Alanis Morissette on 'Havoc and Bright Lights': 'It's an Exciting Time'
"I'll be your angel on call, I'll be on demand/The greatest honor of all, as your guardian," Alanis Morissette sings on "Guardian," the first single off new studio album "Havoc and Bright Lights." Out tomorrow (Aug. 28), the set is far different from the alt-rock queen's 1995 mega-seller, "Jagged Little Pill." After all, the Canadian singer/songwriter is now 38, happily married for two years and a new mom. Morissette's first album released through Collective Sounds/Sony RED, after rising to fame with Maverick in the '90s, is an inviting pastiche of forward-thinking issues that will be supported with a North American tour that begins Aug. 25. The artist spoke about making her first album as a mother, finishing her long-in-the-works book and reconnecting with her angst-ridden former self.
So much has happened since 2008's "Flavors of Entanglement." What themes were you thinking about while writing this album?
I thought about patriarchy, misogyny and chauvinism slowly getting in the way of all things, to a point where we alpha women of the past would have our heads chopped off or burned at the stake but we're now being celebrated, championed and even supported. It's an exciting time, so I write about that in "Woman Down." "'Til You" is a full-out love song, as opposed to a love song with a tinge of inner conflict. In "Guardian," I talk about the freedom and safety of my son, and in the verses I talk about wanting to offer the same level of connection and attunement to my own self, which I haven't done.
Where did you work on "Havoc and Bright Lights"?
I created a mini-studio in my house [in Los Angeles], because my son was five-and-a-half months old at the time, and I wanted to be available for breast-feeding and being a mom. At the same time, I have this really big calling and vocation-if I don't write songs, I start getting really depressed. So we made it possible by doing it in-house.
This is your first release on Collective Sounds/Sony RED. What made you go in that direction?
This is the first opportunity for me to work with people from the ground up versus having this kind of dysfunctional, disconnected relationship in which everything is a battle. This has become us all working together, and the contracts are for short periods of time - one-record cycles - so there's not this sort of sinking feeling that if something doesn't work out, you're stuck in a harrowing marriage for 13 years.
You sound like a completely different, more peaceful person on this as compared with previous albums, especially your early work. You still play all your "Jagged Little Pill" songs live - how do you look back on 1991's Alanis?
She's a little dirty, but she's awesome. The good news is that there's this timelessness to songs like "All I Really Want" and "You Oughta Know." Anger is anger, yearning is yearning. Some of the yearnings that I wrote about, I've actually lived my way into some of the answers, so that's fortunate. But there are no songs that have such a cringe factor I can't perform them now.
With a husband and an infant, how has touring been different for you?
I have about 11 minutes to myself every day. So instead of shopping for four-and-a-half hours, I shop for four-and-a-half minutes. I can't miss a minute with my son. If I have an hour [for] dinner with my husband, I have to be fully there, because being distracted is exhausting. I didn't drink coffee for the longest time because I'd have anxiety attacks, but now coffee is my best friend.
After this album, will you jump back into new music or take time off to be a new mom?
I'm likely to continue touring well into [this album]. Then, I'm committed to finishing this book I've been working on for a few years. It touches on all the topics I enjoy talking about: women's stuff, some mom stuff, using my life as a case study in spiritual practice, part poetry. I might throw some new songs into the book and have that multimedia thing happen. I also wouldn't mind writing a song or two for movies next year, which would be fun. I'll put that out there.