“Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time,” Phoebe Bridgers sings, “and that’s just how I feel, always have and always will.” The solemn, sober lilt of her voice only lends wrenching weight to “Funeral,” a song about performing during a peer’s service at the request of his parents, who’d heard that the teenage Bridgers was a singer.
“It was really intense,” Bridgers, now 24, says from her native California. “He was a stranger actually. It was like a weird Twilight Zone moment in my life.”
Yet this depressive zone that she easily inhabits seems far away as she strolls a Santa Cruz boardwalk, cheerful and candidly chatty while she readies for a co-headlining tour with Julien Baker, a friend who forges devastatingly intimate songs along similar themes.
“It’s a sad thing that songwriters are kind of romanticized or put into a corner with having to be one-dimensional,” Bridgers says. “I feel I definitely contain multitudes and so does Julien. Also, songwriting is like therapy to me, so a lot of times it’s the most intense version of myself and my thoughts—and I know the same goes for Julien. We’ve never really had a conversation that resembles our lyrics.”
They’ll have plenty of time to talk on the road—along with Lucy Dacus, another deep-thinking friend they chose to open the tour, which hits the Orpheum Theatre on Nov. 8. They were emailing one another with the idea to record a joint single to go with the tour, “and it kinda turned into something else,” Bridgers says.
That something else is a six-song EP due Nov. 9, titled after the name they affixed to their spontaneous super-trio: Boygenius. “It’s like when a dude walks into a room and definitely doesn’t have the best ideas, just the most confidence, which I’m actually jealous of,” Bridgers says. “I try really hard to implement that in my own life because I feel like men’s ideas are getting heard over women’s every day.”
Each of the singer/songwriters brought one finished song and one rough idea to the collaborative project. Relationship plights take different forms in three tracks released early for streaming: Bridgers’ “Me & My Dog,” Baker’s “Stay Down” and Dacus’ EP-leading “Bite the Hand,” which features gorgeous counter-vocals from the others and the kicker, “I can’t love you how you want me to.” Though they’re playing separate sets on this tour, it’s likely that they’ll collaborate live as well.
“We just kind of fit together,” Bridgers says. “It was the easiest recording process ever. I didn’t need to contextualize anything. We’re all in a more similar place in our lives than any three people can be. We just immediately got each other.”
Bridgers admits that it’s been more difficult recording the follow-up to her stunning 2017 debut, Stranger in the Alps, which features “Funeral,” “Smoke Signals” (wistfully hung on baritone guitar notes) and “Motion Sickness.” She relates that last song to a fling with mentor Ryan Adams, who produced her 2015 debut EP, Killer. “You said when you met me you were bored, and you were in a band before I was born,” she sings on that more texturally upbeat track.
“We don’t talk anymore,” Bridgers says matter-of-factly of Adams. “I got a text from him that it was a good song, but I don’t care. I hate him.”
Bridgers tackled her first song at age 11 after absorbing Tom Waits, Neil Young and Jackson Browne from her parents’ record collection. In her teens, while busking at farmers markets around LA, her tastes moved on to Death Cab for Cutie, Elliott Smith and Bright Eyes, whose Conor Oberst sang on her album’s “Would You Rather” and reprised that duet onstage at Great Scott in February.
She says her next album’s shaping up to be more upbeat and experimental. “I’m getting more even-keeled,” Bridgers adds. “But that being said, the new album has a lot of heavy shit on it, too. I’m still the same.” ◆
Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker play the Orpheum Theatre with Lucy Dacus on Nov. 8.
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