The former alternative-nation icon talks motherhood, her tenacious television career, and Thom Yorke.
1. Babies collapse time.
In the four years since Alanis Morissette released her last album, Flavors of Entanglement, the Ottawa-born songstress has added two new members to her family. In 2010, she married rapper Mario “Souleye” Treadway and gave birth to a son, Ever. On “Guardian,” the first single from her new album, Havoc and Bright Lights, Morissette sings, “I’ll be your keeper for life,” a reference to her new mom status—a vocation that upends decades of creative habit. “For me, becoming a mom has been an exercise in being incredibly present: with him, with the songwriting process, with my friends,” she says. “Everything’s concentrated; instead of shopping for three hours, you have 11 minutes.”
2. You can be a TV star—you just have to ask.
The entertainment world has no shortage of singer-turned-actors, but Morissette landed her first TV gig on the Canadian sketch-comedy kids’ show You Can’t Do That on Television in 1986, a year before she recorded her first demo. Her acting career continues to this day, but she’s quick to affirm her primary allegiance to songwriting: “For me, writing a song is a tiny intimate little moment in a room, maybe with another person, but often alone. Writing songs is harder in some ways [than acting] for me because it’s generative and harrowing in its authenticity, but it’s easier logistically.” Still, Morissette has appeared in an impressive number of films and TV shows, winning several television roles by the force of her own tenacity. “If I’m watching a show and I’m obsessed with it and I think I can bring value to it, I will audaciously reach out to showrunners and show creators,” she admits, as was the case with Sex and the City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Weeds. Her small-screen presence might soon blow up even more, as she’s in talks to be a judge on the next season of American Idol.
3. The ’90s may be over, but girl power lives on.
Morissette was one of the headliners on the first Lilith Fair tour, and the subject of women’s rights continues to permeate her songs, as on the biting “Woman Down” from her latest album. “The feminist bra-burning era brought this whole autonomous movement: I don’t need anybody, I can do it as well as a man,” she says. “What I know now is that interdependence is really where it’s at for me, and that empowerment and sense of self is lovely—and hard-won, I might add—but it’s allowing me now to reach out and let people know, ‘I actually do need you, and I’m actually quite dependent on our interaction.’” Morissette sees this shift in attitude mirrored in the culture of the music business today. “There’s a fellowship now that I didn’t experience in the ’90s,” she remarks. “In the ’90s, there was a lot of envy and competition. But now I find there’s this sisterhood. I think with the culture now, partnership and win-win seem to be more the way, as opposed to, there can only be one person who wins so I must kill you.”
4. Famous people have star crushes, too.
There’s another small difference between the musical landscape when Morissette first broke out and now: Twitter. “I think the social network has levelled the playing field in many ways, one of which is reducing that chasm between artist and audience,” she says. “For a long time I was like, ‘I don’t need the audience. I’m not responsible.’ But the truth is, I love the people who come to my shows and I feel very connected with them.” But those hoards of fans haven’t dulled Morissette’s ability to enjoy music as a fan herself; she calls Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” a “flawless” tune, proving even rock stars aren’t immune to the hit-of-the-moment. When asked to name one of her standout opening acts, she answers with lightning speed and a chuckle: “Radiohead. They played before me on my Jagged Little Pill tour. I had a big crush on Thom Yorke.” Does she still keep in touch with the band? “Telepathically.”
Havoc and Bright Lights is out Aug. 28 on Universal Music.