photos / Jannick Boerlum
story / Koko Ntuen
Rhys’ coming of age in the pop realm was less of a breakthrough and more of a smashing mega-hit wonder, courtesy of her early 2017 single “Last Dance”. That track went on to be streamed over 23MM+ on Spotify and left her newfound fans eager to consume the follow up “Too Good To Be True,” which tallied another mass population of rabid listeners.
Rhys was just 10 when she relocated to Sweden from Portland, Oregon. She found herself engulfed almost immediately in the Nordic art scene taking and interest in music from an early age and going on to attend the famous Victor Rydbergs Gymnasium, an Alma mater to some of the most famous creatives in Stockholm. Since then Rhy has risen to be a popular new face on the pop scene as well as a fashion darling, that counts Vogue as a bemused follower.
Today we premiere “No Vacancy”, a video that can count the first thousand hits from our offices alone, #notsorry, and chat with the rising pop star about life, love and everything in between.
“No Vacancy” is deeply coy. Can you tell us a little about the background of the song?
“No Vacancy” is about a very specific person who had been toying with my emotions for a little too long. Ironically, my current boyfriend. This song is about drawing the line, me or them. Everything is great now, but I would say he was a bit of a player when we started seeing each other. Parts of the text are direct quotes from him, so I think I should thank him for that – he gave me a good song! When I wrote it we were already together and I said ‘Today I will write a song about you, it will be so nice!’ Then I came home and said, ‘yes, I wrote a song about you … but it might not be so nice.'”
Why did you guys move to Stockholm? Am I assuming one of your parental units is Swedish? What is your background?
My dad is from Rhode Island and my mom is from Stockholm (Sweden). When they got together they moved to Portland (Oregon) and had my sister and I. After 17 years there my mom basically wanted to go home so they moved to Stockholm and have been living here ever since.
My husband is Swedish and I lived there for 4 years. Just got back to NY a few years ago. 🙂 Before I moved there or met him I was obsessed with Swedish pop. So much good music comes out of Sweden, although Swedish people don’t have the most outgoing personalities. Was it hard adjusting to a new culture, collaborating etc in the Swedish environment?
In the beginning, it was hard adapting to it and people were very different. Not as many random conversations with strangers 🙂 But now I have adapted.
What was it like growing up multi-cultural in Sweden and America?
A lot of confusion to if I’m Swedish or American because people in Sweden see me as American and people in America see me as Swedish. A lot of schools I’ve gone to have been very ”Swedish” so I’ve stood out a lot. But otherwise, I’ve been welcomed and have blended in well over the years 🙂
Who are some of your favorite artists now and from the past?
Adele has been my favorite in the recent years but some of the most influential ones from growing up are Avril Lavigne and Stevie Wonder. And I also have to credit Miley Cyrus for inspiring my personality.
What sounds or vibes inspire your music?
I like simple sounds and like to switch up the songs I release – mixing classic pop and depressing simple sounds and melodies.
Where do you find yourself being inspired the most?
On train rides on my way home drunk hehe. Many snippets of lyrics are from those rides actually. Also, I get inspired when in the studio.
Have your last few songs, specifically ” No Vacancy” had muses that you can talk about?
The songwriter I work with, Jörgen Elofsson, and I were in the studio and he thought it would be cool to write a song with the title No Vacancy. And earlier that morning I’d told my boyfriend I’d write a happy song about him. Instead, “No Vacancy” turned into a negative song about a player based on him and with direct quotes from him. He’s cool with it though.
Have any of your exes commented or reached out to you about your songs thinking they are about them?
My ex is the least interested person in my life. And I wish he knew they were about him 😉
Your music has been streamed tens of millions of times. What about your music do you think resonates with the world?
I think everyone likes a good, sad, yet catchy song that you can relate to.
Has all the attention been a whirlwind for you? Did you ever get anxiety from being in the public eye?
Of course! I’m quite introverted and social events tend to give me anxiety. So yes, at times it is daunting.
What do you love most about performing?
I love after you’ve sung the first song and you suddenly feel comfortable and relaxed and start to notice people singing along. Then you feel such pride and you can just take it all in. And I’ve learned that no matter how bad I am at dancing people accept me hehe.
Being Swedish and American can you tell us your favorite things about each culture?
America: Trader Joes, New Seasons, Junior Mints, going to the cinema and getting a huge soda and putting weird cheeses on popcorn.
Sweden: I love the Swedish summers. Sitting by the lakes with my friends and going to cafés and bars. And the fact that it stays light all night.
What do you think is driving the current backbone of music right now?
There’s a lot of girl power and a lot of hip hop and trap.
Stockholm and Portland are both hipster centers. How do you think that has played into your personality and or music?
I’m very aware of trends and what is in demand and what time. And I feel like it’s a little left of centre, which I like! I just like music when I like music, don’t go for a specific hipster type there. I can enjoy music in every genre.
What makes you nostalgic?
Portland and Hood River in Oregon. Also just eating certain food in Portland. And also the song New York with Alicia Keys and Jay Z.
Do you have any current fashion, people, place, music, or things crushes?
I usually just keep it pretty simple, baggy-ish jeans, a t-shirt, and sneakers. I never wear skirts or dresses, because I think my hair makes me look too innocent haha. I’m also really into Kelly Clarkson right now and going to cafés and getting hot chocolate.
What is the most important thing to you about having a platform for your voice?
As a kid, there were a few young female artists that I look up to and aspired to be like. These artists have stayed with me to this day and inspired me as a person and singer. To think that I could be that person someday for kids is just crazy and cool and amazing. It makes me want to be a nice person and release songs people can listen to and relate to through life.
What is your advice to young artists who want to be seen and heard?
Believe in yourself and don’t let people tell you it’s impossible, sounds cheesy but it’s true. Do something about it, contact people that you know work with music, and just be around it. Be nice to people, be someone people want to work with.
What are some milestones you want to hit before 30?
Definitely being on Ellen Degeneres as a guest. That’s my five-year goal. Hehe. Otherwise to play at big festivals or venues and sell out shows. Also to release a song that becomes a timeless classic would be cool.
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