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Olivia Rodrigo
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Olivia Rodrigo

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American actress and singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo found fame on the TV show 'High School Musical: The Musical: The Series' before releasing her No. 1 hit single "Drivers License" in 2021.

Who Is Olivia Rodrigo?

Olivia Rodrigo grew up in California, where she demonstrated an early ability in music that included composing her own songs. A child actress, she landed starring roles on the TV series "Bizaardvark" and "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series." Rodrigo released the heartrending debut single "Drivers License" in January 2021. The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the first song with more than one billion streams in 2021. She followed that up with the acclaimed album "Sour" (2021).

Early Life and Interest in Music

Olivia Isabel Rodrigo was born on February 20, 2003, in Murrieta, California. Rodrigo grew up in Temecula, California, with her parents: Jennifer, a teacher, and Chris, a family and marriage therapist. When Olivia was a child, her mother introduced her to alternative rock such as No Doubt, the White Stripes and Smashing Pumpkins.

Rodrigo showed an early affinity for music. At the age of 5, she started singing lessons; she was soon competing in local contests and talent shows. She was also writing songs at a young age.

When Rodrigo was 9, she began piano lessons. She initially hated studying the piano but came to appreciate that the instrument helped with her songwriting.

Rodrigo's youthful songwriting compositions often focused on heartbreak, even before she'd had a boyfriend. "I literally wrote breakup songs before I ever held a boy's hand," she told People.

Acting Auditions and Disney Stardom

By the time she was 6, Rodrigo was taking acting classes. She had roles in school productions, but also started to audition for professional jobs. To do this, her parents would take her on a 90-mile trek to Los Angeles.

Rodrigo wasn't an overnight success. Her parents, who hadn't pushed her to become a child actress, told their daughter she could stop auditioning. However, she was determined to continue. At 10, Rodrigo got the lead role in "An American Girl: Grace Stirs Up Success" (2015).

A 12-year-old Rodrigo was cast as Paige Olvera on "Bizaardvark" (2016-19). She starred alongside Madison Hu, who remains a close friend. The role required Rodrigo to learn guitar. It also meant getting a place in Los Angeles with her family and leaving public school behind.

When she was 15, Rodrigo landed a starring role as Nini Salazar-Roberts on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series." In addition to acting, she continued to write her own songs. "I Am More," which she shared on Instagram, led to the show asking her to compose a song for her "HSM:TM:TS" character.

Rodrigo performed the resulting ballad, "All I Want," when she was 16. It became a hit for "HSM:TM:TS" and also charted on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2020.

Hit Single 'Drivers License'

The abilities Rodrigo demonstrated with "All I Want" drew attention from multiple labels. She ultimately signed with Geffen Records. Other singers who got their starts on Disney programmings, such as Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, had first signed with Disney's Hollywood Records, so Rodrigo's choice marked a different trajectory. She has admitted, "I think there's a specific archetype of the Disney star turned pop star that I didn’t want to follow."

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 09: Actress Irene Bedard attends the premiere of Vox Box Entertainment's "Ron and Laura Take Back America" at Sundance Cinema on March 9, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

Irene Bedard

Joy Harjo, writer during 2005 Sundance Film Festival - "A Thousand Roads" Portraits at HP Portrait Studio in Park City, Utah, United States. (Photo by J. Vespa/WireImage)

Joy Harjo

With support from producer Dan Nigro, who first reached out to Rodrigo after seeing her sing on Instagram, "Drivers License" was recorded for release in January 2021. The breakup ballad debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making Rodrigo, then 17, the youngest performer to accomplish this. It was also a success on radio, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and Amazon Music. On TikTok, countless people lip-synched and created cover videos for the song.

Rodrigo's confessional style has been compared with Taylor Swift, who is an idol of hers. The song's content also sparked rumors that it was about a breakup with Rodrigo's "HSM:TM:TS" costar Joshua Bassett. However, the song's appeal goes beyond Disney fans. Rodrigo told The New York Times, "The cool thing about "Drivers License" is I've seen so many videos of people being like, 'I have no idea who this girl is, but I really love this song.'" The tune's reach was reflected in a viral "Saturday Night Live" sketch in which a group of men rhapsodized about "Drivers License."

'Sour' Album and Performances

After "Driver's License," Rodrigo opted to create a full-length album instead of sticking to her prior plan to release an EP. She worked for 13 hours a day, seven days a week to complete "Sour," which Nigro produced. Rodrigo wrote or co-wrote every song on the album.

In April 2021, "Deja Vu," a single from "Sour," went to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. This made Rodrigo the first performer to have her first two singles launch in the Top 10. Another single, "good 4 u," arrived in May 2021 and became another chart-topper. These successes demonstrated that Rodrigo was not a one-hit-wonder.

"Sour" came out on May 21, 2021, to both critical and commercial success. Rodrigo is proud of its heartfelt content, with multiple songs that address heartbreak. "I'm a songwriter who writes from a place of authenticity and truth," she declared to Billboard. "And truthfully, love and happiness and everything wasn't feelings that I was feeling at the time. And what's the point of putting out a record if it isn't something that you feel is important to say to people?" The tracks' different styles reflect the variety of Rodrigo's musical influences, which include Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette and Green Day.

Rodrigo performed "Drivers License" on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in February 2021. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, her first live performance didn't happen until the Brit Awards in the United Kingdom in May 2021. She was a success there, and as a bonus got to meet Swift. Rodrigo also was a musical performer on an episode of "Saturday Night Live" the same month.

Personal Life and Experiences

Rodrigo's mother has German and Irish heritage, and her father is of Filipino descent. Rodrigo is proud to be a biracial Filipino American but has confessed she didn't always feel that way. "Me and my other more ethnic friends grew up in this world where we thought that being a white girl would be better, and you'd be happier, and people would like you more." She hopes her music will speak to young girls with similar insecurities.

Rodrigo not only experienced breakthrough music success in 2021; she also graduated from high school and moved into her own apartment.

In July 2021, Rodrigo visited the White House and met President Joe Biden as part of an effort to encourage young people to get a Covid-19 vaccine.

Aware of the impact fashion can have on the planet, Rodrigo opts for eco-conscious labels, as well as thrifting, vintage and exchanging clothes with friends.

Awards and Accolades 

In April 2022, Rodrigo won best new artist, best solo performance and best album with her debut "Sour" at the Grammys. 

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