A seasoned veteran after nearly two decades of making music, Alanis Morissette still admits to getting nervous before releasing an album, like her latest, Havoc and Bright Lights.It’s been 17 years since Canadian chanteuse Alanis Morissette exploded onto the pop charts with her angsty power-pop album Jagged Little Pill, which became one of the defining records of the ’90s. In the interim, she has released six additional albums, filled her mantel with awards and enjoyed small parts on TV and in films. Now living in Los Angeles with her husband, rapper Mario “MC Souleye” Treadway, and their first child, son Ever Imre, she’s back with a new album, Havoc and Bright Lights (Collective Sounds, $18). She talked to American Way about her process and the personal nature of her writing.
American Way: After all this time making music, when do you know you need to make a new album?
Alanis Morissette: It’s intuitive. There’s a voice in the middle of the night that wakes me up and says, “It’s time!” Once I start, my process is really accelerated — I usually write a song in about 45 minutes. It’s an exhausting, depleting process, but it’s a quick one.
AW: This album, like all of your albums, is deeply personal. Is writing music a selfish or an altruistic process for you?
AM: It’s an imperative. If I don’t write, I start imploding. Life would be easier for me if I weren’t compelled to write, but I have to, and I’ve come to see that the writing process and the playing of these songs live is a very cathartic experience, but it’s not a healing experience. I’ll sing “You Oughta Know” and other cathartic songs onstage all the time, and it doesn’t mean that the relationship itself has had a bow tied on it, by any means.
AW: You’ve made a few forays into acting. Do you plan to make more?
AM: Yeah. I love kind of showing up and having the beautifully indulgent privilege of participating in some machine that’s already in place and then going back to my music world.
AW: Before the release of a new record, is a part of you still nervous about how it’s going to be received?
AM: I usually wake up freaking out probably the day or two before the record comes out, gripped with abject terror. And then once I talk myself off that ledge, I don’t care. I’m just, like, “You know what? It’s out there. What are you gonna do?” [Laughs]