How Disney films and the Jonas Brothers shaped Phoebe Green

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Chess Club

“Oh, my God, they were my absolute idols.”

22-year-old Manchester-based singer-songwriter Phoebe Green is waxing lyrical about her favourite band from when she was a teenager – the newly reformed Jonas Brothers.

“As soon as I found out that they wrote their own music. Well, I mean, supposedly wrote their own music when they were like 18, I was like ‘right. I’m doing it.'”

Born and bred in the the small Lancashire seaside town of Lytham St Annes, Green – who is studying in Manchester – has just released her debut single, Dreaming Of. It’s an uptempo indie pop track whose breezy production by Mercury Prize nominees, Everything Everything’s Alex Robertshaw, masks some biting questions about issues of identity and self-worth.

You don’t get to choose what makes me blue / I don’t want to compromise myself for you / You always find a way back in / You creep, you crawl under my skin

Green puts “everything, literally everything” into her lyrics, she explains.

“I find it so hard to write anything if it hasn’t happened to make me want to write it. So I only really write about stuff that is actually going on and people that I actually know. I really want to explore more, because I’m just a very opinionated person, but I only seem to write about what I’m actually feeling.

“I think I do want the music to be a lot more representative of me, the person and my world views and stuff like that.”

Not unlike many of her musical peers, Green started fairly young, while still at school.

“I’d always be like the first one to put my hand up for solos and stuff like that. And I used to watch a lot of Disney”.

She started trying to write songs from the age of 12 but went one better than most when, aged 17, she recorded 02:00 AM; a 10-song mini-album, which she self-released on Spotify and which has accumulated more than three million streams without a record label or distribution deal.

“I basically could never, ever sleep when I was in sixth form, I just had really bad insomnia,” she says.

“So, I just started writing down my notes on my phone, like every little thing that was going through my head. And then if I came up with any melodies or anything like that, I would just kind of like hum them really quietly into my phone, because everyone else would be asleep.

“That’s the whole reason its called 02:00 AM, it was the time where I found myself to be the most creative and most expressive.”

Her domestic circumstances, still living at home on the Lancashire coast also had an impact on the recording process, which, if nothing else, helped shape Green’s musical improvisation.

“I didn’t have a band at this point so I sort of recorded all the instruments, but I couldn’t play bass very well. So me and my sister would put the bass on the floor, and I would press the strings down and she would strum,” she laughs.

“God, it was awful but between us we sort of recorded the whole thing. I had two mates from Leeds that were doing a production course and they helped produce it with me telling them what buttons to press!”

You can try to read my mind / You’ll misread the signs / You say you can’t discern the things that I despise / Keep me shallow, keep me sweet / You’re not fond of the way I speak

The mini-album and support from BBC Introducing in Manchester brought her to the attention of Chess Club Records, home to Mumford and Sons, Wolf Alice and Jungle.

It also saw her open for label mates Sundara Karma on their UK tour, giving Green experience of her biggest audiences to date.

“Manchester was sick because that’s our hometown and we were looking forward to it for ages and ages and Sheffield was the last one we played. And we’d never had a crowd like it, people were on shoulders and singing along. It was mad.

“The last gig we played before this tour was Jimmy’s in Manchester, which is like, probably less than 100. So, to go from there to the Barrowlands in Glasgow which is about two thousand, that was ridiculous.”

With “enough songs I’ve written in the past two years that I’m really, really happy with,” Green is now looking towards recording her professional debut album with Chess Club.

“I think I’m still undecided between an EP and album but something will definitely be released at the end of this year.

“We’re in a time of playlisting, where listening to individual songs is really popular but I am very much a kind of body of work person.”

Dreaming Of is out now.

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