Country Next: Robyn Ottolini
We take pride in introducing fans to country music’s brightest new stars through our Country Next series. Here, we chat with Robyn Ottolini.
Robyn Ottolini; Photo by Claudine Baltazar
When it comes to Robyn Ottolini, one thing is for sure: There are many sides to the rising country artist, and fans will get to know all of them.
The Canadian-born singer/songwriter, who has a sound that draws comparisons to Sam Hunt and Taylor Swift and earned the nickname “the Eminem of country music,” chose to pursue a career in country music when she became a teenager. She began turning heads not long after with the independent release of her debut EP, The I’m Not Always Hilarious.
The authentic project, which includes her TikTok viral radio single “F-150,” caught the ears of some of Nashville’s top label executives. And in the fall of 2020, Ottolini signed her first-ever major label deal with Warner Music Nashville over a Zoom call.
Now out with her The But I’m Not Always Sad Either EP, fans will get to know a whole new side of Ottolini’s personality as she shares four tracks with a different kind of tone in comparison to The I’m Not Always Hilarious EP. Produced by Erik Fintelman and Mark Schroor, the collection finds Ottolini offering up party vibes with songs like “Hold Me Back” and the self-penned “Sincerely, Drunk Me,” and focusing on family, love and happiness in “Daddy’s Daughter” and “Tell You Everything.”
“I’m so happy to finally share the fun-loving part of me again,” Ottolini shared in a recent press release. “Being sad is necessary for healing, but dang… I’m not always sad! I hope these songs bring you joy. I hope that they make you feel loved, safe and comfortable in your own skin. You’re perfectly imperfect, and I’m so thankful to be on this journey with all of you.”
Ottolini, who will take the road as a supporting act for select dates on BRELAND’s upcoming Cross Country Tour, caught up with Country Now to share her background, her journey in country music, and her current music.
Read on to find out more about Robyn Ottolini in this exclusive Q&A below.
Tell us your background and how you came to pursue a career in country music.
I grew up in a small town in Uxbridge, Ontario, and I’ve listened to country music my whole life. I’ve always loved lyrics, melodies, and story-telling – I started writing when I was 13-years-old because I wanted to hear songs about things I was going through and couldn’t find it elsewhere.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
I started songwriting with just melodies and lyrics when I was 13-years-old and tried a few parts on the piano to give it some more bones. I remember I begged and begged for a guitar because I just knew I wanted to write songs. My parents broke down when I was 14, and I never stopped! But the first song I ever wrote was called “Me, Myself and I.” It was about chasing the dream, being a wallflower, and doing me.
Do you come from a musical family, and did your parents always support your decision to pursue music?
I do not come from a musical family. My grandma played the accordion, but that is about it. There was never anyone playing guitar or singing around the house, but my dad loves country music and radio (especially ’90s country music). So that was a huge part of my upbringing. My parents are so supportive. I have been doing music my whole life, and they never really questioned it, despite being 9-5ers. They did not know how to make my career happen, but they drove me where I told them to drive me and gave me a roof over my head. So, I lucked out in the family department for sure!
Who do you turn to for musical inspiration?
When I was a kid, it was the women of the ‘90s. Shania Twain, Faith Hill, Sara Evans. Now I’m influenced by Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, and Sam Hunt. I’m lyrically and story-driven. I like things no one has done before, and these artists continue to raise the bar.
You signed your major label deal in the fall of 2020. What have you learned so far through that experience?
I was Warner Music Nashville’s first COVID signing! It was very lowkey. I was in my bedroom, in sweatpants. My mom walked in and sat on my bed while I signed. It was the biggest moment of my life and career, but it was just my mom and me in my childhood bedroom.
A lot of people resonated with your song, “F-150.” And, that song helped advance your career to the next level. How does it feel when you see people are supporting your music?
