Olivia Rodrigo Says She's a 'Lot Happier Now' Than When She Wrote 'Sour —' and Teases Her Next 'Era'

She'll write breakup songs if she wants to. "I literally wrote breakup songs before I ever held a boy's hand," she tells PEOPLE. "So, who knows? Maybe I'll continue to do that, or maybe I'll branch out?"

Olivia Rodrigo is our heartbreak queen. (And she's cool with it!)

Off the heels of her record-shattering debut Sour, Rodrigo, 18, speaks to PEOPLE in this week's issue about songwriting, fame and how she's a much happier girl today than when she wrote her album.

"I'm just constantly learning and growing at such a rapid rate," she tells PEOPLE. "I'm writing songs and I'm really happy. I'm a lot happier than I was when I wrote that record, which is great."

"I'm a lot more confident, which I think is a good aspect of growing up," she adds. "We'll see what the next era brings, but I'm excited to start working on it."

Rodrigo doesn't mind writing about heartbreak though, and she's happy that people can resonate with the deeply personal feelings she experiences.

olivia rodrigo
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"It means the absolute world to me," she says about her album being the soundtrack to heartbreak. "I feel like if a girl writes a song about heartbreak, very often people start criticizing her for feeling those emotions, and only writing about that. I do just love a heartbreak song. I literally wrote breakup songs before I ever held a boy's hand. So, who knows? Maybe I'll continue to do that, or maybe I'll branch out? I just love writing music, and I hope that people continue to listen."

"I'd be lying if I said that putting my deepest, darkest insecurities and sadnesses out there is just slightly scary. But I've always been an oversharer," she adds. "When I watch interviews of my favorite songwriters, they say songwriting is about helping people feel less alone. And that's probably true for me."

As for the buzz around who her songs are about? She doesn't mind what people say.

"I always write my songs for me. I don't write them for anyone else. What I put out into the world, I try to remember that I did everything I wanted to do," she says. "And how people perceive it, or speculate about who it's about or whatever, that really just has nothing to do with me. My only job is to write songs that I really love, and that's what I try to work from."

It's been a whirlwind year for Rodrigo since dropping "Drivers License" — but also an important pivot to showcasing more Asian-American people in media with her skyrocketing music career and her starring role as Nini in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.

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"It actually makes me want to cry. It's so touching," she says about representing Filipino people in media. "Representation in TV and media is so important. And I'm so glad that I can hopefully be an example for a little Asian girl out there, that they can do anything that they set their mind to."

With such a busy schedule, Rodrigo is also making time to focus on herself (and her friends!).

"I can very easily get burned out and exhausted. And when you're burnt out as the artist, I find it really hard to be inspired and create work that you really like," she says. "So, definitely taking time off has been paramount. And my team has been really awesome about giving me breaks when I need it, and letting me rest, and take it easy with what I need to.

"I love spending time by myself. That's the best thing ever," she adds. "But I really love hanging out with my friends. I feel like that's really rejuvenating for me. And I love talking about stuff that is not music or industry-related."

Last week, she spoke to PEOPLE about what it's like to integrate her personal experience when writing for Nini in HSM:TM:TS.

"It's really fun to write for characters. It's a fun, creative challenge for me," she said. "I always try to integrate my personal experience, and also my unique songwriting voices for the songs that I do for the show."

For more on Olivia Rodrigo, pick up a copy of the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

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