More than 20 years ago, before she met producer/songwriter Glen Ballard and wrote Jagged Little Pill in Los Angeles, Alanis Morissette was living in Toronto trying her hand at songwriting with as many people as she could. She was in her late teens and not interested in making any more innocuous dance-pop music, as she had for two albums for MCA Records Canada.
Speaking with Billboard backstage after she was inducted at the Juno Awards into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame on Sunday, Morissette says that time does not seem like yesterday.
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“That feels like 25 years ago,” laughs Morissette, now 40. “What was happening at the time was, I was transitioning from having worked with Leslie Howe [on her dance-pop], so people I was surrounded with there, their focus was more on creating an image or a persona and my imperative was: I won’t stop until I write a record that I actually feel expresses who I am as a human being.
“I remember before I met Glen and traveling and collaborating with lots of incredible people, I was just willing to find a spot where someone whom I was sitting across from would say, ‘Who are you?’ as opposed to having their agenda imposed on me. So Glen was that, in spades.”
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The album they created together, away from any record-label interference, was an all-out indie rock confessional with unique vocal phrasing and pulled-from-her-diary lyrics. It went on to sell more than 33 million copies worldwide and made Morissette an instant global star within weeks.
Ballard flew in to induct Morissette; they are forever linked by the life-changing piece of art they created.
“We haven’t worked together recently, but we stay in touch every now and then — it’s almost like we went to the war together,” Morissette laughs.
She is now taking this album that had such a huge impact on culture, fans and other artists and creating a jukebox musical for Broadway with composer Tom Kitt, whose CV includes Green Day‘s award-winning Broadway show American Idiot.
“We’re just in the beginning phases of it so I can barely share anything about it because we haven’t created it yet,” says Morissette, “but the story is going to be fictionalized and then at some point down the next 10 years I can envision myself creating a one-person show where I can really get into the subtleties and the stories, but for this particular musical it will be a fictionalized story and we’ll add songs and change lyrics.”
Morissette saw American Idiot, which didn’t turn Green Day’s songs into show tunes but stayed fairly true to them, and feels “they used the songs so beautifully.”
This year, however, she is completing a self-help book and doing keynote talks with a rather philosophical and soul-searching bent, which isn’t surprising for the artist, who has always been into self-betterment and spiritual pursuits.
“I’m writing a book right now on everything,” she says. “I’m using my own personal autobiographical stories to illustrate different wisdoms and insights, so it’s part service, helping people through addiction, recovery, fame commentary, money commentary, body commentary, sex commentary. I’m just the philosopher and geeky academic. … I won’t talk about something I haven’t experienced.”
Asked if she has gone through addiction, she explains, “Yeah, work addiction and love addiction — and food addiction, frankly, was a long-standing for me. And the recovery is what I’ll be focusing on.”
She expects to turn it into her publisher in June.