Alanis Morissette: Better pill to swallow

By Andy Welch

Marriage and a baby have changed Alanis Morissette, evidenced by her new album. Although she insists she still gets pretty angry.

Alanis Morissette. Photo / Supplied
Alanis Morissette. Photo / Supplied

It's 10am in Los Angeles and Alanis Morissette is wide awake.

"Early for a rock star, right?" she says.

"Years ago I might be up at 10am because I was just getting in from the night before, but it's not like that any more. That's my old life."

Morissette's son Ever, born on December 25, 2010, is the main reason she gets up early these days, plus there's the buzz of the build-up to the release of her new album, Havoc And Bright Lights.

"It's all very, very exciting," she says.

"Playing shows, getting ready to release the record. I've been under a rock for a while, being a new mom and wearing sweatpants.

"It'll be nice to get out of the house and wear something shiny again, or maybe even something fitted, to remind myself I have a body."

She says having a son with her husband, rapper Mario 'MC Souleye' Treadway, has been a "complete head-spinner", and made her realise that her career will have to play second fiddle to family life.

"It's weird having this split agenda for the first time," she says.

"Before getting married, I was an artist without a family, but I didn't want to carry on living that life, where the professional fulfilment is sky-high and the personal life is a little void.

"I didn't want to get to 90 and have no family around me and think I had done nothing other than work. In the past few years I very much prioritised personal fulfilment and I'm really glad I did."

For the first three months after giving birth, Morissette says she was with Ever all the time, utterly consumed by what she calls the maternal animal instinct.

While she was happy, perhaps happier than ever before, she says the prospect of making another album kept her going through tough times.

When she started what would become Havoc And Bright Lights, songwriter and producer Guy Sigsworth flew over to co-write. A makeshift studio was built in Morissette's front room so she could split her time between making music and breastfeeding.

"I wanted to be there whenever Ever needed me, but I also knew I had a record to make," she says, before painting a hilarious image of holding a baby to her chest with one hand, and trying to grip a guitar with the other.

Though Morissette had released two records in her native Canada (she's from Ottawa, Ontario, and took dual American citizenship in 2005) her global debut came with 1995's Jagged Little Pill, an album which has to date sold an astonishing 33 million copies.

She was rocketed to superstardom overnight, her direct, angst-fuelled lyrics of disastrous relationships, broken hearts, inequality and the useless men in her life connecting with virtually anyone that heard them.

She's much more mellow now, but laughs at the suggestion that having a baby has rounded her edges. "You should ask my husband if I still get angry," she says, smiling.

Morissette, who turned 38 in June, smiles and laughs a lot and is enormous fun to talk to.

"I can still get upset, though," she says, "but any anger inside is now channelled toward different things, like against the government that doesn't take care of its people, or unproductive professional relationships, for example.

"I have lots of pet peeves. And if I didn't have lots of things to be upset about, maybe I could write about that?"

Thankfully there was no shortage of subject matter when it came to writing Havoc And Bright Lights, thanks largely to the amount of time Morissette spent not writing songs while pregnant.

"I thought it would be hugely productive, writing while pregnant," she says.

"But there was this big hormonal cocktail going on, so it wasn't great. And lots of nausea, too."

Lead single Guardian is an obvious nod to motherhood. "That's basically me saying if I can't be a parent to my inner self, I can't be a parent to my actual son," she explains.

"There's a song about my husband called Til You, and another that's a commentary on the era of gender inequality and misogyny hopefully segueing into a more egalitarian era. That's called Edge Of Evolution."

Feminism is still one subject that can ignite Morissette's fire, mainly the snail's pace of progress in gender equality. "In my lifetime there's less chauvinism and woman-hating in everyday life, but, as I say in that song, it's just happening too slowly. We need a whole cultural sea change."

- TimeOut / AAP

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