O h, my God — look!” Olivia Rodrigo says. “I just parallel parked for you!”
We’re sitting in Rodrigo’s black Range Rover in L.A.’s Highland Park, stopped outside her producer Dan Nigro’s home studio. Rodrigo has a killer late-July outfit on — short, summery floral dress; tall, brown leather boots; her fingers decked out in rings — but she’s pretty bummed about the new pimple between her eyebrows. Accutane, the acne med she’s been on for about six months, makes her lips perpetually dry, so there’s some Burt’s Bees and two travel tubes of Aquaphor jostling around in the cup holder. It’s all pretty typical for a 20-year-old driver, except for the fact that the calendar on her car’s display screen reads “Rolling Stone interview.”
The parallel-parking thing — funny story. Two years ago, on her angst-ridden anthem “Brutal,” Rodrigo blurted out “I’m not cool, and I’m not smart/And I can’t even parallel park” to the tune of more than half a billion streams. “Brutal” was the opening track on 2021’s Sour, the most feverishly anticipated pop debut in years. The album instantly broke the record for the most-streamed female debut in a single week on Spotify, completing Rodrigo’s transformation from Disney teen to one of the biggest, most relatable pop stars on the planet in less than six months. She won three Grammys, performed on SNL, and sang two songs with Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. (“He’s uncle vibes,” she says.) At Glastonbury, she dedicated Lily Allen’s “Fuck You” to the Supreme Court after their decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. She even visited the president at the White House in an effort to urge young people to get the Covid-19 vaccine. She’s conquered the parking thing, too, apparently. Now, she just has some other stuff to figure out.
Her top priority right now: overcoming the insane amount of pressure to match Sour — and maybe even top it. Enter Guts. “The beginning was really hard,” she says. “I felt like I couldn’t write a song without thinking about what other people were going to think of it. There were definitely days where I found myself sitting at the piano, excited to write a song, and then cried.”
“There’s so much chaos in your head during second-album time,” says Katy Perry, who faced similar expectations while working on 2010’s Teenage Dream. “You have your whole life to make your first record, and then maybe two years to make your second — while going through a real psychological change as well. Like, ‘Oh, my God, I can buy my mom a car,’ and, ‘Oh, my God, I don’t have to have the stress from my past.’ But it’s a mental jungle out there.”
Perry offered to serve as a mentor to Rodrigo. “The first time I met her,” Perry says, “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.”
Nigro, a fortysomething former alt-rocker and Rodrigo’s closest collaborator, also helped ease her anxiety. “Dan was like, ‘You’ve got to go home and rest,’ ” she recalls. The duo would battle what they jokingly called “the dread” with food breaks, usually burgers or Taiwanese — sometimes Taco Bell if they were feeling lazy. “I’ve really eaten good making the record,” she jokes. She’d often visit Nigro’s one-year-old daughter, tasting her baby food (“I’m like, ‘Shit, this is delicious!’ ”) and gifting her with adorable outfits. “She’s the ultimate cure for writer’s block,” Rodrigo says.
Guts is a collection of pop-punk ragers and aching, pensive burners that suggest that after all that multiplatinum heartbreak, Rodrigo is finally having a blast — a wild and free 20-year-old who holds nothing back. “I’ve got sun in my motherfucking pocket, best believe,” she sings on the euphoric “All-American Bitch.” At other moments, like on “Get Him Back!,” she’s scorchingly funny: “He had an ego and a temper and a wandering eye/He said he’s six-foot-two and I’m like, ‘Dude, nice try!’”
“Our goal was to make something a little more playful, a record that didn’t take itself so seriously,” says Rodrigo, who knows that most fans viewed Sour as a direct response to her split with her High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett. “The last album was definitely a breakup record, much to my chagrin,” she says. “I was really trying to make it not that, but that’s what it was. I’m feeling a lot happier these days. Everything’s pretty good. So I wasn’t going to make something super devastating, a record of ballads.”
