Writing New Music Helped Keep Avril Lavigne’s ‘Head Above Water’ During Her Battle With Lyme Disease

“Head Above Water” is Canadian singer-songwriter Avril Lavigne‘s first single in five years, and it’s a triumphant song, full of her signature defiant passion — but with more vulnerability than we’ve ever heard from her before. Lavigne has opened up about the difficult times she suffered in those five years off, and how music was her beacon of hope through it all.

A serious bout of Lyme disease left the singer bedridden for two years, worried she might never get to make music again. But on one particularly tough night, when Lavigne felt so sick she thought she was going to die, she was struck by inspiration for a song.

“All of a sudden, I have this song concept and all these lyrics. I grabbed my cell phone and I went into Notes, and I was like, ‘God, help me keep my head above the water so that I can breathe, and rescue me,'” Lavigne says.

Through her recovery and healing, working on new music helped do just that. She wrote simple piano and vocal melodies at home, and building the rest of the tracks around them. When she felt well enough, Lavigne headed back to the studio to record.

“I didn’t know if I’d lost my voice, or if it would be weaker. I think that that emotion was just really raw and very real,” Lavigne says. She started crying at one point during the song’s recording, and fought to keep that raw, cracked-voice element in the version you hear on the record.

Lavigne is finally healthy again, but hopes that this album finds anyone who might be going through a tough time and shows that it’s okay on the other side: “I hope that this album can give strength and inspire and bring any type of comfort to anyone who listens to it.”

Watch Lavigne discuss her battle with illness and preview some new tracks from her upcoming album in the video above.