You may recall almost all Top 40 radio stations blasting “i hate u, i love u” earlier this year. Artist gnash may have been the one who pushed it out, but did you know that Olivia O’Brien co-wrote it along with singing the hook? Keep reading before you deep dive on a Google hunt. Seventeen-year-old O’Brien is widely known for singing one of the most catchy hooks of 2017, but she has more to offer you, including her own song, “RIP.” Blast this song everywhere when you need to say deuces to the friend that did you dirty because, well, that’s what “RIP” is all about. We got a chance to chat with the artist on the rise and it doesn’t take long to see how down to earth O’Brien really is.
Cliché: How did you decide that pursuing a career in music was the way to go?
Olivia O’Brien: After that song became a hit, I realized it was something I was meant to be doing. I didn’t think it would ever be more than a hobby until after “i hate u i love u” got big, though.
When did you realize “i hate u, i love u” was a hit? What thoughts were running through your mind when you realized it was increasing in radio plays and in the charts?
It happened kind of slowly…meaning it didn’t peak in radio ‘til over a year after its release. I feel like every week some new milestone would be passed (whether it was hitting a million plays on SoundCloud or Kylie Jenner playing it on Snapchat) and it was always a surprise to me.
What is your process when it comes to writing songs? What was the very first song you ever wrote?
I don’t really have a process. I tend to just do or say whatever I feel at that time. I’ve been writing songs since I could speak, but the first song I ever released was “i hate u, i love u.”
Being a bit new to the music industry, what have you learned throughout your whole experience that ended up being a great lesson?
I learned that people will do literally anything for fame and that many people do not care about the art/artistry; they care more about making hit songs with no real meaning. That made me even more motivated to stay true to myself and always be authentic in what I create.
What type of music do you hope to create for the future? What do you want your fans to take away after they listen to your music?
I want to make music that I would listen to even if someone else made it, music that I like regardless of anything else or anyone else’s opinion. I want to stay true to myself for as long as I’m in this.
I am absolutely obsessed with your confidence. It’s something I know I and so many others strive for. How did you gain your confidence? How do you steer away from the haters who try to bring you down?
I am actually one of the most insecure people on the planet, but I’m definitely better than I was in high school…I’m very thankful to now have so many people hyping me up every day and reminding me that I am talented. I still have a lot of moments where I doubt myself or compare myself to others who are so different than me, but when that happens, I try to forget about it all for a second and remind myself of my accomplishments and what I am capable of.
I want to make music that I would listen to even if someone else made it, music that I like regardless of anything else or anyone else’s opinion.
I’m also all about your group of friends and how you lift one another up. It’s so hard to find that. How did you all meet and how do you all remain so levelheaded?
Maddi was one of the very first people I met in LA and she is still my best friend and roommate. She introduced me to my other roommate/best friend, Drew, and from there I guess I kinda just got introduced to everyone and ended up with some amazing friends. I got lucky because a lot of people here seem to hop from friend group to friend group, but it’s so necessary to have stable friends who you can always trust and depend on for anything. I feel very lucky to have found that.
I absolutely LOVE your song “RIP”! How did the song/lyrics come about for you? Was it something that was on your mind for a while or an incident happened where you knew you had to write a song asap?
I wrote it in January of this year but the situation that inspired it—and inspired many of my unreleased songs—happened way back in September 2016. Basically, I had a crush on this guy who became one of my closest friends for a year and then he started hanging out with this girl who didn’t like me and he started changing. He became a completely different person, all because he was hanging out with people who he used to talk shit about and say he would never be like. It’s crazy how people will flip 180 when someone with followers/fame wants to be their friend.
What was your thought process while conceptualizing the video? What was the symbolism of everything you touched/wore being white, if any?
I just wanted it to be a little bit shocking. I wore white because who wears white to a funeral, right? Wearing black to a funeral is a sign of respect…but I don’t respect this boy and I wanted that to be clear.
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Olivia O’Brien Opens Up About Her Hit Singles, Confidence, and More: Photographed by Nesrin Danan