Pop’s latest young superstar has a lot in common with a Canadian music icon.
In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Olivia Rodrigo and Alanis Morissette share the cover and interview each other about fame, heartbreak, and more, as part of the magazine’s 2021 “Musicians on Musicians” feature.
“I remember having my mind blown when I was 13. I was in the car with my parents listening to Jagged Little Pill,” Rodrigo says of the legendary singer-songwriter. “I remember hearing ‘Perfect’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I told my music teacher a couple days after: You can write songs like that? I just looked at music and songwriting in a completely different way.”
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Talking about their music, Morissette says, “I don’t know what your process is around songwriting. For me, when I first write it, it’s just for myself. It’s me alone in a room. And then when it’s shared publicly, it’s no longer mine. It’s still my story, and I’m really intrigued when I hear other people’s interpretations of it, because sometimes it’s a direct match to what my experience was. Other times it has nothing to do with where I was coming from. It’s just been beautifully co-opted by whoever’s listening. But the process does start with it just being very intimate, literally alone.”
Rodrigo tells her, “I try to write every day. I’m the same way: I write solely for myself. I think if I tried to sit down at the piano and be like, I’m going to write a song that everyone likes and that resonates with people! It’s never any good.”
Morissette’s breakout album Jagged Little Pill was famously largely inspired by heartbreak and anger after the end of a relationship, not unlike Rodrigo’s recent SOUR.
“I think heartbreak is so universal — the feeling that lots of humans feel the most deeply. I’ve never felt as deep a sadness as I did when I was truly, truly heartbroken and devastated,” Rodrigo says. “Putting ‘Driver’s 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?’ And when I put out ‘Driver’s 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.”
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Morissette adds, “I think love and anger and pain are energies that move worlds. They open things up, they start the currents moving again if something’s stuck. If we’re depressed or riddled with anxiety — and they usually go hand in hand — in order to move out of that a tiny bit, maybe conjuring a little anger is going to help. What I love for my music to be able to provide is just this intimacy, and it’s an invitation for our humanity. There’s this whole current of what it is to be human that is overlooked by culture. Enter music. Music is this giant allowance for whatever messy, gorgeous, luminous, terrifying thing that’s going on. It’s like a permission button.”
Asked if she can give any advice for navigating fame and the music industry, Morissette tells Rodrigo, “Wow. If I could have done anything differently, I would have had a few more friends around me, period. 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.”