Olivia Rodrigo interview – ‘Oh my God, what a crazy trajectory’

Olivia Rodrigo is a unicorn.

With one song, he achieved overnight success that would be impossible in the fragmented modern music industry.

Drivers License, which was released in January 2021, broke Spotify’s record in just 24 hours. Then it destroys them again. Seven days later, the song entered the UK and US charts at number one.

Even his record label was surprised.

“I think we would all be lying if we said we knew the extent of what was going to happen,” admitted Polydor President Ben Mortimer.

A driving license is not a one-time thing. Rodrigo’s debut album, Sour, sparked a pop-punk revival, spawning four more chart hits, and earning three Grammy Awards.

The star was invited to the White House as part of the vaccination drive, and used her Glastonbury debut to protest the overturning of Roe v Wade, which removed the federal right to abortion in the US.

In the midst of all this, he returned to film his final episode of the Disney series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series; and embarked on her first tour, cautiously playing smaller venues because, before the 2021 Brit Awards, she had never played her own material in front of an audience.

“Looking back, I’m like, God, what a crazy ride,” the now 20-year-old singer said when we met in London in August.

“Obviously, it’s absurd and crazy. I’ve been writing songs and working my whole life, but it just feels like it.

‘And only recently have I begun to process how much my life has changed in the span of a few months.’

A self-confessed introvert, he stepped out of the limelight soon after the Sour tour wrapped in July last year.

“I spent a lot of time alone,” she says, describing long days filled with classic movies, knitting and baking oatmeal cookies.

“God, that makes me sound so lame,” he laughed. “Look at the old lady here!”

But it wasn’t long before he was drawn back to his first love – music.

Rodrigo has been obsessed with writing and performing for as long as he can remember. As a toddler, he made up songs about getting lost in the grocery store, or decorating the Christmas tree. He even released one of them as a festive gift for fans in 2022.

Her first “proper song” (her words) was a piano ballad called Naive Girl, which she posted to Instagram at the age of 12. It’s a bit rough, but it already has the hallmarks of his sound: angst-ridden lyrics, wide-octave vocals, and a flair for the dramatic.

“I’ve changed myself to help you / But how can that help me?”

Around the same time, she was cast in the Disney series Bizaardvark, playing the role of aspiring musician Paige Olvera, for which she had to learn the guitar. This led to his casting in High School Musical, where he wrote several original songs, which became the foundation for his solo career.

But nothing could have prepared him – or anyone else – for Sour’s sudden and overwhelming success. When Rodrigo started writing his follow-up, it wasn’t surprising to learn that he was thinking about himself.

“Towards the beginning of writing the album, I struggled,” he admitted.

“I’ll sit down and write lyrics and the only thing I think about is people on Twitter dissecting them.

“It’s the antithesis of creativity. So I had to change my mindset in the middle of making the record, to just trying to make songs that I wanted to hear on the radio.

“When I do that, everything becomes more fun, and feels creative again.”

Rodrigo knows his stuff will help. He name-checks artists like Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Jack White, Alanis Morissette, Lily Allen, Billy Joel, Tori Amos — all musical storytellers, whose lyrics are as memorable as their melodies.

During a break in our interview, he spoke passionately about stolen demo tapes for Wings’ Band On The Run album and Prince’s mythical 1980s breakup song, Wally, which was so raw it was destroyed.

“What I wouldn’t do to hear that,” he sighed.

But on Sour, the musical inspiration is perhaps too obvious. Both Paramore and Taylor Swift were retrospectively added to the credits due to similarities to previous songs.

It was said that, when asked to choose a favorite song from the later set, Rodrigo chose the opening song, All-American Bitch [link contains expletives] because it “didn’t feel like it was trying to imitate anything else”.

That is an understatement. The song begins with finger-picked guitar and soft, whispered vocals before exploding into a nonsensical diatribe about the unattainable expectations placed on women: Be smart nam

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