For Sabrina Claudio, Olivia Rodrigo Is the One That Got Away
Sabrina Claudio is back. The singer released her debut EP, Confidently Lost, in 2016, and chased that project with a string of albums released annually through 2020. But during the pandemic, Claudio went dark. Over the last two years, the 25-year-old artist didn’t even set foot in a recording studio—opting instead for a hiatus that culminated in the release of Based On A Feeling, out today. The record, which the Miami native recorded in just three months, is packed with lovesick lyrics and sensual instrumentals, proving that good things come to those who wait. Here, Claudio sits down with Interview for a chat about toxic relationships, her obsession with Olivia Rodrigo, and why she won’t keep your secrets.
SOPHIE LEE: What do you prefer—recording or touring?
CLAUDIO: I love touring. It’s definitely the thing I love most about making an album. But I’ll take any chance I get to talk about the work I’ve done, and the people who’ve worked on the music with me.
LEE: I heard that before starting on this album you were feeling blocked creatively.
CLAUDIO: It took me two years to even think, “Oh yeah, I could get back in the studio.” I didn’t go in once during that period. That had to do with COVID obviously, but also the place I was in, as far as the people who were on my team. Frankly, I was afraid that I wasn’t going to find inspiration again. I’ve never gone more than a year without writing, and I don’t enter the studio unless I’m ready to make a full body of work. I know a lot of artists are in the studio all the time, just to mess around. For me, it’s such an exhausting process that I don’t go in unless I’m ready to make something real. But once I returned, I was in heaven. The intention behind every session was so pure. I made the album in like three months. It was a super exhilarating feeling.
LEE: Are you comfortable talking about what was happening during that time?
CLAUDIO: I was in a situation with previous people that I was signed to, and it was not a good spot for me to be in. I felt like they were trying to change everything about me, like they didn’t think I was good enough. I didn’t receive the support that I deserved. I promised myself that I wasn’t going to write another song as long as I was in that situation. Luckily, I’m in a much healthier space with much better people now. I’m super happy.
LEE: One of the themes of this album is feeling sexy again after you’ve been at a low point. Is that an accurate take?
CLAUDIO: The album doesn’t have one specific theme. I named it Based On A Feeling because of a conversation I had that sparked my desire to make music again. The person told me that every decision I make should be based on a feeling, and that the intention behind everything I do should be pure and genuine. The songs don’t necessarily explain that, but that is what’s behind them.
LEE: This album feels like an aesthetic departure. It’s very decadent, with the makeup and the wigs. The first few albums feature a more natural look. Was that a conscious decision to do something new?
CLAUDIO: I think naturally, with my glam team, we just like to play dress up. We went big, glam-wise, on the songs that I felt called for it. The music was elevated, so I felt like the visuals needed to elevated. I wanted to play different characters, but most of it stems from us playing around with looks.
LEE: When you dress up in these elaborate outfits, do you feel like a character, or like you’re coming into yourself?
CLAUDIO: A bit of both. I always have a little alter ego thing going. Once I’m dressed up—we’ve got a wig on, we look crazy, but in the best way—it’s more like I’m channeling a character. Well, I shouldn’t say “a character,” because that means I’m not being myself. I’m tapping into different sides of myself.
LEE: You’ve been known to write songs based what people in your life are going through. Is that still true?
CLAUDIO: I wrote this album while we were all isolated. So, I had to work with what I was going through. “Still Strangers” was based on an experience that I had while I was writing the album. But I enjoy drawing from other people’s stories because, honestly, I’m a pretty boring girl. I’m single, I don’t put myself out there enough to have wild experiences worth writing about. When I started writing, I was 15 or 16, and I would write about things that I had no idea about: love, sex. The people I wrote with were like, “No one is going to believe a 15-year-old writing about this. You need to chill.”
LEE: Do you tell people, “Hey, by the way, I’m writing a song about this thing you told me”?
LEE: Do they listen to it like, “Hmm, this sounds familiar”?
CLAUDIO: I just take bits and pieces of the story, but I’m sure people listen to my songs like, “I could have sworn I told her this.” It is what it is. If you tell me things, just expect I’m going to write about it.
LEE: That’s just a part of being friends with writers.
CLAUDIO: Exactly! You signed up for this.
LEE: How does this album compare to your previous work?
CLAUDIO: I have way too many albums and songs out. This one, I will say, I wrote 100 percent. I can’t say that about every album I’ve done in the past, although I write 90 percent of my music. I just feel so connected to every single song on this album in a way that I never have before. I’m really proud of myself, and everybody that’s on the album, and how we’ve all grown.
LEE: When does your tour start?
CLAUDIO: The tour should start in the fall. I’m a fall girl. That’s the vibe of the music.
LEE: Are you already thinking of how you’re going to set things up?
CLAUDIO: I’ve not started yet, planning. I haven’t done a show in two years, three maybe. It stresses me out but it’s fun. I just want to get back to seeing people. Releasing an album is amazing, and thank god for social media, but there’s nothing like performing for an audience that knows every word, and has already lived with the album.
LEE: I know you just did an Olivia Rodrigo cover. What else are you listening to right now?
CLAUDIO: I am obsessed with Olivia’s album. I could go on about her for forever. I don’t fangirl over people, but I admire her to the Nth degree. Another album that I’ve been listening to is Cinema by The Marías. I love them to death, and I just think their album is next level. It’s completely underrated— it’s had so much success, but it deserves a million times more. That’s all I was listening to.
LEE: I saw Olivia’s Instagram story about your cover. Was that a fangirl moment?
CLAUDIO: For sure. You know what’s funny? I presented this Billboard Women in Music award, and afterwards, I was sitting right next to her—and I didn’t say hello! I didn’t want to be rude because the show was still going on. By the time I got up the nerve to say hi, she was gone. So, whatever. Maybe next time.