On the cover of Avril Lavigne's newly released self-titled album she looks all grown up, with a stern expression and dark makeup framing her eyes. But the first thing she sings on the album is the line "I don't care about my makeup," so it's probably best to pay heed to the age-old advice of not judging a book by its cover.
Within "Avril Lavigne" is a whole bunch of fun anthemic pop that she'll be the first to tell you doesn't really get too deep inside the real Avril Lavigne. Sophisticated stuff, this is not, but there seems to be a friction on the album between the impulse to preserve her youth and growing up. In conversation, Avril Lavigne is as laid back and self-assured as any of her songs would lead you to believe.
The feeling I get from this album is definitely a summer feel. It doesn't really seem very November to release an album with tracks like "Bitchin' Summer" and "Sippin' on Sunshine."
It's funny because I asked myself if this was going to just turn out to be a summer record. We were doing a lot of writing in the summer, and I wanted to have a summer song, you know, driving in the car, good feeling, good times. For about a week I was writing songs like that. But this album has “Sippin' on Sunshine” and “Bitchin' Summer.” And then “Rock N Roll” kind of does have summer feel to it. The record was supposed to come out earlier, but they changed the date on me three f—ing times.
You seem caught between the sentiment of “Here’s to Never Growing Up” and actually growing up ...
It’s really not that deep, musically. I like to be on stage, I like to write pop-rock songs. That’s what everyone wants to hear from me, and that's when everyone goes apes—, with the fist-pumping and all. But there are different sides to me; I enjoy sitting down at the piano and telling this in-depth story and writing an emotional ballad [but also] I love rock music, so I have “Bad Girl” on this record and “Hello Kitty,” which has a grungy electronic feel. So the album is diverse and I wanted to write all different types of styles and moods.
So it's not me personally, it’s the music I’m making. Yes, it's coming from me, I write every song, and of course I am older now, and more grown up, and this is my fifth record. But there is a side of me that likes to push the envelope. I love to have fun and make the best of every moment. And with “Here’s to Never Growing Up,” that’s a song about your spirit, your life, your attitude and your approach to life, doesn’t matter what age you are.
There are a lot of mentions of getting wasted on this album too. I feel like you don't hear that referred to in such a straightforward way that much on pop radio.
Do you have people that are saying that they can't get your stuff on the radio because of the content?
There is a clean version and an explicit version. It's something I definitely think about, but then I have the opportunity to offer two options.
Do you have to do the vocal tracks again in a separate session to change those parts? Like do you record the full version with the swear and then go back on another day just to sing the phrase "motherfreaking?"
Yeah, sometimes we do it all at the end. Sometimes we know that we’re going to have to redo it while we’re working on it.
I remember when Radiohead first released "Creep," there was a version where Thom Yorke clearly had to just re-do the part where he sings "you're so f—ing special" and he says the word "very" in a totally different voice.
Oh, that’s what you’re talking about! I didn’t understand at first. I thought you were talking about an edit. Yeah, radio doesn’t play curse words, so if you really want to express yourself, you can feel free, but you have to be prepared to record a clean version. And when I perform on TV or in certain countries, we’re not allowed to say those words. So it’s no problem.
With this album, you collaborated a lot with your husband, Chad Kroeger. I’ve heard it referred to as a snapshot of your relationship's development. At what point in the creative process did you guys realize there was truly something there? At what part of writing and working together did you guys fall in love?
Well, we worked on the album and he was on tour. Then he left and then we worked again. We worked in different clumps. When I had actually taken a break after the tour, I moved to France on my own. Then he came out to visit me and that was our first time getting together without it being work-driven.
So the album was all done?
No, we continued to work afterwards.
Did any songs come about from the courtship?
We have a duet on this record. That was the first one we worked on together. Then we also worked on a song called “If I Said That I Loved You,” and it’s a duet, it's unreleased, but we played it at our wedding. Our first dance song.
What else did you guys play at your wedding?
I had a band there to play jazz music, because that's what I really like: a lot of Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday, then a DJ to play a bunch of dance music for people to dance to.
Did the DJ play any of your songs or any Nickelback songs?
Was that strictly forbidden?
No, we just didn’t. I feel like that happened in the past, like in Vegas. It’s kind of fun.
What do you do when you're in a place that plays one of your own songs? Do you lip sync along?
In the past, my girlfriends and I would get excited and jump around a little, you know.
Looking at the writing and production credits on this album, one of the only songs that Chad didn’t have a hand in is a song about another guy. Do you guys get jealous of each other when singing about other loves?
With “17” I wanted to write a song about being 17 because that was an important year for me. I always find myself referring back to that year. When I sat down with [producer and songwriter] Martin Johnson, he had the same experience about the same age. So we decided to write a song about being 17.
Your song “Bad Girl” with Marilyn Manson is a great anthem, and it's interesting that in the years since you first came on the scene, a lot of other bad girls have come forth to dominate pop music in the past few years. Do you think you have been an influence on them?
I think that when someone breaks out big — and like for me, when I came out on the scene, Britney and Christina [were] playing one style of pop: very bubblegum pop, you know, with the microphone headset. Then I came along, I was a girl with a guitar, writing a different style of lyrics and music and I think that, “Did I help open door for other artists in that genre?” That is what does happen.
I’m not going to straight-up say that I did that for these people, but it does happen. Any female artist that’s doing her own thing is also helping other female artists, so when other people ask me about existing girls that are out there, I think we all end up helping each other in some sort of way. I think it's great that women can be out there speaking their minds and playing their guitars.