In the upcoming Disney Plus film “Driving Home 2 U,” Olivia Rodrigo takes a road trip through the desert while looking in the rearview mirror at her Grammy-nominated debut album “Sour,” which released nearly one year ago.
Driving a vintage sky blue Ford Bronco, Rodrigo travels from Salt Lake City, Utah — where she filmed her breakout part on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” — to Malibu, Calif., stopping along the way to deliver artfully constructed and rearranged performances of 11 tracks from the triple-platinum certified album. Standouts include a fast-paced, distorted “Jealousy, Jealousy” performed under a highway overpass and a haunting orchestral rendition of hit “Good 4 U.”
With the rearrangements, Rodrigo wanted to introduce a “brand new concept” for each track to keep her supporters satisfied. “I really wanted to make this film for my fans, and especially my fans who maybe couldn’t come to my tour this go around,” Rodrigo tells Variety.
Rodrigo’s all-women band — consisting of Heather Baker (guitar), Hayley Brownell (drums), Arianna Powell (guitar), Moa Munoz (bass guitar, keyboards) and Camila Mora (keyboards) — are spotlighted in the film, as well as special guest performers Blu DeTiger and Towa Bird, who add high-voltage guitar and bass to “Brutal.” Rodrigo found both DeTiger and Bird on TikTok, and knew they’d fit right in with the rest of her band during the performance, which takes place in an airplane hangar.
“There’s just something so special about girls rocking out together, and that’s an all-girl band,” Rodrigo says. “It’s just so empowering to me, I love women in rock and I feel like we don’t really see as much of it as we should in the media today.”
The film also gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the album’s recording process with producer and co-writer Dan Nigro through new footage of their sessions, as well as a peek into her emotional state as she skyrocketed from Disney starlet to international pop star. For Rodrigo, as she prepares to embark on a sold-out tour and writes new music, taking a look back at the journey of making “Sour” reminded her of the magic behind her craft.
“Obviously, the songs from ‘Sour’ completely have taken on a whole new meaning and they kind of have a life of their own now, which I think is just a natural thing that happens when you put out music,” Rodrigo says. “But it was really cool to go back and revisit the songs when they were just seeds of an idea, and they hadn’t become what they are today. [It] just kind of reminded me about the magic that songwriting is.”
But with the clips of her and Nigro working, fans get to see that it wasn’t always happy times in the recording booth. During one particularly vulnerable moment while writing “Enough for You,” Rodrigo tells Nigro: “I’m so sad about it. I don’t know. It’s just like every other song I have on the record, just different words.” Though they eventually work through it, Rodrigo felt it important to include the moment in the film as it was part of the “Sour” process.
“I had so many doubts and insecurities, and I think it would be doing the process a disservice if I didn’t showcase that, because that was definitely a big part of my mindset at the time,” she says.
As for her first-ever tour — which begins in San Francisco on April 2 — Rodrigo says she’s most looking forward to finally seeing “how the music affects people in real-time.” Meanwhile, she’s been busy with rehearsals and going to extremes to make sure her voice is in tip-top shape.
“Yesterday, I actually ran on the treadmill and sang my songs, because sometimes when you’re running on stage you get really winded. I did such a bad job running on the treadmill, it was so hard,” she laughs. “I feel so sorry for my friend that had to listen to me while I did that because I sounded terrible.”
Rodrigo’s staying mum on when new music can be expected, though there is an unreleased demo featured in the film. However, she says the song will stay in the vault.
“I was just looking at a bunch of my old voice memos when we were making the film, and I found that one and I was like, ‘Oh that’s really good!'” Rodrigo says. “It never came out so I thought, let’s just put it as a voice memo in the film and maybe it’s something that people will like. But I don’t actually think it will ever come out, which I think is kinda cool. It’s a little treat at the end of the movie.”
“Olivia Rodrigo: Driving Home 2 U” premieres on Disney Plus March 25.