The artist who captured America’s attention by singing “I’m so sick of 17/Where’s my fucking teenage dream?” is now a fully-fledged adult. She recently became a New Yorker, buying an apartment in Greenwich Village (she may or may not have gotten bedbugs). “Living alone is very frightening,” she notes. “I always get scared someone’s going to come in and murder me, or a ghost is going to come and haunt me.” But she’s still bicoastal, renting a house in Beverly Hills, and hoping to buy a couple of neighborhoods over, in Los Feliz. “I go half and half,” she says of both coasts. “Do I feel like I could ever live full time in New York? I just love car culture. I listen to new music solely in the car. Nothing beats it.”
In February, she’ll turn 21. “The thought of being able to sit down in a bar and talk to people you’ve never met sounds like the best time,” she says. Guts is all about those moments of newfound freedom. “This album encapsulates growing up and figuring yourself out in the world, and the awkwardness of that,” she says. “I feel myself growing leaps and bounds.”
We continue our drive, with Rodrigo admitting she’s prone to getting parking tickets. One time, she even hit Nigro’s neighbor’s car (the owner was nice about it). “It was just a little scratch,” she says. “But I was crying so bad. You know that feeling when your car hits something? It’s like your stomach just sinks out of your ass.”
We wind around succulent-strewn streets and avenues that begin to blur together. “Did I go the right way?” she asks, mainly to herself. “We might go for a joyride.”
NIGRO’S HOME STUDIO sits inside a charcoal-painted house enclosed in hedges, with gravel and ferns guarding the persimmon door. Nigro now lives in Pasadena, but he still records here; it’s where they cut Sour and a portion of Guts (they recorded the rest at Electric Lady in New York). Rodrigo gives me a tour, quickly opening and closing a door that reveals a high chair surrounded by clutter before leading me down the hall. One room contains a drum set and a Yamaha upright piano with a super-Seventies burnt-orange bench. There’s a whiteboard containing Rodrigo’s recording schedule in green marker, with red hearts next to the singles “Vampire” and “Bad Idea Right?”
An additional room serves as the main studio, with a red Persian rug and macramé window cover providing the coziest of vibes. A framed photo of Neil Young’s 1970 classic, After the Gold Rush, hangs in the center of the room, not far from a poster advertising Nigro’s old band, As Tall as Lions, performing at the Troubadour back in 2010. Mini Polaroids are lined up along the wall, featuring visitors ranging from indie singer-songwriter Zella Day to Carole King.
In the corner of the living room, between a fireplace and the sliding glass door to the patio, sits a turntable with stacks of records leaning against it. She flips through them, pausing on Sour — she inscribed her producer’s personal copy with the words “To Dan, suck it!” — and then stopping on Caroline Polachek’s Desire, I Want to Turn Into You, which includes a track produced by Nigro. “She’s such a fucking good live singer,” Rodrigo says, mentioning she saw Polachek at the Greek Theater in 2021.
Rodrigo has thought a lot about Desire, the followup to Polachek’s solo breakthrough, 2019’s Pang; it’s a model for avoiding the sophomore slump. “It’s not a complete reinvention of the first album, but it’s new and fresh,” Rodrigo says. “We didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel.”
She has some other second albums she loves: Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head, Perry’s Teenage Dream. “She had five Number One hits off of that one album,” she says, calling Perry’s Part of Me one of her favorite music docs. “That album is so iconic and so good.”
There’s a song on Guts titled “Teenage Dream,” but Rodrigo claims it’s a coincidence. “We thought about changing the name,” she admits. “If someone looks up ‘Teenage Dream’ on Spotify, there’s no way in heck that my song’s going to pull up first.”
Either way, her mentor doesn’t mind. “It’s nice to see it resonating through the years to different age groups,” Perry says of the similar titles. “She’s a craftswoman. It’s like when Fleabag really made a huge impression on people. She’s writing about all of our inner thoughts, outward things that we would never say.”
