Olivia Rodrigo on Feuds, Friends, Influences – Rolling Stone

Few things in music are more daunting than following up a smash debut album, but Olivia Rodrigo has pulled off that feat with Guts. The follow-up to 2021’s Sour finds the singer-songwriter turning the glories and messes of young adulthood into undeniable pop-punk bangers. That’s not to say its success was a foregone conclusion, nor was its creation an effortless endeavor. In her new Rolling Stone cover story, we learn all about how Rodrigo navigated the rigors and pressures of songwriting, celebrity, and just plain growing up to craft one of the year’s best records. She also opened up about dealing with the scrutiny that comes with newfound fame — addressing certain alleged feuds and love triangles — and also offered us a glimpse into her budding bi-coastal life filled with music, movies, and some great advice from Katy Perry

She addresses those “conspiracy theories” about her alleged feud with Taylor Swift.

Rodrigo’s relationship with Swift has been the subject of much rumor and gossip. Rodrigo spoke glowingly of Swift as a major inspiration early in her career, and Swift even gifted her a ring similar to the one she wore while making Red. But things got a little complicated after Rodrigo gave Swift and Jack Antonoff writing credits on two Sour tracks (“1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back,” which interpolated “New Year’s Day,” and “Deja Vu,” inspired by “Cruel Summer”). 

Rodrigo admits she was “a little caught off guard” by the Sour co-write situation, but she says there’s no personal ill will. “I don’t have beef with anyone,” she insists. “I’m very chill. I keep to myself. I have my four friends and my mom, and that’s really the only people I talk to, ever. There’s nothing to say… There’s so many Twitter conspiracy theories. I only look at alien-conspiracy theories.”

But the alleged love triangle that inspired Sour remains a private matter.

Rodrigo admits that Sour “was definitely a breakup record, much to my chagrin.” But she still won’t say who it was about. Fans, however, have long guessed it was inspired by her split with her High School Musial: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett, who then allegedly struck up a relationship with another fellow Disney actor, Sabrina Carpenter.  

“All that stuff was really crazy,” Rodrigo says of the wild fan speculation that accompanied her debut single, “Drivers License,” and Sour. “It’s all been handled privately,” she continued, before correcting herself. “Handled isn’t the right word, but it’s just not something I like talking about publicly. I take all that stuff seriously, but it happens in privacy. I’m not going to put out a statement. That’s phony. We’re all just people at the end of the day. I deal with it on a person-to-person level that people on Twitter don’t see.”

She found a mentor in Katy Perry while creating her own “Teenage Dream.”

Katy Perry tells RS that she offered to mentor Rodrigo the first time they met: “I put my hands on her shoulders and was like, ‘Listen, I’m here. Whatever you need.’ Because I know exactly what these pop girlies are going through, and when I was growing up, no one really did that for me.”

And though Rodrigo insists it was just a coincidence, it’s telling that Guts closes with a song that shares a title with Perry’s biggest hit, “Teenage Dream.” The two songs aren’t very alike, in sound or lyrical content, but Perry is still delighted by the connection: “It’s nice to see it resonating through they ears to different age groups. She’s a craftswoman… She’s writing about all of our inner thoughts, outward things that we would never say.”

She has a Letterboxd account.

Rodrigo watches a lot of movies, and she raves about a few in her interview, including 1983’s Valley Girl (a young Nicolas Cage is “oddly so hot,” she quips) and Greta Gerwig’s recent smash Barbie (“It’s such a beautiful, wonderful feminist movie”). She does cop to some blind spots, though.

“I don’t know why I cannot see any movie that was made before 1970,” she says. “My brain just doesn’t compute.”

Her favorite band right now is Rage Against the Machine.

Guts is filled with nods to the titans of the Alternative Nation era, and none may have been a bigger influence on Rodrigo than Rage. “I have been listening to so much Rage Against the Machine this year,” she says. “That’s my favorite band right now. I would just play it over and over again on my way to and from the studio.”

She’s such a stan that seeing the band get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later this year became a top priority — but “some immovable schedule conflict” means she’ll have to miss the Nov. 3 ceremony in Brooklyn. “I am literally going to cry myself to sleep about it,” she adds.

Working on Guts wasn’t always easy.

Following the success of Sour, Rodrigo admits she struggled to find her voice again as a songwriter. “I felt like I couldn’t write a song without thinking about what other people were going to think of it,” she says. “There were definitely days where I found myself sitting at the piano, excited to write a song, and then cried.” 

One key inspiration for avoiding the dreaded sophomore slump? Caroline Polachek.

Rodrigo has thought a lot about Polachek’s recent LP Desire, I Want to Turn Into You — the follow-up to her 2019 solo breakthrough, Pang. It came to represent a model for a second album: offering something new and adventurous, without totally abandoning the sounds and styles that fans loved about Sour. Of Guts, Rodrigo says, “It’s not a complete reinvention of the first album, but it’s new and fresh. We didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel.” 


She’ll probably still be playing “Drivers License” when she’s 75.

It’s only been a couple years since Sour, but thinking back to who she was when she made that album, Rodrigo seems a little conflicted: “I connect to who I used to be, and it makes me sad. I’m like, ‘What are you crying about, girl?’ I’m also like, ‘Haha, you don’t even know, it gets so much better.’” 

That doesn’t mean Rodrigo’s going to stop playing those songs anytime soon. “I was thinking about that the other day,” she says. “I saw Stevie Nicks singing ‘Landslide’ to this huge stadium of people. Not that ‘Drivers License’ is ‘Landslide,’ by any means. But I was like, ‘Damn.’ That heartbreak that you feel when you’re young, thinking about singing that song when I’m Stevie Nicks’ age … it’s really powerful.”

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