"I write my best music when I’m devastated and heartbroken and sad": Olivia Rodrigo on sharing the "trauma" behind her new album Guts

Olivia Rodrigo
(Image credit: Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Olivia Rodrigo has opened up about the writing of her eagerly anticipated second album GUTS, telling fellow singer/songwriter Phoebe Bridgers that she has to very consciously not consider how the songs might be received, as over-thinking would prove "counterproductive to any creativity."

The conversation between the two acclaimed US songwriters/musicians forms the cover story of the new issue of Interview magazine.

During the interview, Rodrigo, 20, admits that the reaction to her debut album, SOUR, which was released in May 2021, has already sold over four million copies in the US, and is certified double-platinum in the UK for 600,000 sales, was initially "overwhelming" and that she felt "ill-equipped" to deal with the scrutiny her songwriting was subjected to.

"When I first started writing this record, I would sit at the piano and pretend other people were hearing what I was writing, which is so awful and counterproductive to any creativity, so I had to just write what I wanted to write and think about the social implications after," she admits. "It’s tricky. I don’t think anyone has it down to a science. I can’t even believe that people listen and talk about my music as it is, so it’s crazy to think about. I guess I’m still learning how to deal with all that stuff."

"On the last album, I was so fucking inspired," she adds. "I was going through this heartbreak, excavating so much shit from my brain. I had so much to say, and this time I was like, 'Huh, I don’t really feel as inspired. I’m not crying on the guitar anymore.' And so it was kind of a lesson in having to think of it more as a craft."

"There’s one song that I wrote about how my life changed because of all of the things that happened with the last album and how crazy that was. It was cathartic in the end, but it was kind of hard dredging up all of that stuff."

At one point, Bridgers notes, "singing a bunch of sad songs in a communal environment and having everybody screaming along is such a healing thing", a sentiment with which Rodrigo agrees.

"So many people would love to be in this position," she stresses. "But you still have to acknowledge trauma."

"I write my best music when I’m devastated and heartbroken and sad," she adds. "And I was talking to someone about it and they were like, 'When you’re going through a heartbreak, do you think that you’re figuring out parts of yourself ?' I’m like, 'Huh, maybe that is it.' Maybe it’s you finding yourself as a person that’s the catalyst instead of just being devastated all the time because I don’t think that’s sustainable either."

Read the full interview between Rodrigo and Bridgers here.

GUTS is released on Friday, September 8. 

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.