“Teenage Dream,” the final track on Guts, is incredibly different from Perry’s 2010 pop anthem — it begins as a piano dirge but evolves into a cathartic hurricane of rock, as Rodrigo envisions the day she is no longer pop’s brightest, youngest star. Perry sang about never looking back. Rodrigo would prefer not to.
“It’s about a fear of not being a teenager anymore and not having this image of being some type of ingénue or prodigy kid,” she explains. “I grew up in this weird environment where everyone praised me for being talented for my age, and it’s about me facing this pressure of making a sophomore record while also facing this pressure of wondering if people would still think that I was cool even when I wasn’t a 17-year-old girl writing songs anymore.”
Rodrigo is now sitting on a forest-green velvet couch, her boots off to the side, revealing white tube socks with the Parental Advisory label printed on them. Next to us is the studio kitchen, where three bottles of wine sit on the counter. Rodrigo says there were a lot of empty bottles after her album wrap party. “We looked like we were alcoholics,” she jokes.
She sings about partying on Guts in a way she hasn’t before: On “Bad Idea Right?” she declares, “Haven’t heard from you in a couple of months/But I’m out right now and I’m all fucked up”; on “Making the Bed,” she admits, “Sometimes I feel like I don’t wanna be where I am/Getting drunk at a club with my fair-weather friends.”
It’s entirely normal subject matter for someone Rodrigo’s age to sing about, but she was hesitant about including some of those lines on the album. “I was actually so scared to put that out,” she says. “I have a lot of young girl fans, and I’m very conscious of that. But also, it’s real. All of my role models are my role models because they’re unapologetically who they are. I can’t cherry-pick parts of myself to express. And if that’s the worst thing that I’m doing, then I think I’m doing pretty well.”
Some of her core influences are ferociously honest punk and alt-rock records from before she was born. When she was about 14, Rodrigo remembers sleeping with a turntable next to her bed. To wake her up each morning, her mom would drop the needle on Babes in Toyland’s Fontanelle (another excellent second album). Listening to Kat Bjelland’s screams, she’d get dressed and ready for the day. “Rock in that feminine way, that’s just the coolest thing in the world to me,” she says.
Working on Guts, she tried to tap into Babes in Toyland’s raw power, particularly on “All-American Bitch,” whose title Rodrigo found in Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Kicking off the album, the song takes aim squarely at anyone who might have heard Sour and dismissed her as a one-dimensional heartbroken teen: “I forgive, and I forget/I know my age, and I act it.”
“I think everyone can relate to being put in a box in some sense,” she explains. “Something I always grappled with, especially when I was younger, is feeling like I couldn’t be angry or express dissatisfaction or complain for fear of being ungrateful. It was drilled into me, and it caused a lot of problems. I had all this anger bubbling up inside me — especially when you’re a teenager and you’re confused and you feel like the world is out to get you and you’re so insecure — and I’d have dreams where I was going crazy. I felt like I could never be like that in real life.”
“All-American Bitch” contains delicate verses and one hell of a raucous chorus, a move that Rodrigo credits to another big, loud Nineties band. “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. I want to go to the Rock Hall of Fame so bad because they’re getting inducted.” She’s going to miss the ceremony this fall in Brooklyn, though, due to “some immovable schedule conflict” — a problem that’s positively driving her nuts right now: “I am literally going to cry myself to sleep about it,” she says.
She’s well aware that some of her most devoted fans — a.k.a. Livies — were hoping that after Sour, she’d release an album titled Sweet. “I mean, I suppose maybe if I was madly in love I would’ve written a Sweet album,” she says. “I don’t know. What’s my next one going to be? Umami or something?”
Madly in love or not, it’s easy to wonder how she might feel about the Olivia who made Sour — the one whose career absolutely exploded after releasing “Drivers License” back in January 2021. “I connect to who I used to be, and it makes me sad,” she says. “I’m like, ‘What are you crying about, girl?’ I’m also like, ‘Ha-ha, you don’t even know, it gets so much better.’”
