Phoebe Bridgers Plays 'Not My Job' On 'Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!' We have three questions for Bridgers about bridges that have fallen over, collapsed or otherwise done a bad job of spanning things.

Not My Job: We Quiz Singer Songwriter Phoebe Bridgers On Feeble Bridges

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And now the game where people who have amazing futures end up someplace they didn't expect to be on the way. It's called Not My Job. Singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers is the most wonderful person ever to write and perform really sad songs. She has collaborated with everybody from Conor Oberst to Phoebe Waller-Bridge. She's appeared four times - four times - on NPR's Tiny Desk concerts. And her new album, "Punisher," is nominated for a Grammy.

Phoebe Bridgers, welcome to WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.


PHOEBE BRIDGERS: Oh, thank you so much for having me. I love this show with my whole heart.

SAGAL: Oh, you are so nice. You were - out of all the, like, major pop stars, you are the most NPR-ish.

BRIDGERS: Yeah. No, I'm NPR famous for sure. I'm coffee shop famous, too. Like, if I want to talk to a group of only my fans, go into any coffee shop in a college town. That's exactly my demographic. Yeah.

SAGAL: But it has to be, like...

BILL KURTIS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: It has to be, like, an independent coffee shop.

BRIDGERS: No, it's not Starbucks. No, no, no.


BRIDGERS: I'm not Starbucks famous yet - yet.

SAGAL: Now that you've said that - and I have spoken to some of your fans this week -\ they will be flocking to independent coffee shops in college towns all over this country waiting for you like you're the Great Pumpkin.

BRIDGERS: It's awful because mostly it's when I'm on tour, and I need to use the bathroom.


BRIDGERS: And then I'm, like (laughter)...

LUKE BURBANK: Someone's been in this Starbucks bathroom a long time.


BRIDGERS: Yeah. Yeah, always.

SAGAL: Now, the thing usually when I have musicians on the show, I like to help try to define their music for people who may not know them. And what's great about you is you have a very funny Twitter account where you have retweeted people saying things about your music which are hilarious. I love this one because it's so evocative. Phoebe Bridgers is Taylor Swift for women who have crumbs in their bed.

BRIDGERS: (Laughter) Yes.


BRIDGERS: If only I had a healthy relationship with my parents growing up and wasn't - and didn't have crumbs in my bed, who knew - who knows? I could have, like, the best music career of all time. It'd be Taylor Swift. It'd be awesome.

SAGAL: Actually, you have a pretty great music career...

BRIDGERS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: ...If you ask me. I wanted to ask about your origins. You have referenced, shall we say, a less than perfect childhood. So did you start as one of those moody kids who was, like, writing down their feelings in journals and then started putting them to music?

BRIDGERS: I wish. I was pretty attention-seeking and loud. I would go to guitar stores with my mom and just - and play guitar in the corner, like everybody does testing out guitars. My mom was always very supportive of me playing music. But I would sing really loudly in the store, and she would have to be, like, dude, people don't do that.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

BRIDGERS: This is not your concert at this store, this quiet store right now.

NEGIN FARSAD: (Laughter).

BRIDGERS: So, no, I was very, very loud.

SAGAL: Did you ever busk?

BRIDGERS: Oh, yeah. You know, Pasadena Farmers Market - I was there every weekend in high school playing all sorts of covers. It was a great gig. I'd take, like, a three-hour break and walk around and eat tamales.


FARSAD: Did you ever get, like, a free kale bunch in your hat?

BRIDGERS: Straight up yes. There was a really cute...


BRIDGERS: ...Guy who worked at the produce thing next to me, and he'd always bring me stuff. I got - and it's California, so I got brought, like, herbs and face oil and the weirdest...


BRIDGERS: I got the weirdest stuff in my guitar case.

FARSAD: Tinctures...



SAGAL: That Phoebe - she doesn't have a lot of money, but she smells good, and her face is shiny.

BRIDGERS: I got so many tinctures. Yeah.

SAGAL: One thing I've noticed about your songs is they seem to be about very personal things, right - like, almost like quotidian glimpses of your life. Like...


SAGAL: Your - the biggest hit off the new album is "Kyoto," and it's a song that is about, I was in Kyoto, and I went to the temple, and I got bored. And so I left, and I went to the 7-Eleven. So how do you know when you're just having a day, or how do you know when you're having a day that's a song?

BRIDGERS: I don't really know until, like, two years later. Although I do tweet a lot, and then - and I think about songs almost the same way. Like, sometimes something kind of hyper-specific or poignant will happen to me, and I'll just write it down in my notes on my phone. So then at the end of the year, I just have these random little things that I planned on putting into a song. But sometimes it's just when I'm sitting down and writing, and I accidentally - accidentally something fits that happened.

SAGAL: Has the lockdown affected your songwriting because you can't go anywhere?

BRIDGERS: Yeah, it just doesn't - like, nobody wants to hear about the good things in my life because I've - as - for someone who put a record out in lockdown, I've had a pretty successful album cycle. Nobody wants to hear about that. And nobody wants to hear about the things that everybody else on earth is going through.

SAGAL: Yeah.

BRIDGERS: You know, I feel like I have no unique perspective anymore. I've just been trying to listen to records instead of make them.

SAGAL: Oh, good. Then you and I are - we're living exactly - I mean, Phoebe, we're doing the same thing during lockdown.

BRIDGERS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: You said something, and I'm not sure if you meant that - like, nobody wants to hear happy stuff. And it occurred to me, I've talked to some of your fans, and they're so into how you sing about sadness and depression and stuff like that. Do you ever say to yourself, oh, I can't write about that, that's too happy?

