Alanis Morissette The Exclaim! Questionnaire
Published Aug 12, 2012It's been 17 years since Jagged Little Pill tempestuously stormed the Can-con heyday of Céline Dion, and roughly the same amount of time since Alanis Morissette snuck an eff word onto the Grammy Awards. Many will recall her legacy to be one of pop-tinted aggression (not a completely inaccurate memory given the hexing lyrics of scorned-lover anthem "You Oughta Know"), but the years between then and now have evinced a songwriter who is dutifully thoughtful, cerebrally political and much, much calmer. These are the same words one might use to describe Morissette's forthcoming album (her eighth), Havoc and Bright Lights. Alanis Morissette is still an activist in her own right, just a less angry one.
What are you up to?
I'm sitting in front of my laptop, talking with you and playing with essential oil in my hands.
What are your current fixations?
As a new mom, I'm obsessed with coffee. It's my new love affair. I'm also obsessed with blending essential oils, which might be predicted by my last answer. I'm obsessed with smells. I've been making my own blends. I'm also obsessed with reading and I have thousands of books in my house. Right now I'm reading a book by Adyashanti, called Emptiness Dancing. I have about 20 books going at the same time. There's another book I'm reading called The Nice Girl Syndrome by Beverly Engel. It's a great support for womankind to step out of the quiet, serviceful, selfless dynamic ―those are lovely qualities in and of themselves―but just to step into a win-win dynamic and out of a win-lose dynamic.
Why do you live where you do?
I live [in Los Angeles] because the skies are a clear, crystal blue almost every day of the year. There is no ceiling in this city, in that whatever ideas I have are met with "when are we going to do it?" vs. "you can't do that."
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig?
Playing in Hyde Park with Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton was an unforgettable experience.
What have been your career highs and lows?
My career high would literally be every time I write a record. There will probably not be a happier version of me than when I'm writing a record. Unless I was in the middle of a break-up. That would be an exception. And my career low would be after Jagged Little Pill, when I naively thought that fame would allow and afford some deeper connection with people. I wound up feeling pretty alone and isolated. Fame is such a highly valued entity in the Western world and I think it sells us a bill of goods, saying that fame will take care of any low self esteem; it will take care of any relationship issues; it'll give you extreme, constant joy. I actually thought there would be more connection found within it in 1995 and '96, and then I wound up realizing that fame actually pushed me further away from people. There were so many preconceived notions of who I was. It wound up making intimacy tougher for me, as opposed to easier, which I thought was going to be the case.
What should everyone shut up about?
Their resistance to attachment parenting. I wouldn't necessarily say "shut up," but I would invite people to look at our resistance to intimacy and connection and healing.
What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Lying out in the sun around the trees with my husband and my son and my dogs.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
To have had a little bit more support around me. I'm so much better at it now; I have a lot of support around me. But years ago I didn't have enough.
What do you think of when you think of Canada?
I think of kindness and I think of natural beauty. And curiosity.
What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
That would probably be Wham! It was a cassette tape and I had a red tape player. I was obsessed with that red tape player. I had bought the tape player and the cassette at the same time and I think I exploded from it.
What was your most memorable day job?
I've been a songwriter since I was nine years old, so this one.
How do you spoil yourself?
I go to a spa here in Los Angeles, in Beverly Hills. And I go alone and I sit there all day and get massages and go in the hot tub and the steam room.
What do you fear most?
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I was in Japan once and a young man came up to me and showed me his arm. It had a tattoo of my face on it. I didn't know whether to say "thank you" or "wow" or "I'm sorry." I didn't quite know how to respond. I was stymied for what to say. It was a sweet moment. It was unusual, but awesome.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
I would invite John Lennon to dinner and what we ate would be incidental, because we'd be talking non-stop. We'd be talking about songwriting and being sensitive and being an activist through music. Lots of existential conversation.
What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
Aaron Neville's version of "Ave Maria." It was my grandmother's favourite song and the Aaron Neville version always reduces me to complete stillness and awe.