I wonder if Rodrigo sees herself becoming the type of artist who won’t mind playing her breakout hit for decades to come. “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.”
RODRIGO LOVES a trip to the psychic. Not, she makes clear, the shitty ones on Hollywood Boulevard, where they tell you that in order to cleanse your dark energy, you need to cough up $5,000. “They aren’t supposed to do that,” she says. “The good ones that I’ve been to have been only really positive. I’ve even been to one that I saw multiple times. I saw her a year apart, and she was like, ‘Yeah, that didn’t go right. And I knew it back then, but I didn’t want to tell you because you were supposed to go through it.’ I was like, ‘Huh. OK. Maybe!’ ”
Several psychics have told Rodrigo she’s going to have twins. “I’ve always been so obsessed with the idea of motherhood,” she says, before turning the tables on me: “Do you think you’re going to have kids? I’m sorry! That’s such a deep question. We just met.”
We’re sitting outside a taco joint on Figueroa Street, and Rodrigo is dipping chips into guacamole and sipping an iced tea. Children and marriage are two of her favorite topics. She even sings about them on the wistful “Love Is Embarrassing”: “I’m planning out my wedding/With some guy I’m never marrying.” “Since I was a kid, I’d pick out a baby name that would go good with their last name,” she says. “That’s how psychotic I am.”
During several moments of our time together, Rodrigo reverses the interview and asks me questions about my upcoming wedding. “One more and I’ll stop peppering you!” she says. She’s eager to discuss wedding songs; she’s been pondering her own for years. Her current options: Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon,” Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” and Bright Eyes’ “First Day of My Life.” “Literally planning my wedding with you over tacos!” she says.
Rodrigo tears up when I tell her I’m planning on a Bob Dylan song. “His discography is so humongous, I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface,” she says, though she did name the socially anxious “Ballad of a Homeschooled Girl” after “Ballad of a Thin Man.” Lately, she’s gotten really into Planet Waves and Blood on the Tracks; the latter is her go-to airplane album. “I’ve wanted to write a song [like] ‘If You See Her, Say Hello’ for so long. Legend. He’s so good.”
When our server asks for a photo, Rodrigo politely says she’d prefer to take one when she’s done eating. This is new for her; on a recent trip to Hawaii with her best friend, Madison Hu (her former co-star on the Disney series Bizaardvark), she declined to take any photos at all. “I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” she says, “but it was so nice. By not taking a picture, you actually talk to people and get to know them way better. It’s not some transactional vibe.”
Like many children of the internet, Rodrigo has profoundly mixed feelings about social media: She doesn’t know life outside of the apps, yet finds them incredibly burdensome. Especially Instagram, an app that launched when she was seven, on which she now has more than 33 million followers. “I was reading a book that said — I’m going to butcher the number — but our brains are only wired to know 200 people in a clan setting,” she says. “We’re not supposed to know what some pretty girl in Australia is doing at the beach today. Our brains aren’t hard-wired for that information. So I try to take it all with a grain of salt. It does make me feel depressed sometimes.”
Like most pop stars, Rodrigo has a team to help her post on social media (she tries to keep it authentic, because “you can always tell when someone else is doing it”), but that wasn’t the case when she released “Drivers License” in 2021. “I was so overwhelmed by all of the social media shit,” she says. “I truly deleted my social media for six months. Because it was zero to a hundred, baptism by fire. I deleted all of it for a long time, and I’m so happy that I did that at that moment. I have a better handle on it now, but then I was just so cold turkey with it. I’m trying to figure out a happy medium.”
When Rodrigo says “baptism by fire,” she’s referring to the intense public scrutiny that followed “Drivers License” becoming a hit. Listeners of all ages related to the track — just watch that SNL sketch — but they were also obsessed with untangling the drama. By the time Sour came out, millions of adults were deeply invested in a teenage love triangle that allegedly occurred between Rodrigo, Bassett, and fellow Disney actor Sabrina Carpenter.
