From the beginning to end of our brief Zoom interview, new-age pop star Olivia O’Brien was setting things straight. Each question I asked, the 20-year-old responded with an honest and confident answer, often, squashing any preconceptions that may have been held in my tone. Gaining fame at the fresh-faced age of 16 with her collaborative track, ‘i hate u, i love u’ with Gnash, O’Brien was quickly ushered into the limelight along with a new era of social media, influencers and ‘eGirls’ and in addition to bullying throughout high school, you could say the ‘F*ck Feelings’ artist has developed a thick skin. Despite this, O’Brien is determined to keep it real, even if it means ensuring she is not misunderstood.
From the outside, the cataclysmic rise of the singer/songwriter was in fact far slower than the internet would have you believe.
“I didn’t even expect it to come out,” O’Brien tells GRAZIA of her breakout hit. “The song happened pretty quickly, but in the long term it has happened relatively slow… I didn’t really have any music out and I didn’t have a big social media presence yet so I had time to grow my own self, my image, my socials, my music, my brand. That was my platform to get the attention I needed to start and from there I really did have the time.”
Three years after her hit single, O’Brien released a 2019 debut album, Was IT Even Real?. Yet with only an additional few months of life experience under her leather studded-belt, O’Brien then dropped ‘Josslyn’, an angst-fuelled, dance worthy track directed towards cheating men, and is perhaps her best work yet.
Her confidence exudes from the lyrics and its accompanying music video and in turn has inspired a massive movement on TikTok. Women around the globe can be seen lip syncing the words of ‘Josslyn’ before replacing the title name with the woman their boyfriend cheated on. It is giving the power back to women but according to the artist, the intention was never to put blame on the “other woman”, rather the man.
“All the lyrics are directed toward the guy. Ultimately the person that made the commitment to you is the person that should be responsible for ruining the relationship. It should never be about the ‘other woman’. So I never want to perpetuate that stereotype or that idea.”
“But it is cool to see people empowered the song and empowered by my words because that is the point of what I do – it’s to help other people.”
For a woman so young, Olivia O’Brien is using her killer voice and social media platform of 1.3 million followers to inspire a new sense of realness. And we can’t wait to see what happens next. Tune in below as GRAZIA speaks with the 20-year-old.
Interview edit: Kimberlee Kessler