A singer/songwriter and actor who uses her knack for telling relatable stories in every aspect of her career, Olivia Rodrigo brings the authenticity of her life to her roles and her music. With 2021′s record-setting smash hit “Driver’s License” — which made her the youngest artist ever to top the Billboard Hot 100 — and that year’s debut album Sour, her emotive mix of pop, folk, and alternative rock captured the highs and lows of a young woman expressing who she is and what she wants.
While growing up in Murrieta, California, Rodrigo’s first love was singing. She started vocal lessons in kindergarten and took up piano soon after; by age 12, she was playing guitar. At the suggestion of her vocal coach, Rodrigo pursued acting, and she appeared in productions at her elementary and middle school — experiences that led her to seek professional acting jobs. In 2016, she was cast as Paige Olvera in in the Disney Channel series Bizaardvark. It was an opportunity that led to Rodrigo winning the lead role of Nini Salazar-Roberts in the Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, a mockumentary-style show that follows the on- and off-stage drama that happens when the student body of East High puts on a production of High School Musical: The Musical. When the show’s creators — which included writer and Broadway librettist Tim Federle — learned Rodrigo was a songwriter, they encouraged her to pen original songs for the series. Written in Rodrigo’s living room during finals week of her sophomore year, “All I Want” garnered millions of streams after the show’s debut in November 2019 and entered the U.S. and Canada Hot 100 singles charts in January 2020. Rodrigo also collaborated with her co-star Joshua Bassett on the duet “Just for a Moment.”
In the wake of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series’ success, she continued to work on her own music, looking to the confessional songwriting of influences such as Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, and especially Taylor Swift for inspiration. After she signed with Interscope and Geffen, Rodrigo’s debut single, “Driver’s License,” arrived in January 2021 and quickly topped charts around the world. This included the Billboard Hot 100, making her the youngest artist to debut at number one on that chart. Along with breaking several streaming records, the single was certified quadruple platinum in the U.S. and Canada and platinum in several other countries. That April, her second single “Deja Vu” appeared, and its debut at number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 made her the first artist in history to have her first two singles debut within the Top Ten. A third single, “Good 4 U,” arrived in May, shortly before the release of Rodrigo’s Billboard 200-topping debut album Sour. Co-written by Rodrigo and producer Dan Nigro (who worked on Rodrigo’s singles and has also collaborated with Carly Rae Jepsen and Sky Ferreira), the album’s mix of pop, alt rock, and folk took inspiration from No Doubt, the White Stripes, Alanis Morrissette, and Kacey Musgraves, among others. ~ Heather Phares