Olivia Rodrigo is the eighteen-year-old behind one of the most-streamed albums of the year, yet she’s never played a real show. At nearly the same age, Alanis Morissette also had a hit record so she knows how strange the experience of fame can be — even outside of a pandemic. The two songwriters sat down with each other for Rolling Stone’s Musicians on Musicians series to talk about the wild world of celebrity and how tough it can be to manage when it arrives at a young age.
“How did you handle it when your album came out?” Rodrigo asked Morissette. “Did you have any hard times dealing with criticism or the spotlight?”
“All eyes on the fishbowl,” replied Morissette, who recently had a documentary about her career screen at TIFF. “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.”
“Same!” exclaimed Rodrigo. “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. I’ve taken the same route as you have and just don’t look at it,” she added. “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 topic of heartbreak and personal relationships being laid out and dissected under the bright lights of fame also came up — Alanis dealt with people speculating about who she directed ‘You Oughta Know’ at, while Olivia had to handle the love triangle scrutiny that arose around her song ‘Drivers Licence.’
“Did you have a hard time with your relationship being pulled apart and poked and prodded and wanting details of your personal life that you don’t feel comfortable giving?” asked Rodrigo.
Morissette replied, “Yeah. When I write songs, I’m not writing them to ruin someone’s life. If I were doing that, I’d probably give names and addresses. None of these songs are written to eviscerate someone or seek overt revenge, although I think revenge fantasy is awesome. Revenge fantasy is everything to me.”
Naturally, Rodrigo (smart cookie that she is) saw her chance to ask Alanis for some career advice and went for it. What she got was music industry gold — and, it sounds like, a new mentor.
“If I could have done anything differently,” Morissette said, “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… Let’s make sure you have that,” she added. “I’ll send you a kit. A survive-on-the-road kit for the sensitive soul.”
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