Olivia Rodrigo says the recording of her new album, GUTS, was a surprisingly “emotional” experience, admitting that she shed many tears during the process.
The singer revealed the details during an intimate concert in Los Angeles Monday that was part of American Express’ exclusive “Member Week” activation. The annual event grants American Express cardholders access to concerts, activations and other member-only perks, and this year’s featured artist was Rodrigo, who performed songs from GUTS for the first time in front of a live audience.
The show, held at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel, was also recorded for the singer’s YouTube channel, with the performances now available to watch online.
The hour-long show featured Rodrigo and songwriter/producer Dan Nigro playing new tracks from GUTS while sharing behind-the-scenes stories of how each song came to be. Below, we’ve rounded up the six best revelations from Rodrigo’s Amex concert.
1. She Recorded More Than 20 Versions of “Vampire”
Rodrigo kicked off the evening with a stripped-down performance of “Vampire,” the first single off her latest album, GUTS. The singer revealed that it took her a while to get the tempo and pacing of the song just right, telling the audience that she “probably has 20 versions of ‘Vampire’ with different BPMs” (beats per minute).
While Nigro and Rodrigo said there were other candidates for the album’s lead single, they both ultimately decided that “Vampire” was the perfect re-introduction for the singer.
2. She Cried A Lot While Recording the Album
Both Rodrigo and Nigro admitted that their studio sessions often took an emotional toll on them, due in part to the success of Sour and the pressure to follow-up the Grammy-winning album. “I was scared [to record the new album],” Rodrigo admitted, while Nigro said the singer became “a little precious” when it came to sharing her ideas, for fear of rejection.
At other times, emotions also got the best of Rodrigo when she was singing about a particularly personal subject in the studio, as with the scornful ex who inspired “The Grudge.” “I remember bawling when I wrote ‘Drivers License’ [from the first album] and I feel like I cried while writing ‘The Grudge,’” she told the audience.
3. “The Grudge” Was Inspired by a Lyric from The Smiths
Rodrigo sought inspiration from a lot of places for GUTS, from her personal life, to books she read during the pandemic. But “The Grudge” was inspired by one of the singer’s favorite bands: The Smiths. “I was listening to The Smiths in my car and in one of their songs they have the lyrics, ‘It takes strength to be gentle and kind,’” she recalled. “I really liked that and came up with, ‘It takes strength to forgive but I don’t feel very strong.’”
While Rodrigo’s re-worked lyrics now form the emotional crux of “The Grudge,” the singer admits she doesn’t know if she’s found the strength to forgive her ex just yet: “I’m still working on it,” she said.
4. The First Song She Wrote Was the Last Song on the Album
GUTS closes with the poignant “Teenage Dream,” which Rodrigo says she actually began writing when she was 18. “I thought it’d be weird and no one would relate to it,” she said, “but the song perfectly encapsulates how I felt about growing up.”
Rodrigo says she actually wanted “Teenage Dream” to be the first single from the new album. “I wanted to put it out on my 20th birthday,” she said. “I thought it’d be real meta.”
There is a little bit of meta-ness on the song though: Nigro’s then-newborn daughter Saoirse Raine can be heard in the final seconds of the song.
Another tidbit: “Teenage Dream” was written in the same key as “Hope Ur Ok,” the last song on Sour.
5. “Lacy” Was Inspired by a USC Homework Assignment
While some songs were written in a day, Nigro and Rodrigo revealed that other songs took longer to complete, with one in particular, “going nowhere.” Nigro took a walk to a Greenwich Village bookstore where he stumbled on a book by Fleet Foxes’ Robin Pecknold about songwriting. “It was a book about Robin’s songwriting process and he wrote that some of his songs started as poems,” Nigro recalled.
As it turns out, Rodrigo had just started college at USC and one of her assignments was to create poetry. “One of the poems I wrote was called ‘Lacy,’” Rodrigo said. The rest is history.
6. She Lost Her Voice Recording “All-American Bitch.”
Answering a fan question about the song she’s most excited to perform on her upcoming GUTS World Tour, Rodrigo quickly answered “All-American Bitch,” describing it as the favorite song she recorded in L.A. (the singer and Nigro split time recording GUTS between L.A. and New York).
Rodrigo reveals that she “lost her voice screaming on this song,” with Nigro teasing that he made the singer scream for 15 minutes straight while recording the bridge. “I think all your neighbors thought I was being murdered,” Rodrigo quipped.