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How Olivia Rodrigo Found Her Sound With Producer Dan Nigro

From Audio: Ep. 133: Daniel Nigro

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station description And The Writer Is...with Ross Golan
And The Writer Is...with Ross Golan
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Duration: 08:34
While Olivia Rodrigo's success is incredible, some of the credit has to be given to her producer Dan Nigro. After working with artist Conan Gray, Dan saw Olivia on Instagram, DM'd her, and the rest is history. Oh, and he helped write the TikTok-beloved, heart-wrenching bridge in "Driver's License".
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While Olivia's success is no doubt incredible, some of the credit has to be given to her producer Dan Nigro. After working with artist Conan Gray, Dan saw Olivia perform "Happier" (our personal favorite song on "Sour") on Instagram, DM'd her, and the rest is history. Oh, and he helped write the TikTok-beloved, heart-wrenching bridge in "Driver's License".
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you know? And so most of the time people send me things and I'm just like, oh God, like no, not this, no, no, no, no, no. And somebody sent me Olivia, I was like, you should check out this girl Olivia. She follows you on instagram. I was like, who's Olivia Rodrigo? And I literally went on to instagram and I her she performed the song that she wrote called Happier and I just thought it was such a clever concept and I was like damn, that's a great freaking hook. And I was like, I really like that and I just dm her and I was like, yo I think you're incredible, like let's write a song or like let me try producing a song, you know, like I I don't even need to write with, you know, whatever it is. And so yeah, so basically we met and then the quarantine happened and so we actually didn't get to like we actually, we met literally the week that everything went into lockdown And then we obviously spent like a few months not working because we and we just like email back and forth casually. She sent me some songs and I was just obsessed with happier. So I was like why don't you come? Like once like we started to figure out like oh you live in Pasadena. Like okay like you haven't been seeing anybody, I'm not seeing anybody. You know like why don't you come over, you live five minutes away and we'll try to and I was like, well just track happier like I'll get your vocal and I can mess around with it, you know? And so she came over we recorded a vocal and I just started messing with it. And to be honest like it was, you know it was it was a learning process because she had never really been having songs produced and she wasn't exactly sure what she wanted yet. So like the first like go ahead or two. I like remember like doing my first passive happier and thinking to myself like wow, like I think this would be really cool. I did like a verse and a chorus and I played at first she's like oh I don't I don't like that. I was like oh okay. I was like I was like kind of shocked because I thought it sounded really cool and she's like no I don't really hear it on guitar bob. So like we tried it again and then she liked it more but it still wasn't it? So then at that point we started to try writing together and we actually started realizing that we had an interesting writing chemistry, you know, So we were writing a bunch and I was yeah, it's just I think we were fortunate to like not have a lot of noise around us because of the pandemic and because there wasn't like a lot of stuff happening we were able to kind of just like hone in on something because we were like just like getting together all the time and just like messing around with stuff and exploring what she could sound like. You know? And I I got and luckily I was given like I got you know I messed I don't want to be messed up but I you know I definitely like tried a few things and had you know her and her label would be like that's not really what we're thinking or like we don't really like that or like you know and then I try something else and then we like you know started hitting on some things, you know I mean that's amazing because most, first of all, most people would view that as rejection and say well and have an ego about it and probably walk away from a project if they didn't nail it on the first try or the second try. So kudos to you. It says a lot about you too, thank you I think, but I think that's what it takes to do something really good, like who like does something really good the first time and I don't I don't know, I'm not that person, you know? Well, we we put out um in this segment we said we had twitter questions of, I apologize apparently uh uh you and Olivia have a lot of fans. Um Okay, so uh some of these questions are about driver's license and then some some are are not, but one that allowed three drivers license questions. Good. Then. Then I think that that's about what we picked out and then we can move on. Um how did you know when the song was finished? And did you feel it was as special as it was? Uh huh It's it's a very complicated question because this song, we both knew that it was special. Like when Olivia brought me this song, she had written most of it, I helped, there's like some very specific parts, like we wrote the bridge together and I helped write that the second half of the chorus we wrote together because she had a different iteration of that and it felt like when she played it for me and it felt like it didn't really hit home yet. And so like we, so I wrote like certain spots, but the majority of it she wrote, she brought in the concept and most of the lyrical idea um and I remember being like really attracted to it because just like, the chords, like we're different than her normal chord progressions. It was like a much more like emotional chord progression, which she like, wasn't, you know, a lot of the stuff wasn't leading that way. Uh and she was excited about it and we like but then also once you have that excitement that like, there's like an importance to it, so like, you can't mess it up, you know? And so we actually redid the song three times because we started too fast and then we tried something else and then we didn't like the way that the vocals were approached, so we kept on messing with it. But every time that we were like, working on it, it felt so special. Like there were moments when we were working on it that we were just like oh my God, this feels so incredible. But then like we'll listen back the next day and be like it doesn't feel right yet. Like we kept on having that moment were like in the moment it felt really great and then like listening on reflection felt not so great, you know? So we had to keep on tweaking it and tweeting like we kept on slowing the song down. Like we because we didn't want the song to feel too long because it was like so we kept on slowing it down which was like a thing. But that also says, it says a lot about her too that she can is willing to go back and not not give up and to still believe and encourage her collaborators to Oh yeah, I mean that's one of the I mean there's so many incredible things about Olivia but I mean that's one of the things we just hash we have songs that like you know that didn't make the album that like we I mean like I know we're going to keep on working on just they're just not ready yet, you know? Um But yeah that was a driver's license is tough because we felt but at the same time you get so in it that you like you like you start to go like is it great? Like I think it's good. And I remember it really wasn't until like we played it for everybody else. Like you need like you almost like need that like validation of like, you know, because I was so in it at that point I think I had worked on the song, I probably worked on a song for like almost three weeks, you know? And then I was like, I was questioning it and and then we send it to the label, and they were just like, oh my God, you know, they were just so excited, they're like, but I don't, but I don't actually think even like, in like, oh, it's a big song, it just felt like it felt special. Like, wow, this is a really beautiful song, you know? Like, we love it, they were just so excited about the song. There was no, like, oh, it's going to be a hit, or like, we think it's gonna be huge to me. That that never that never even crossed my mind. It was just like, oh, we made something really special, and I think we figured out like, a large part of Olivia's sound. I think if anything, I was more excited that we had, like, figured out something that that she loved, you know, sonically because that was because she's such a prolific songwriter and I think, and I think that she doesn't really think a lot of songs a lot of times, I don't wanna say every time, but a lot of times I don't think that she thinks in terms of production, she just thinks in terms of songs so that, you know, figuring out the production is like can be quite challenging because she's just thinking about the song itself. Well, that that's also a recipe for success if you put the song first. Yeah, someone else also asked, just speaking of that song, just to, you know, said thank you dan for writing a bridge on driver's license. Can you talk about the importance of having a bridge in this and why so many songs are now bridge liss. I don't, I mean I agree. I I joked around today, I have a song that came out today with Conan Gray and we made a really big bridge for it and I'm just all I've always been since I was a kid, big into bridges and always in my band, like always tried to write, like tried to outdo the rest of the song with the bridge. So I feel like bridges are really important to songs and it's so it honestly, like if there's anything that's like rewarding about the song from me on a personal level, it's the fact that people love the bridge and like, and like appreciate that it's there. I know that sounds silly, but like, it just feels like, cause I feel like we made it such a moment that like, you know, people and the fact that people talk about it was just cool. And then like, I feel like even more confident with like Conan, like on a couple of our new songs, like We have, you know, really big bridges and it feels like really important to make the bridge special, you know.
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