On paper, it’s a match made in pop heaven. Olivia Rodrigo and Alanis Morissette were both child stars who showed an early proclivity for singing and songwriting, both rose to instant global fame with debut albums featuring fiercely personal, cathartic songs and though separated by three decades, they’re inextricably linked by their ability to survive the slings and arrows of the “mean girl” haters who’ve tried to bring them low.
The pair discussed all this and more in Rolling Stone magazine’s latest “Musicians on Musicians” package, which will run in the upcoming November 2nd issue and feature the dynamic duo on one of four special covers.
“We had a similar experience, where we had a really successful debut album, which is weird. At least for me, it felt super-quick. It felt overnight, and I’ve been working and writing songs since I was five years-old,” Rodrigo, 18, told Morissette, 47, about the rocket ride to fame courtesy of her debut album, Sour. “It definitely wasn’t overnight. But the ‘I’m writing songs in my bedroom’ to ‘Oh, my gosh, lots of people know this song’ was really quick for me. I feel obviously so lucky, but sometimes it just feels like it doesn’t have to do with me.”
They also share a similar origin story, with Rodrigo blasting into our consciousness via Disney+’s High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, on which she sang, danced and acted, and Morissette doing the same on the 1980s Canadian kid sketch comedy show You Can’t Do That on Television. And, not for nothing, both also released singles that feature them working out their love drama in cars, “Drivers License” and “Ironic,” respectively.
What Olivia really wanted to know, though, was how Morissette handled it when her global debut album, 1995’s 30 million-plus selling Jagged Little Pill, blew up and suddenly put the then 21 year-old singer under the microscope. “All eyes on the fishbowl. There was a lot of bullying and a lot of jealousy and a lot of people whom I’d adored my whole life being mean girls,” Morissette said, with Rodrigo chiming in with a hearty “Same!”
But then, around a year after Alanis became a one-name superstar thanks to hits including “You Oughta Know,” “Hand in My Pocket,” “Ironic” and “You Learn,” Alanis said she stopped reading everything written about her that wasn’t “relevant to my personal growth and evolution.” Though Rodrigo had the added baggage of facing the same slings and arrows in the digital social media age, she said that experience sounded eerily similar.
“Putting out music in the age of social media can be really daunting, and I think people hold young women to an incredibly unrealistic standard,” Rodrigo said. “I’ve taken the same route as you have and just don’t look at it. I don’t think anyone is meant to look at that stuff. I don’t think we as human beings are supposed to know what thousands of people think about what we wore or what we said or how we talk. I think having that separation is really important — realizing that that’s not real life, you know what I mean? That world that is created online, it’s just one facet of this very big human existence.”
The pair, who said they were big fans of each other’s music, bonded 0ver their shared songwriting process, which the women said begins with them in a room writing just for themselves. “[But] the process does start with it just being very intimate, literally alone,” Morissette said. “A lot of people have said to me very generously, like you just did, ‘Wow, that’s so brave,’ and I wonder what part of it is brave, because it just doesn’t feel brave to me [laughs]. It just feels like a mandatory experience to the point where if I’m not doing that — if I’m not expressing myself in that way — I’d probably get sick really fast.”
Rodrigo explained that she tries to write every day, also for herself, sitting at the piano and trying to keep in mind that that saying, “I’m going to write a song that everyone likes and that resonates with people!” will never going to result in a great piece of art. “I’ve been trying to put out songs and realize they’re not mine anymore,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many songs that I’ve listened to and been like, ‘Oh, my gosh, that artist totally wrote it for me and my situation,’ and they never did. You know what I mean?”
The also discussed the dreaded “sophomore slump” anxiety, watching their personal relationships get relentlessly “pulled apart and poked and prodded” in public and seeing what Alanis described as the “profound effect” some of her songs have had on people.
The one glaring difference, though, came when Rodrigo pointed out that she’s never played a proper show before because her album came out during the COVID-19 lockdown. “How is touring? I’m just curious, I’ve never been on tour. I’m very excited for the day when I get to be a mom like you and just wondering how that is, touring with your kids,” she asked the elder stateswoman.
“Well, if anyone asks you whether you want to go on tour with your three children during Covid, you should say ‘Hell no,'” said Morissette, who just scotched a string of planned UK and European shows a second time citing COVID conditions. “Touring is the greatest; I’ve been touring on and off since I was 15 years old. I am a bona fide road dog.”
And from one road dog to a budding road puppy, Morissette ended the chat by promising to send Olivia a “survive-on-the-road kit for the sensitive soul.”
Click here to read the full interview and watch the video of the chat below.