None of the three have publicly addressed what exactly happened between them, and Rodrigo isn’t about to start. Whether or not Bassett is the guy who listened to “Uptown Girl” with one or more of his co-stars, I’m curious to know how Rodrigo feels about the backlash he faced from strangers on the internet who assumed he left Rodrigo for Carpenter. I bring up an interview he gave last year, where he talked about having a major health crisis as a result.
“I mean, that’s a tricky one,” she says. “I actually, genuinely did not read the article you’re talking about. But, yeah, all that stuff was really crazy. It’s all been handled privately.” She corrects 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.”
All the same, the public isn’t going to stop trying to figure out her private life anytime soon. In late June, Rodrigo returned with the supernatural epic “Vampire.” Immediately, fans resumed their sleuthing. This time, though, they suspected the track was about either producer Adam Faze or DJ and influencer Zack Bia, both of whom she was reportedly linked to, and both of whom are older than her — thus the line “Girls your age know better.” Bia could easily be the “cool guy” who only comes out “at night” (he told GQ he’s stayed home just “five or six times” in the past four years). The discourse can be exhausting. Is the song worth another round of public scrutiny?
“I find myself caring less and less,” she says, with Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” blasting on the taco joint’s speakers. “Behind the scenes, I do all of the things I am supposed to do and try to be as prepared as I can. People are going to say what they want to say. I feel like the more you try to control it, the more miserable you are, and the bigger it gets. I just write songs; it’s not my job to interpret them for other people.”
But on a Zoom call with Rodrigo, one month and several interviews with other publications later, she takes a slightly different stance. “I have a really big mouth, and that’s something that I’ve had to learn how to control in this profession,” she says. “But that’s par for the course. I write diaristic songs, so of course everyone’s going to have their own interpretation of it.”
At one point Rodrigo mentions “You’re So Vain,” the Carly Simon song whose target has been a matter of public speculation for more than 50 years. When I finally ask Rodrigo if she was singing about Bia, she takes a moment, exhales, and smiles.
“No comment,” she says.
WE MEET THE following evening at Little Dom’s, a vintage Italian spot that would look more at home in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens than the more hip Los Feliz. Rodrigo is wearing a red-plaid babydoll dress she got from Depop, with black loafers and white socks. “We had a good little chat yesterday,” she says. “I feel like we established a lot.”
Unlike yesterday, Rodrigo didn’t snooze her alarm this morning, and made it to Pilates in Beverly Hills, joined by her friend, actress Bailee Madison. “That’s my workout of choice,” she says. “You can’t fuck it up that badly. I love going to the Pilates places where it’s older women. Nothing worse than a scene-y Pilates place where [you] run into people you know. I get so insecure about it.”
As we sit down at the circular booth, she orders a Diet Coke and asks to sit on my left side (she was born half-deaf in her left ear). When I joke that she’s like Jimmy Stewart’s character in It’s a Wonderful Life, she admits she hasn’t seen it. “I don’t know why I cannot see any movie that was made before 1970,” she says. “My brain just doesn’t compute. I’ve always wondered how the old Hollywood accent came to be, like Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. ‘Darling!’ It’s not the way that anybody talks in real life.”
At least in terms of films from the past 53 years, Rodrigo is a total movie buff — she even has a Letterboxd account. She saw two movies last Saturday: Oppenheimer with her dad, followed by 1983’s Valley Girl, starring Nicolas Cage. “It’s his first movie, and he’s oddly so hot,” she says. When I recommend that she see Moonstruck, in which Cage plays an angry, handsome baker with a wooden hand, she makes a note in her phone. “Sounds like a guy I’d fall for,” she says.
Rodrigo was deeply affected by Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, which she brings up several times throughout our days together. “I roll my eyes when people talk about shit like this, but here I am, being that person,” she says. “It’s such a beautiful, wonderful feminist movie. I’m so happy to be a girl. I don’t know the last time that I saw a movie where it was so female-centered in a way that wasn’t sexualized, or about some tormented woman going through some shit. It’s just a beautiful, positive movie about this cool girl.”
