Phoebe Bridgers on Mumford & Sons, mental health and her ‘political, self-deprecating’ next album

"People are realising that vulnerability isn't a weakness"

Phoebe Bridgers has revealed that she’s already started writing material for her next album – of a more ‘political’ and ‘self-deprecating’ nature.

Currently wrapping up the tour for her acclaimed 2017 debut album ‘Strangers In The Alps‘, Bridgers spoke to NME after her stellar set at Øya earlier this month – her first ever European festival show.

“It has majorly exceeded every kind of expectation I could have possibly had for it,” said Bridgers of the album’s success. “The reason I love my label is because I don’t think they would cared too much if it didn’t. I think they would have stuck by me to make a second record even if people didn’t get my first record.”

She continued: “I think I did an OK job of being enough of a fully-formed human being in my art to show my personality and just to be myself – instead of having to fit a weird mould. I think I can do whatever I want for my next record. It’s vulnerable, but it’s nice that I don’t have to fake it.

“People are realising that vulnerability isn’t a weakness, and the rise of mental health-related humour is making vulnerability feel like a strength.”

How have you found the experience of being exposed through the music? Is it weird to have had people over-examining your music for clues about your personal life?

“Not if it’s done in the way that it mostly is, where people attach their own lives to the songs and take their own meanings from them. There’s a Genius lyrics page for my song ‘Smoke Signals’ which is giving me so much fucking credit for stuff I’ve never even thought about. It thinks I’m making all of these obscure references to death poetry and I’m absolutely not. But I’ll take that!

“I have very little experience of people projecting something on to me. Fans can tell that I love that they’re stoked.”

Phoebe Bridgers at Øya Festival 2018. Credit: Victoria Stevens

What can you tell us about progress on new music?

“I’m just writing whenever I can around touring.”

What’s been inspiring you lately?

“The same as usual – just stuff from my life. I think it’s easier for me to write from experience. I’m being really self-deprecating in my writing now – even more so than on my last record. There will be some political shit, just because I think about it so much. I’m not trying to write some political anthem but I can’t live in the country that I live in and not be crushed by what’s going on in the world every day.”

What do you think the new stuff will sound like?

“I’m looking forward to exploring what I’m curious about. I love Sylvan Esso. I want to bring in more electronic elements, but also some analogue stuff. Stuff like ‘70s drum machines really fascinates me. It will all line up. I’m not making a concept album or completely changing my sound. It will all grow and I’ll be ready to experiment.”

How did you come to duet with Mumford & Sons last month?

“I had never met them before. They were playing with Maggie Rogers and Mavis Staples and were just like ‘we’re going to do a song at the end of the festival’, and then I get there and they’re like ‘oh, do you know this Radiohead song?’ I’m like ‘Erm, yeah – I think I know that band’. It was a really crazy day. Going from having never met them before to having a million cameras in my face filming a half-assed rehearsal, it was surreal.”

Would you work together again?

“There were so many people there and we were so swept up in everything that we really didn’t get a chance to talk about anything other than the music, but it was really fun.”

What about this rumoured collaboration with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus?

“It’s a secret thing, but I’m so fucking excited. That’s all I can tell you for now.”

An album of emo covers maybe?

“Maybe. I actually have a kind of fantasy about doing a covers album in general. My music taste is so eclectic, that I think it would be cool to put it through the funnel of my arrangements.”

What dream covers would be on that?

“’Table For Glasses’ by Jimmy Eat World.”

Is there anyone you haven’t worked with but would love to?

“I have this fantasy of working with Nick Cave, but maybe he would terrify me. I went to see that film ‘One More Time With Feeling’ and he did a Q&A afterwards. I just love his take on grief and how he and his wife made a decision to be happy. It sounds weird as I hate it when people say that’s a way to fight depression, but it’s great that they decided to use their healthiest tools to deal with something so insane, then move forwards and reach other people. It was so beautiful.”

Do you get anything similar out of being so open about trauma through your music?

“I actually tend to like really blatant questions sometimes, because I hate the not-question questions. When people are like ‘oh, there are themes in Funeral – discuss’! I like talking about songwriting with the right people. For as many ‘punishers’ as there are, there’s always someone saying ‘my boyfriend died’, or ‘I was in high school and I listen to your song all the time to remind me that in my most solitary and saddest times, there are other people going through that’.

“Some people feel like they can’t be vulnerable with someone else but they can with me because I’m just word-vomiting it out into the ether.”

Phoebe Bridgers at Øya Festival 2018. Credit: Victoria Stevens

Phoebe Bridgers tour dates and tickets

Bridgers’ remaining UK tour dates are below. Tickets are available here.

Monday August 20 – BRISTOL Thekla
Tuesday August 21 – LONDON Scala