Olivia Rodrigo covers Elle, talks about her teenage songwriting & identity crisis

Tristan Thompson meets up with a friend for lunch at celeb hot spot The Ivy

Olivia Rodrigo covers the latest issue of Elle Magazine. If you are an Old, let me tell you about Olivia. Her song “Drivers License” is one of the mega-hits of the year, and it broke all kinds of records. The song is confessional and blind-item-y in the vein of a vintage Taylor Swift song, and it’s clearly about Olivia’s ex (and coworker) Joshua Bassett, who began dating Sabrina Carpenter two seconds after he and Olivia were over. “Drivers License” was so popular so fast that SNL did an excellent skit about dudes listening to the song and that skit went viral too. Olivia is only 18 years old, a Disney-employed youth, with her own recording contract, and the world is her oyster. She still lives at home with her mom in Salt Lake City, which is where she did a Zoom interview with Elle, which you can read here. The Elle piece isn’t super-confessional, it’s more like an introductory piece on Olivia’s life and career. She seems like a nice kid, honestly. Some highlights:

On having the world talking about your blind-item songs: “It’s truly any songwriter’s dream,” she says. She talks about the thrill of watching everyone from TikTok tweens to middle-aged ladies connect with the song. They’re responding to the fact that she’d bared her heart. “There’s something so powerful in being vulnerable and open, like, ‘This is my life, and I’m f–king sad.’ Or, ‘I’m insecure.’ That’s what makes songwriting so special.”

Living with her mom in Salt Lake City: Because of the pandemic, she doesn’t get to do much IRL socializing. She FaceTimes with friends constantly (“I’ll call them at the weirdest times—their 3 a.m.—and they’ll always pick up”) and visits “soda bars” with her mom (it’s Utah). “She’s my BFF,” she says of her mother. “So it’s all good.”

Her style: She loves Reformation. It’s one of the only brands that she buys new clothing from, because of its eco-conscious practices. Otherwise, like many members of Gen Z, she tries to buy used or vintage clothes, for environmental reasons. “Depop is my go-to,” she says, referring to the clothing resale app.

Her dad made her piano lessons. “Oh my God, I hated it. I’d literally cry before every lesson.” But around the same time, something transformational happened: She started writing songs of her own, using the piano first, and then the guitar… After taking piano lessons, she says, “I realized that songwriting was something that people do, and it’s a craft.”

An identity crisis: As she turned 14—the middle school years—she experienced what she called “an identity crisis on steroids.” She was struggling with questions that every early adolescent confronts: “Who the f-ck am I? Who cares about me? How do I treat people?” But there were some unique pressures: “Most 14-year-olds aren’t in a room with adults being like, ‘So, what’s your brand?’”

On Instagram: “It’s hard to be something that is not one-dimensional on a medium that is inherently one-dimensional, you know?” The song’s hook is “I am more than I could ever show / I am more than the girl you think you know.”

On the success of “Drivers License”: “I thought I was going to be really in my head, like, ‘I’m never going to write a song as good as that again,’ ” she says. But instead, the opposite has happened: “This song has given me a lot of confidence in my voice….I think songwriting has really helped me home in on what I like about myself and my art,” she says. It has something to do with being honest and vulnerable and not contrived. “I just want to be effortless, I guess. Whether it’s in my fashion or my songs or my social media, I want to just be like, ‘Yo, this is me. And I’m sometimes weird as f–k, and I’m sometimes polished and put together.’ I think that’s the antithesis of a brand.” But if history is any indication, a lot of people can relate.

[From Elle]

It’s cute that she thinks she’s the antithesis of a brand. I mean, I can see why she’s trying to reject the Disney machinery she’s part of, because honestly, she’s outgrown it and she’s trying to find her own path in a way which is authentic to her. But she’s treading some well-worn paths, and those paths will help her build her own brand. She doesn’t have to go Full Miley or Full Selena Gomez. She can use Disney as her launch pad (she already has) and become the next Taylor Swift/Billie Eilish. She’s already started. And she needs to thank her dad every single day for insisting that she learn the piano. That’s the most important thing for her career – the fact that she’s a songwriter, that she’s not beholden to studio machinery to write songs for her and shape her “sound.”

Cover & IG courtesy of Elle.

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6 Responses to “Olivia Rodrigo covers Elle, talks about her teenage songwriting & identity crisis”

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  1. Iris says:

    This album is SO GOOD. My god. Brutal and Jealousy, Jealousy are stuck in my head. She’s genuinely talented

  2. K says:

    This girl is amazing. Her voice is beautiful and she has such a command of it. Impressive and smart

  3. Sof says:

    I actually liked her album, listened to it the day people were debating whether Ben Platt was too old to play a teenager. I fit the memes, I guess.

  4. Watson says:

    I love this girl. It’s deliciously freeing to sing your heart out to these confessional songs. And yes, I’m a grown ass adult.

  5. Erinn says:

    All I hear is Paramore when I hear her music🤷🏻‍♀️