When I ask her how she feels about Dua Lipa, who made a cameo in the film, she lights up. “I’m so excited for her next album, I actually can’t wait,” she says, then brings up Lipa’s electrifying performance at the 2021 Grammys, which included two Future Nostalgia tracks and speedy outfit changes. “It’s so fucking good. I remember watching it on the TV and melting on the floor. Killed it. So tight and clean. They must have worked their asses off making that. I literally couldn’t do it.”
Rodrigo would rather be seen as a singer-songwriter than a pop star. When we discuss her idols, she mentions the impact Lorde had on her as a child. “I remember hearing ‘Royals’ on the radio,” she says. “I was like, ‘Wow, you can make a song about anything that you’re feeling.’ It doesn’t have to be this breakup song. She wrote an album about what it was like to be 15 in the suburbs and feeling lost” — a theme that resonated with Rodrigo, who was 10 years old living in the quiet town of Temecula, California, at the time.
But there’s another idol I want to ask about, a glittery elephant in the room: What, if anything, happened between her and Taylor Swift? Early in her music career, Rodrigo was quick to call Swift an inspiration. “I’m just so in awe of her constantly, and I truly would not be the songwriter I am today if I had not grown up being so inspired by everything she does,” she told Ryan Seacrest in March 2021. They exchanged handwritten letters, and Swift gave her a ring similar to one she wore while making Red. Two months later, they met in person at the BRIT Awards.
Things got a little more complicated that summer, when Rodrigo gave Swift and Jack Antonoff two writing credits on Sour: first on “1 Step Forward, 3 Steps Back” (which interpolated Swift’s “New Years Day”) and then “Deja Vu” (which was inspired by Tay’s “Cruel Summer”; Rodrigo also gave a credit to St. Vincent, a co-writer on Swift’s song). Even if it was unclear whether Swift demanded the credits, more obsessive fans were convinced this led to a falling out. They began to see the alleged evidence everywhere: Rodrigo bonding over encountering “mean girls” with Alanis Morissette in this magazine; the 2023 Grammys, where Rodrigo and Swift seemingly had zero interactions; Swift selecting Carpenter, Rodrigo’s supposed archnemesis, to open for her Eras Tour in Latin America. Some self-appointed sleuths even wondered whether Rodrigo masked “Vampire” as a love song, when in reality it was about Swift.
When I ask Rodrigo about the alleged feud, she’s sipping on a bowl of Italian wedding soup. She goes quiet. “I don’t have beef with anyone,” she says calmly. “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.” She adds: “There’s so many Twitter conspiracy theories. I only look at alien-conspiracy theories.”
She maintains this stance when I ask about the Sour co-writes, which, by August 2021, also -included Paramore on “Good 4 U.” “I was a little caught off guard,” she says. “At the time it was very confusing, and I was green and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Is that the phrase?” It’s unclear if Rodrigo was forced to give the credits: “It’s not something that I was super involved in,” she admits. “It was more team-on-team. So, I wouldn’t be the best person to ask.”
I’m curious to know what a more experienced Olivia would do. Would she demand credit from a young artist, or shrug it off, like Elvis Costello did when people noted the similarities between “Brutal” and “Pump It Up”? “I don’t think I would ever personally do that,” she says. “But who’s to say where I’ll be in 20, 30 years. All that I can do is write my songs and focus on what I can control.”
We split spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmesan, and Rodrigo orders a second Diet Coke before the bill arrives. “Thank you, Daddy Rolling Stone!” she says giddily.
AFTER DINNER, we walk around Los Feliz with Rodrigo’s muscular, tattooed bodyguard a safe distance behind. Having employees tail her isn’t exactly her favorite thing. “I love walking around and being alone,” she says. “People get mad at me for doing it all the time. My managers are like, ‘You can’t do that, you have to have someone with you all the time.’ But I feel safe. Am I safe? No idea. But that’s just not something I’m willing to sacrifice.”
