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Motherhood mellows Morissette
7:00am Saturday 1st September 2012 in Music
Multi-million selling Canadian singer Alanis Morissette has been away for a few years, having a baby. Now she's back with a new record, Havoc And Bright Lights, released on Tuesday, August 28. She tells Andy Welch about juggling being a first-time mum and recording an album, and how having a child hasn't softened her.
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.
While Morissette had released two records in her native Canada (she's from Ottawa, Ontario, and took American dual 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."
When it came to songwriting post-birth, the process was accelerated by an abundance of ideas.
"I've always written quickly. Some of the songs on Jagged Little Pill were written in 20 minutes, they just poured out of me. It wasn't as fast as that this time around, but no song took longer than 40 minutes.
"When people ask what I've done since my last record [2008's Flavors Of Entanglement], I honestly think I was just accumulating life experiences until I was ready to start writing and recording these four-minute stories again."
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."
Years ago, she might have written a whole album about the subject. It's perhaps a mark of the change in her as a person and as an artist that she hasn't. But did settling down and becoming happier worry her, given that so much of her work was mired in disaster?
"What, you think I was afraid to burst into a new paradigm because I thought my art would go away?" she says, laughing again.
"I think I'm living testament to that not being true. Your talent and gift doesn't disappear overnight because you're not as mad as you used to be.
"That suggests that you can only write one sort of song, too. Or that you're emotionally and socially retarded, bumbling from one disaster to the next. Or worse, writing about the same disaster for 30 years. Can you imagine? That would be an absolute train wreck.
"No, I'm quite happy to have changed. I've always felt fulfilled, but now I'm happy, too," she concludes.
"There's still a feistiness, but it's just not as active."
Extra time - Alanis Morissette
:: Alanis Nadine Morissette was born in Ottawa, Ontario, on June 1, 1974.
:: Her parents were both teachers, and she has a twin brother, Wade. Alanis is the eldest by 12 minutes.
:: Her debut album in Canada, Alanis, went double platinum, indicating sales in excess of 200,000. Her follow-up Now Is The Time sold almost as well.
:: Morissette has won 16 Juno awards in Canada and seven Grammys in the US.
:: She is a vegan and campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
28 - London O2
29 - Nottingham Capital FM Arena
30 - Liverpool Echo Arena
:: Alanis Morissette's new album Havoc And Bright Lights is released on Monday, August 27
:: Note to editors: This is a re-send of Music Alanis Morissette, originally transmitted on Wednesday, August 22, adding dates for the singer's UK shows