Introducing the Eminem of country music. Well, sort of. Robyn Ottolini isn’t a guy who raps, but she does make music that will either piss you off or make you fall in love with her. Maybe a little of both. Whether she’s cursing or calling out a cheating ex, if it needs saying, Robyn is the one to say it.
Long before Robyn’s career took off in 2020 — in the middle of a global pandemic, no less — with the viral TikTok hit “F-150,” she was pretending to be the next Faith Hill or Shania Twain in the front seat of her dad’s pickup truck. Growing up in a small town outside of Toronto called Uxbridge, Robyn was raised on country music. Though her family wasn’t musical, two of Robyn’s biggest influences were part of her bloodline: her dad loved listening to female country singers, and her older sister was, well, an older sister. “She was the first hater,” Robyn jokes. “She makes me not give a shit about anything or what people say.”
Resilience is a major part of Robyn’s charm, and it emanates in her music. She’s treated songwriting like a diary since writing her first song at 13, resulting in a rawness that’s both cheeky and captivating — though she admits her first tune was a bit fanatical: “It was one of those ‘I’m gonna rule the world’ songs… I was really into Hannah Montana,” she laughs. Upon picking up guitar in high school, Robyn knew she had talent. Yet, she never really saw music as more than a hobby until her senior year. As life around her changed, she suddenly felt that her dreams might not be so far-fetched. “Music is the only reason I’m not a vagabond,” Robyn quips. “Music was my saving grace.”
Right around the same time, Kacey Musgraves released her debut single, “Merry Go Round,” introducing an audacity to the country genre that resonated with Robyn. “I remember thinking, ‘This is the kind of songwriter I’m going to be,’” she says. A few years later as Robyn was making a name for herself around her hometown, Maren Morris’ “My Church” echoed Kacey’s fearlessness, and Robyn knew there was a place for her in country music. Her first fully produced EP, 2019’s Classic, featured a song called “Fckboy” and a track with a fake orgasm (“Him Problem”). Kacey and Maren had opened a door for Robyn, and she ran with it. After all, country music isn’t just three chords — it’s three chords and the truth.
“I think I’m coming into a time when honesty is welcomed, not shunned,” Robyn suggests. “I’m not the girl who can write or sing a boring song. I want to make people laugh or make them go, ‘Holy shit!’”
As titles like “Fckboy” and “Him Problem” indicate, Robyn has a pretty strong brand. But as she says, it’s less about being anti-men and more about self-love. “You’re allowed to fall in love, just don’t fall in love with assholes,” Robyn says with a laugh. “That’s my whole thing. Love yourself, check yourself and just grow as a person.”
That message rings loud and clear on “F-150,” a downtempo track about an ex that still haunts whenever a — you guessed it — Ford F-150 passes. By the final chorus, though, Robyn has fully moved on (“When I see an F-150/ I’ll take back what it took from me,” she sings in the closing lines). While the song has been a heartbreak healer for listeners everywhere, it has also made its way around TikTok, soundtracking more than 34,000 videos and shooting Robyn to No. 4 on the Spotify US Viral 50 chart and No. 3 on Rolling Stone’s all-genre Trending 25 chart.
Perhaps the craziest part? TikTok wasn’t even on Robyn’s radar before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020. But once she discovered the massive network of songwriters on the app, Robyn decided to see where it could take her. She began posting videos of just about every song she’s ever written, down to a quirky unreleased tune called “Sincerely Drunk Me.” Little did Robyn know, her TikTok venture would land her a record deal.
Robyn signed with Warner Music Nashville in the most 2020 way possible: in her pajamas, on her bed, with an electronic signature. With the pandemic keeping everything remote at the time of her signing in October 2020, Robyn admits that one of the biggest moments of her life was literally surreal. “It felt like nothing had changed,” she says, “but everything had changed.”
With more than 16 million global streams already to her name, Robyn’s unfiltered vulnerability is clearly connecting. Her latest project, The I’m Not Always Hilarious EP garnered more than 1 million streams even before “F-150” went viral, and fans have called “Good Shit” “the breakup song we all needed.” Robyn recognizes that her blatant expletives and unabashed confidence may be polarizing, especially in the country world. And in true Robyn fashion, she’s already brushing off potential naysayers: “If some people don’t like me because I’m different, it’s like, ‘Aw, you’re gonna miss a good time!’”
Her career as a US major label artist may have begun while the world was on pause, but Robyn has big plans for what’s to come — particularly her live show. “When the world opens up, we’re coming out swinging,” Robyn declares. “And we’re going to swing hard.” The same could be said for her music. Robyn’s unapologetic nature is already putting her in the same sphere as her heroes, and she’s ready to keep pushing boundaries.
“It’s about what the fans want, and girls my age want honesty,” Robyn asserts. “There’s people out there who need me to sing songs for them. I’ve always hoped my music could help people, and I’m really glad it’s working. It’s why I write my music.”