Honestly, I always say, “I’m not special,” and I mean that in the best way. I don’t think my story is unique from others. I’m only human. I get my heart broken in my hometown by a guy who drives a pickup truck. The only thing that makes me different is that I have the tools to write songs about it and put my story into music. I wrote that song for me because it was real, and it’s how I felt, and I needed it out of my head, but it’s been nice to see so many people relate and find comfort in it. I always write the songs I need to hear, and I’m lucky and glad it’s what other people need to hear too. I will never take that for granted.
What was it like shooting the video for “F-150”?
It was filmed at my producer/manager’s house an hour outside of Toronto, and it was an awesome experience! It was a familiar environment for me. Ben Knechtel, the director, has such good energy. He outdid himself. My real friends were in the video, and it just felt so authentic to me. The truck was spicy, but I love the heat, so I wasn’t complaining.
You recently released your The But I’m Not Always Sad Either EP. Can you tell us about that project?
The But I’m Not Always Sad Either EP is a continuation of my previous EP, I’m Not Always Hilarious. They’re like fraternal twins in a way. Both are major parts of my personality, but very different. I’m Not Always Hilarious was full of sad, heartbreaking songs that are true to my story and what I went through, but the other side of me is that I love to make people laugh, warm their hearts, and not take life too seriously. I’m a believer in second chances. I love my family, I adore my boyfriend, I’m loyal to a fault with my friends, and best of all, I try my hardest to love myself. I can’t wait for people to see the happy side of Robyn Ottolini. She’s hilarious.
“Tell You Everything” is one of the songs on the EP. Was that track written for anyone in particular?
That song was written about my boyfriend. The day I met him, I knew I wanted to tell him everything. Not in an “I’m going to tell him what I want to name our kids on the first date” way, but in an “over time and years, this human is going to be my best friend, and he will know every detail about me.” I wrote the song seven days after our first date. Now we’ve been together for a year and four months. He’s still the best human I’ve ever met. He supports my crazy dreams, even if that means I’m gone for a bit. I found a good one.
Do you have a favorite song on The But I’m Not Always Sad Either EP?
“Sincerely, Drunk Me” makes me the happiest. It’s just funny as heck. It’s a vibe. It makes me feel good, and I feel like it’s very different. You’ll know what I mean when you hear it. I love all the songs, they’re all a piece of me, but there’s just something about that song that makes me smile from ear to ear.
You have had some success in Canada. How does navigating country music in the states differ in comparison to your native Canada?
I feel like I got discovered in Canada and in the States at the same time. Everyone from my home country and the states turned their heads at the same time and said, “Where’d you come from?” So honestly, I’m trying to navigate and learn both at the same time. But I love to learn and grow, so this is just the best. I’m a nerd at heart.
You’ll be touring with BRELAND this year. What can fans expect from those performances?
I have been dying to get out and meet the folks who have been supporting me along this journey. As you can tell from the music, we will probably throw a few curveballs and do a few things backward. Are we going to party like crazy people on stage? Will I cry every time someone sings along to F-150? Will there be comedy skits? I don’t know, but I can guarantee you, it’s going to be a hoot and a half!
What’s next for you?
Writing music, making music, and showing people my music. Honestly, showing people who the heck I am. This is the dream, and I’ve never been happier. I won’t say I was born for this because that’s cliché, but life has pushed me in this direction in every way possible. I feel like I’ve lived the right experiences to prepare me for this moment, and I’m just so excited to be the best I can be and keep doing what I love.
Melinda Lorge is a Nashville-based freelance writer who specializes in covering country music. Along with Country Now, her work has appeared in publications, including Rare Country, Rolling Stone Country, Nashville Lifestyles Magazine, Wide Open Country and more. After joining Rare Country in early 2016, Lorge was presented with the opportunity to lead coverage on late-night television programs, including “The Voice” and “American Idol,” which helped her to sharpen her writing skills even more. Lorge earned her degree at Middle Tennessee State University, following the completion of five internships within the country music industry. She has an undeniable love for music and entertainment. When she isn’t living and breathing country music, she can be found enjoying time outdoors with family and friends.