After a weird couple of years, Phoebe Bridgers is ready to have a normal one.
Bridgers is finally on tour after two years of an astonishing rise. Since the pandemic, the indie singer-songwriter has released her widely acclaimed second album (the gorgeous “Punisher”), been the subject of a New Yorker profile, made her “Saturday Night Live” debut, and played Carnegie Hall. Despite those milestones, Bridgers has been unable to tour. That tour is now finally underway and will stop at the Leader Bank Pavilion on Sunday and Monday.
“I haven’t been on tour for my own music since November 2018,” says Bridgers, 27, on the phone from Los Angeles. “Then I played one show in London, which was the biggest crowd I’ve ever played to. I played one show. And then it was 2020, and then I played Carnegie Hall, but it was a benefit concert, and I only played two songs. I haven’t played for people since then.” Her highly successful collaborative projects — Better Oblivion Community Center, her band with Conor Oberst; and boygenius, a rock trio she formed with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker — led to some shows, but she’s had very little stage time to celebrate her own record.
Bridgers says she’s looking forward to playing the songs from “Punisher,” many of which are seemingly built for group catharsis, in front of crowds. Then there’s the fact that the crowds will simply be bigger. While her recent popularity makes her seem like an overnight success, she makes clear that she’s played live shows for close to a decade, and she’s ready to see all that hard work pay off.
“I am so excited to find out what it’s like,” she says. “The first year of touring my first record [2017′s ”Stranger in the Alps”], I was mostly opening. It was cool, but I remember selling out my first 500-person capacity venue in L.A. and just being like, ‘Well, this is the dream. Living my dream.’ And now way more people [care]. So it’s always been gradual. When ‘Punisher’ first came out, it was fans I’d accumulated from the first record, and then in a year it felt exponential in a way that felt really awesome — but not tangible, because I haven’t played.”
Though Bridgers can’t wait for the shows, she’s also being cautious: Before her “Punisher” tour started on Sept. 14, she canceled indoor dates and required masks and proof of vaccination at the remaining shows. That decision, she says, was tough.
“It’s super frustrating,” she says. “You’re being put in a position of legislator. But hopefully my choice to make everything outdoors is overly cautious. I know that a lot of people aren’t doing it. Honestly, my nightmare would be if anybody dies from coming to the show, or if the crew comes down with something.”
Though largely written and recorded before COVID, “Punisher” is a perfect record for these confusing times. Like much of Bridgers’s music, the album is about the fine line between hope and despair — about loneliness, contentious relationships, and, in the tumultuous closer “I Know The End,” the metaphorical parallels between break-ups and the apocalypse.
“The whole record kind of feels like it’s about now,” says Bridgers. “I went through a pretty intense breakup. But all this [pandemic] stuff hadn’t happened when I wrote the music. It just feels really predictive. My personal life, being stuck inside — I don’t hear the record being about anything else at this point.”
This balance between personal intimacy and relatability is one of Bridgers’s specialties, one that indie musician and fellow boygenius member Dacus admires.
“I think that she does that thing that a lot of people try to do but don’t succeed,” says Dacus, “which is zooming in on details and somehow it still feels universal. She’s telling stories that not everybody lived, and yet [they] feel like she’s talking about your life.”
In “Kyoto,” for example, Bridgers sings about the specificity of traveling while dealing with a rocky relationship with her father. That song, bouncy and anthemic despite its melancholy, has been a major factor in Bridgers’s recent popularity. “Kyoto” even found its way, via several fan requests, into Fenway Park organist Josh Kantor’s repertoire this season. (Kantor says via email, “Aside from being a great song, it seemed to permeate the musical zeitgeist in the early days of the pandemic such that it became a shared experience at a time when we were starved for such experiences.”)
Bridgers’s tour, which is set to run through Oct. 24, is keeping her busy for the time being. She’s not sure yet when new music will happen. The pandemic, she says, has made the creative process difficult.
“It’s been hard to write, honestly. So who knows. But I have actually tried to make a concerted effort to not make any references [in my writing] to COVID. It’s boring. It bores me to write about. I’m not gonna worry about what people think about it. I don’t want to think about it.”
At Leader Bank Pavilion, Sept. 26-27 at 8 p.m. www.ticketmaster.com