BRIDGERS: No. I think what I get self-conscious of is everything is so mundane that's happy in my life. Like, I haven't found a real way to say something profoundly happy.


BRIDGERS: So I'm working on it. I'm not - I'm definitely not against it.

SAGAL: Do you miss touring? Because you talk a lot about touring.

BRIDGERS: So much. At the beginning of lockdown, I felt like I made a bad genie wish, and I caused it because I complained about touring so much. I'm, like, I don't ever want to tour again. And then this is what happens.

BURBANK: Great. Thanks a lot, dude.


FARSAD: I was going to say, Phoebe, I'm a comedian, and I'm on the road a lot. And I started to fantasize about, like, different Cinnabons at regional airports, you know? Like, it's gotten to that point.

BRIDGERS: I would eat a entire meal at Hudson News right now, no problem - no problem.


SAGAL: Just have a two-pound bag of trail mix - that's all I want...


SAGAL: ...Right now. Do you - I don't know how to say this - do you have groupies? Do you have, like, obsessive fans who, like, follow you around?

BRIDGERS: Yes, but predominantly very sweet. It's a lot of teenagers who make me friendship bracelets and stuff.


BRIDGERS: So I love it. It's the people who don't like my music very much who talk to me after shows that I hate.

SAGAL: Wait a minute.

BRIDGERS: You know, like, people who are, like, my girlfriend showed me your music, and I hadn't heard you before tonight, and you're pretty good.


BRIDGERS: Like, shut up, man, you know?

SAGAL: (Laughter).

BRIDGERS: Oh, that's my favorite. Or someone coming up to you in public and being, like, man, my girlfriend loves you. Like, cool.


SAGAL: Look, I know that's humiliating. What I get is, oh, my parents are really big fans.

BRIDGERS: Well, it's true, man.


BRIDGERS: It's true. My mom lost her mind when I told her I was going to be on this show...

SAGAL: (Laughter).

BRIDGERS: ...Lost it.

SAGAL: You see what I mean?

FARSAD: (Laughter).

SAGAL: You see what I mean? Well, Phoebe Bridgers, it is a pleasure to talk to you. We have invited you here, though, to play a game we're calling...

KURTIS: Phoebe Bridgers, Meet Feeble Bridges.

BRIDGERS: (Laughter).

SAGAL: So we're going to ask you three questions about feeble bridges - that is, bridges that have fallen over, collapsed or otherwise done a bad job of spanning things. Answer two of them correctly, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners - the voice of anyone they might choose from our show for their voicemail. Bill, who is Phoebe Bridgers playing for?

KURTIS: Julie Norton (ph) of Milwaukee, Wisc.

SAGAL: All right, here's your first question. A bridge collapsed in Nienburg in Saale, Germany, in 1825 during a celebration for a local duke. Why did it collapse? A, because the vibrations of people singing shook it to pieces; B, because somebody thought a really nice present for the duke would be these nifty steel cables that seemed really easy to remove; or C, because the duke, who weighed 370 pounds, demanded to bounce on it.


SAGAL: It is A, Phoebe.


SAGAL: You are exactly right.


SAGAL: They had a group singing happy - well, you know, nineteenth-century German equivalent of "Happy Birthday" - to the duke. And the resonance with their loud voices apparently shook the bridge so much that it fell over.

FARSAD: (Laughter).

SAGAL: All right, next question. In 1845, the Yarmouth suspension bridge in Great Britain collapsed after hundreds of people gathered on it to watch which of these? A, the annual floating of the cheeses; B, another bridge, which everybody said was going to collapse any second now, so don't miss it; or C, a clown in a washtub being pulled along by four geese.

BRIDGERS: I'm going to go B. I'm going to go B. I want to live in a world where that happens.

SAGAL: (Laughter).

BRIDGERS: It sounds like a Lemony Snicket book.

SAGAL: It does. It does sound like a terrible event. No. In fact, it was C. It was the clown in the washtub being pulled along by four geese.


SAGAL: It was a promotion for a circus that had just come to town. Last question - four years after its construction, there's this $200,000 bridge in the Netherlands that is already falling into disrepair. Why? A, it was built to help squirrels cross the highway safely, but so far, only five squirrels have used it; B, Dutch people would rather just wait for winter and skate across the river; or C, nobody tested the surface for wear from wooden shoes.

BRIDGERS: (Laughter) I think B. That's the most reasonable.

SAGAL: You think B - that rather than drive across the bridge, the Dutch people would rather wait until winter and skate across the bridge.

BRIDGERS: OK, maybe it's A. Maybe it's for squirrels.

SAGAL: It is for squirrels.




SAGAL: They built an entire bridge for squirrels. And in the four years after its construction, only five squirrels have been seen to use it.

BRIDGERS: That is so awesome. Thank you for guiding me to success with that one. I really...

SAGAL: It was my pleasure. I really like your music. Bill, how did Phoebe Bridgers do on our quiz?

KURTIS: Phoebe won 2 out of 3, and in our book, that's a win.



KURTIS: Congratulations.

SAGAL: Yay. Phoebe Bridgers' new album, "Punisher," is up for four Grammys.

Phoebe Bridgers, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME. You are utterly delightful.

BRIDGERS: Oh, thank you guys so much.

SAGAL: Take care.


BRIDGERS: (Singing) Day off in Kyoto, got bored at the temple, looked around at the 7-Eleven. The band took the speed train, went to the arcade. I wanted...

SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill gets slimed in our Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME from NPR.

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