridiculous, but I was talking to two men over 40 and then thought, ‘Wait — I’m the one who knows about the internet,'” she continued. “I realized there’s nothing worse than someone who seems like they’re not being themselves.” We couldn’t agree more.
Phoebe Bridgers has strong words for those who call her an "industry plant"
The majority of the people that follow Phoebe Bridgers on social media are fans with only nice things to say (barring the garden variety trolling that everyone gets). However, others have called her an “industry plant” online, a comment attempting to artistically discredit the singer-songwriter. Since the same has been said about powerhouse artist Billie Eilish, another young female musician, Bridgers is calling out the sexism for what it is. “People can’t handle it,” she declared in an interview with NME, pointing out The Strokes as a well-known example of an actual industry plant. “Everybody knows that, at least in music, but it’s never made anyone like them less.”
Bridgers went on to point out the blatant difference between the way women and men are treated in the music business. “It’s such an insane f**king double standard,” she continued. “If you have wealthy parents, you’re not allowed to make music as a woman, but you’re rewarded for it as a man. Every white boy who is mediocre is an industry plant by that standard.”
Phoebe Bridgers is done saying she's sorry
Phoebe Bridgers sure has come a long way from the angsty teenager she once was. She doesn’t drink or smoke weed, she avoids processed sugar, and she enjoys going to bed at a reasonable hour. That combined with her artistic success and commitment to therapy — and fierce independence — has helped Bridgers find her bliss. “It’s so much more fun to live in my body,” she revealed in an interview with GQ. “I’m better at acting out the things that make me happy now.”
Additionally, Bridgers doesn’t need to look outside of herself for validation. “I wanted someone to tell me how to be,” she continued. “I certainly am f**king over that.”
In addition to being happy, healthy, and in control of her destiny, Bridgers is also done saying sorry and making herself smaller. “I definitely feel a lot less apologetic now,” she told NME. “But it’s also not just about me being self-conscious — I think my music is better now.” We love to hear it.
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