“I’m really high right now,” Ryn Weaver says from the road after a stop for Ethiopian food in Nebraska. High on what, exactly? She did just mention the previous day’s trip to Colorado, “where there’s legal marijuana.” But she also can’t contain the unfiltered excitement that spills out of her while discussing her debut LP, The Fool, released June 16, and current adventures on tour.
When prompted with the question, the 22-year-old singer-songwriter just laughs. “I mean, you know…”
What’s clear is Weaver does have much to be excited about. It’s been a quick ascent for the California-bred pop artist, who burst onto the scene from seemingly nowhere last year with the smash single “OctaHate” and is in the midst of a headlining tour, which brings her to the Music Hall of Williamsburg July 25 and Bowery Ballroom July 29. What went on behind the scenes prior to Weaver’s turn as internet sensation reads as a tale of good timing, luck, and inherent talent.
As Weaver tells it, she was living in New York, where she was going to school, when she met producer Benny Blanco (who has produced mega-hits for the likes of Katy Perry and Kesha) one Halloween through her then-boyfriend; a couple years later, happenstance reintroduced the two at a party in Los Angeles, where she says she “chased him around with my SoundCloud to listen” to her music.
“He really liked my voice and the way I wrote songs, and he wanted to help me out,” says Weaver, who was born Erin Michelle Wüthrich. “He’d also been looking for something to do that wasn’t so formulaic on a level. He wanted to…let me go on my creative trip and help me facilitate it.”
The fortuitous relationship also introduced Weaver to Passion Pit frontman Michael Angelakos, who co-produced The Fool alongside Blanco, as well as artists like Cashmere Cat and Charli XCX, both of whom had a hand in the electropoppy “OctaHate.”
“It was pretty effortless,” Weaver says of working with the artists. “They’re cool friends to have, but at the end of the day it’s about how you come together. They had so much faith in me and really let me make the record I wanted to make. There’s a story and structure.”
The Fool, Weaver explains, details a specific period in her life, particularly the ups and downs of two relationships. “One was so anxious and stressful and terrifying, and the next was so freeing and opening,” she says. “I was empowered through this new relationship and empowered to be independent within myself.”
The push-and-pull nature of Weaver’s relationships is felt throughout the shifting tone of her album. The music encompasses everything from the thundering drums of the Kate Bush–esque “Runaway” to the Passion Pit–influenced title track to the folk-leaning spoken word of “Traveling Song.” Always present is Weaver’s flair for the dramatic, her vocal timbre recalling that of Florence Welch’s and drawing on her theater-studying past.
The music also reflects what Weaver sees as a “proper depiction of what I think a modern woman really feels like.” Though noting any feminist themes in her music were not a conscious effort, she feels a feminist message is inherent in what she creates. “There’s not a blueprint for people these days. You used to get married and have a family, or you didn’t. There were two very distinct choices,” she says. “I think we have found more power in our freedom.…Maybe we’re a more selfish generation, but maybe we’re just kind of afraid to settle.”
She’s also careful to note that as a pop artist she’s not out to paint herself in a certain image or light, an accusation that’s haunted her peers, for better or worse, such as Lana Del Rey. “I feel like a lot of people commodify and create an image of ‘This is what I represent.’ I think I’m a human, and I think I’m bred out of complexity and things not always lining up,” she says. “I don’t want to be a poster child; I just want to be an artist.”
To wit, when asked about her upcoming songwriting work for big-name pop acts (most notably Gwen Stefani), she becomes reticent. “I allow them to talk about it when it’s their song coming out. I feel sometimes people try and steal thunder like that,” she says. “I hate that. At the end of the day, there’s a magic around being an artist.”
Ryn Weaver headlines the Music Hall of Wiliamsburg on July 25 and the Bowery Ballroom on July 29. Both performances have sold out, but tickets are available on secondary markets.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 23, 2015