Rodrigo points to a nearby brunch spot. “I went on a bad date here once,” says. This gets her thinking: “I wonder if I’m someone’s worst date. That’s my goal: to wreak so much havoc. Yeah, that’s what I want to do with my life.” We get some ice cream at Jeni’s — Rodrigo chooses honey vanilla bean on a cone — and turn down Franklin Avenue, quoting Bridesmaids. Rodrigo just saw it for a second time, and we exchange lines from the airplane scene back and forth:
“I have this [drink] all the time, and I’m much smaller than you.”
“There’s much more of a sense of community in coach.”
“There’s a colonial woman on the wing!”
For a minute, we attempt to find the Los Feliz murder mansion, from the popular true-crime podcast of that name, but it’s nearly three miles away. Instead, we discuss the Long Island serial killer and the body in a barrel that recently washed up on the Malibu shore, and trade ghost stories our moms told us: Mine woke up in the middle of the night in a Savannah, Georgia, hotel room to find a bride sitting on her bed, while Rodrigo’s once saw a strange man heading down to the basement of the Wisconsin house she grew up in. “Didn’t tell a soul for 10 years,” Rodrigo says of her mom’s experience. “And then my grandma was like, ‘I’m glad we had that house. We got it for so cheap because a guy died in the basement.’”
“Sorry, I’m so morbid lately!” she adds.
She thinks this penchant for darkness probably stems from a love of Harry Potter; like me, Rodrigo was shattered when a Hogwarts acceptance letter didn’t arrive on her 11th birthday. Her love of witchcraft runs deep: In elementary school, she and her friends would “play Harry Potter” after class, filling cauldrons with leaves and water.
Her mother, Jennifer, taught at that school, while her father, Chris, is a therapist. (She says her dad has yet to hear the line about him in “Get Him Back”: “I am my father’s daughter/So maybe I could fix him!”) Rodrigo started home-schooling at 13, when she moved to L.A. to star in Bizaardvark. “Sometimes I feel I have poor social skills because of that upbringing,” she says. “I always felt like I was missing out because I’m an only child and I’m home-schooled.”
The only time Rodrigo was ever starstruck came around that age, when she met Vanessa Hudgens at a movie theater in L.A. “I freaked out,” she says. “She’s Filipino like me, and I remember thinking that was cool.” Even cooler, Rodrigo was later cast as the kid who steps into Hudgens’ role in the show-within-a-show on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. She continued filming on the Disney show even after Sour; the upcoming third season, which she only recently finished shooting, will be her last.
She recalls being on the High School Musical set the moment “Drivers License” debuted at Number One. She called Nigro from the studio bathroom. “I vividly remember being like, ‘Number One, how cool is that?’” she says. “He was like, ‘Olivia, you don’t get it. Your life is different now.’ ”
She gets it now. But she’s still processing it all — even our conversation from the previous day, when I asked her if, like Stevie Nicks, she sees herself performing her hit at 75. “You really elicited a big crisis in my mind,” she says, chuckling. “But I’ll get back to you. Let’s schedule it in.”
Produced by RHIANNA RULE. Photography direction by EMMA REEVES. Styling by JARED ELLNER for THE ONLY AGENCY. Hair by CLAYTON HAWKINS for A-FRAME. Makeup by YUKARI BUSH. Nails by YOKO SAKAKURA for A-FRAME. Tailoring by CARLOS ORDOÑEZ. Set design by BRITTANY PORTER for ARTISTRY AGENCY. Video Director of Photography: MAC SHOOP. VFX by MIGUEL FERNANDES Rotoscope: IRA MORRIS, ALI WEBB, and JULIANNE AUGUSTINE. Photography assistance by EVADNE GONZALEZ, ALEX KENNEDY. Digital technician: JULIAN LOPEZ. Styling assistance by JESS MCATEE, BROOKE FIGLER, MAYA SAUDER. Set design assistance by T. MARSH. Production assistance by DOUG STUCKEY and MIKEY DE VERA