Olivia Rodrigo On Being 'Truly Heartbroken' When Writing 'Drivers License'


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Olivia Rodrigo sat down with Alanis Morisette for Rolling Stone’s 2021 Musicians on Musicians issue. The duo bonded over achieving pop stardom at early ages, as well as writing debut albums about heartbreak.

Back in February, Rodrigo released 'Drivers License,' the first single off her debut album Sour. The song, which details teenage heartbreak with poignant details, struck a chord with listeners of all ages. 'Drivers License' catapulted the 18-year-old singer-songwriter into the public eye seemingly overnight.

Rodrigo's early career success resembles that of Morisette, who released her own debut album, Alanis, in 1991 when she was just 17-years-old. Morisette would go on to release a number of hugely popular albums over the years, including Now is the Time and Jagged Little Pill. Rodrigo cites Jagged Little Pill, particularly the song 'Perfect,' as being an important influence over her own songwriting.

"I think heartbreak is so universal — the feeling that lots of humans feel the most deeply," Rodrigo told Morisette. "I’ve never felt as deep a sadness as I did when I was truly, truly heartbroken and devastated. Putting 'Drivers License' out was such a unique experience because I’ve lived this sort of weird life. I grew up on set and didn’t go to school like everyone else did. I was like, 'Are my songs going to be relatable?'"

"When I put out 'Drivers License,' about this really hard time in my life, I watched it just affect so many people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender or age," she continued. "There would be 40-year-old guys that would come up to me and be like, 'Wow, that really struck me.' Even if they weren’t going through a situation like that, they were like, 'Oh, it takes me right back to when I was in high school and I went through my first heartbreak.' That was so magical for me, to not only see how universal that feeling was, but also how magical music can be and it can take you back to a specific point in time. You can hear everything and taste everything and smell everything, and that’s so unique to music."

Rodrigo also confessed to Morisette that, although she's been enjoying her success, she sometimes struggles with life in the public eye. "Sometimes it seems a little strange why someone would want this and bring it upon themselves," she said. "It’s like, to want to be the president of the United States, you have to have this weird thing. It’s so much pressure and criticism."

Despite the hard times, she says her "love of writing a song in your bedroom and being like, 'That perfectly captures how I feel better than anything I could have said in a conversation,'" is what keeps her going.

As someone who had similar experiences to Rodrigo early in her career, Morisette offered some advice to the pop newcomer. "If I could have done anything differently, I would have had a few more friends around me, period," she said. "Just a little bit more emotional support, someone where you could vent with them and process with them. It was lovely to journal about it, but if I could go back in time, I would have conjured a few really deeply loving, unconditionally caring people around me to just check in with me."