“I”m as shallow as you can get,” a charming Alanis Morissette surprisingly confessed at a Los Angeles event, and then proceeded to prove just the opposite.
The small gathering, held at Sonos Studios in Hollywood, featured a Q&A conducted by Billboard’s Phil Gallo, with Morissette about the making of her new album, “Havoc And Bright Lights,” as well as a mini-concert by the Grammy winner.
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After 1995″s “Jagged Little Pill” catapulted the then-21-year old into the stratosphere, much of her material has been about the search for connection, meaning, and a healthy sense of self in a world that values surface, ego, and monetary success.
“After ‘Jagged Little Pill,” the only direction to go was spiritual,” she said, adding that the overwhelming success of that album (it sold 33 million copies worldwide) had provided her the “brass ring” in terms of what we are taught to value, but ultimately she found those rewards “pretty hollow.” That experience left her asking the bigger “existential” questions and with the realization that she could use her music as a “means to an end” to explore the deeper questions.
“Havoc” treads that ground. First single, “Guardian,” addresses the disparity between the “mama bear,” fierce love she offers her new son, Ever, and the near total lack of love she offered herself. “Woman Down” chronicles the struggle women have carried through the generations. “I call it backdoor activism,” she says. “Artists are social activists whether they want to be or not.” Morissette feels it”s a great time to be a woman today. “We can be empowered and say ‘I need you”,” she said, noting that in past iterations of the women”s movement, females weren”t allowed to act as if they needed anything or anyone. “Celebrity” looks at those who see fame as a worthwhile end product.
As with her past studio albums, when she started to write the material for “Havoc,” “I [didn’t] have any sense of what an album”s going to be. I just put on my helmet and hope for the best.” Morissette rarely comes in “with a lot of info” when she starts a song. The exception, she noted, was “You Oughta Know,” which came from “a desperate diary entry.”
Her greatest talent, “if I can admit to [one],” she said, is “I like taking in a ton of information and distilling it. I could speak about it for 10 hours and sing about it for four minutes.”
Admitting she”s a “big recovery junkie,” and enumerating her top three addictions as “work, love, and food,” Morissette drew a laugh when she said she no longer judges the “girly girl” side of herself that loves purses as much as music (and how: she wore gorgeous, bright red suede booties with stiletto heels). And lest she come off as too granola and only about exploring her latest emotion, she admitted a fondness for the paparazzi and gossip: “I love looking at what people are wearing. I love knowing who was just born.”
But much more importantly, as she starts a U.S. tour Aug. 25 in Montclair, N.J., Morissette says she loves that she”s finally found a “beautiful blend of personal and vocational” when her husband and son join her on the road.
She concluded the evening with lovely stripped-down performances of “Hand In My Pocket,” “Guardian,” and “Thank U.”