Olivia Rodrigo made her return to music on Sept. 8 with the release of Guts, her angsty follow-up to 2021’s Sour. The former Disney star — who left High School Musical: The Musical: The Series in 2022 to pursue her music career full time — already has a Best New Artist Grammy under her belt and the endorsement of some of the music industry’s biggest names, so a celebrated sophomore album felt inevitable. However, no matter what fans and the critics say, it’s Rodrigo — who is credited as a songwriter on every song on the album, along with her producer Dan Nigro — who people most want to hear speak about her work.
Fortunately, Rodrigo is spilling her, well, guts. Here’s what she’s said about her new album.
How her writing process has changed
“I think that, in general, making this album has given me a lot of confidence as a songwriter. I think writing the first album, it just felt so spontaneous,” Rodrigo told Zane Lowe on Apple Music’s New Music Daily. “I was 17 years old learning how to write songs for the first time and just pouring my heart out. I had so much to say. I think this time I was in a different place and I was having a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations placed on me and I think I really had to try to block out the noise and just focus on the craft of songwriting. I wasn’t going through my first 17 year old heartbreak and I think that it forced me to be maybe a little bit more creative in the way that I write.”
In an interview with SiriusXM’s The Morning Mashup, she also shared why she decided to lean into a different sound.
“I’d say it’s a little more rocky than the last one,” the artist explained. “There’s some songs that are kind of hard-hitting and driving, but I’m really proud of, and it’s more poppy stuff. I don’t know. I think that the record is a lot more upbeat and happy than Sour was. I went on my first tour, like played my first few shows after Sour came out and I very quickly learned like how much I loved playing upbeat songs for like a big crowd and how fun that was, and so I think I kind of wrote this album informed by those feelings, so I just hope people can like, jump up and down and scream to them. That’s my dream.”
Her favorite song off the album
Rodrigo told People her favorite track off Guts depends on her “mood.”
“I really love ‘All-American Bitch.’ I really love ‘Teenage Dream.’ I really love ‘Love Is Embarrassing,’” she said. “It just depends on if I’m feeling in a dancey mood or a rage-y mood. But I’m very excited for this album to come out. It’s been a long time in the making, so it’s going to feel good.”
What inspired “All American Bitch”
The former TV star also shared her love of “All American Bitch” with Lowe on New Music Daily, calling it “one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.
“I think it expresses something that I’ve been trying to express since I was 15 years old, this repressed anger and feeling of confusion or trying to be put into a box as a girl,” she said.
She told People that the song “comes from the essay that she wrote about hippies in San Francisco and running away from home.”
“One of the runaways was talking about his mom back home and said that she was an ‘all-American bitch.’ I was like, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,’” she recalled. “It’s such a provocative set of words. I sat down the next day at the piano and wrote ‘All-American Bitch.’… You never know the trajectory a song is going to take.”
How she’s handling accusations of copying other artists moving forward
In 2021, Rodrigo granted her longtime idol Swift, as well as Swift’s collaborators, songwriting credit on her track “Deja Vu” after Rodrigo spoke about being inspired by the Lover artist’s song “Cruel Summer.” She also gave Paramore credit for “Good 4 U” following speculation that the song sounded similar to their hit “Misery Business.”
Rodrigo told The Guardian it was, “disappointing to see people take things out of context and discredit any young woman’s work,” but that it didn’t impact how she wrote Guts.
“I was so green as to how the music industry worked, the litigious side … I feel like now I know so much more about the industry and I just feel … better equipped in that regard,” she said. “It wasn’t something I thought about too much.”
How she navigates writing songs about real people
Following the release of “Driver’s License,” her first single off of Sour, many people speculated Rodrigo had written about her former High School Musical co-star Joshua Bassett and his reported romance with Girl Meets World star and singer Sabrina Carpenter. In 2022, Bassett hinted the stress from the scrutiny led to health complications that landed him in the hospital for septic shock and heart failure.
In an interview with Phoebe Bridgers for Interview Magazine, Bridgers asked whether Rodrigo felt like she should give subjects of Guts a heads up. Rodrigo said, “I feel like last time there was so much weird media s**t and I had no idea how to deal with any of it. Literally, it was the first song out of the gate and all of that shit happened. I felt so ill-equipped…That was an overwhelming experience, but now I definitely feel a responsibility. I just try not to think about it during the writing process.”
On writing about fame
In her Interview Magazine conversation with Bridgers, Rodrigo spoke about why you “have to be wary about writing songs about fame,” because “a lot of the time people don’t want to hear that.”
“But fame is more accessible than it has ever been,” the singer noted. “Everyone is yearning for some sort of internet virality, and there’s so much social climbing and lust for fame in the world that doesn’t have anything to do with living in L.A. or New York. It’s just prevalent in our generation.”
She appears to reference her rise to fame on track “Makin’ the Bed,” and calls the subject of her song “Vampire” a “fame f***er.”
Whether “Vampire” is actually about Taylor Swift, as speculated
Rodrigo may inform the subject of a song who it’s about, but she told The Guardian she doesn’t want to publicly confirm it. That includes confirming or denying whether her lead single off Guts, titled “Vampire,” is about Swift as some have speculated.
“How do I answer this?” Rodrigo asked when questioned about the song’s potential connection to Swift. “I mean, I never want to say who any of my songs are about. I’ve never done that before in my career and probably won’t. I think it’s better to not pigeonhole a song to being about this one thing…I was very surprised when people thought that.”
Rodrigo may have to do another round of denial: Following the release of Guts, many fans now think her song “The Grudge” is about Swift as well.