The Alanis Morissette of 2012 looks a bit different emotionally than the Morissette of 1995.
She’s now a mom and a wife, and while her propensity for deep thoughts hasn’t dissipated, the emotional rage and heart-on-sleeve outpourings that helped make her a superstar behind hits such as “You Oughta Know,” “Ironic” and “Hands Clean” manifests themselves differently. It’s evident in the mama bear protectiveness of “Guardian,” the first single from her eighth studio album, “Havoc and Bright Lights,” released in August and in the spiritual overtones of the release.
“Havoc” spotlights some of Morissette’s best songwriting in years and debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 album chart– it also made an impressive showing internationally – and she’s taking those songs to the stage, including The Tabnernacle’s on Thursday.
Joining her for the U.S. run is husband Souleye, who is opening the shows, and, unseen by fans, the couple’s almost 2-year old son, Ever, who hangs out backstage while mom works.
The always-thoughtful Morissette, 38, recently chatted with a handful of reporters on a conference call to discuss the tour and her new domesticated life.
I think it speaks to how much braver I am to delve into a deeper intimacy in my relationships – the one with my son, with my husband. Intimacy was always terrifying for me, so intimacy with spirit, other people, friends, even professional colleagues, although I don’t really write about that directly. So yes, it’s a relationship record even more so than ever before.
Thankfully, the cringe factor is very non-existent for the last 17 years, so [the songs] all fit together quite nicely. Basically, by the end of the show I just feel really neutral because we run the whole gamut of every emotion known to humankind for me and we change the set list a lot because we have the luxury of being able to do that. [There are] tons of songs from ‘Havoc and Bright Lights,’ and we do a little bit of an acoustic set near the end of the show. [As far as production], I don’t know if it’s big, but it’s emotional and colorful and sweaty, so yes, it’s big to me but is it YouTube big? No.
No, I can perform all of them, thankfully. There are probably some songs when I was 16-years-old that I wouldn’t perform now unless I was doing maybe a little comedy bit, but thankfully once I started writing autobiographically they were existential cries and so I can still tap into those.
“Woman Down” has emerged as one of my favorites to perform live. We actually open the show with it. And the conversations that have been born from these songs, I thought that they would wind up being exciting, but it’s taken the philosopher in me to a whole different level, to the point where I feel like these are sacred conversations that I’m having philosophically, because these songs, while they touch on the microcosm for the most part, they are entering into the more macro, broad commentary area of dialogue with people.
So whether it’s in interviews with Piers Morgan, or talking with you right now, or writing articles, answering questions about this record, I feel like I’m in my ideal, dream-come-true seat, because I get to have a little bit of social commentary, which is humility, and I’m doing it in real-time. I’m mulling over and finding these revelations around these topics and these movements at the same time as everyone else is, so I feel like it’s a very active conversation about the evolution of our own consciousness all at the same time being entertaining. It’s like back door activism. I love it.
Some of them are extras in Japan and Europe, and [they’ll go to] a movie perhaps here and there. I gave a song called “Magical Child” to Christy Turlington for her charity. David Lynch, I gave a song that I had been sitting on for five years that I adored, that I hadn’t shared but was dying to. So I’ll be sitting on some of these songs for a while, but Ihope they all see the light of day at some point.
Yes, it’s exhausting, so there’s no way around that one. I have to be so much more responsible for filling my cup. So the way that I do it, my temperament is incredibly sensitive so it’s my responsibility to make sure that I pepper breaks throughout the day that are incredibly rejuvenative, so that can look like being on non-stop for a couple of hours and then I need to go away for 15 minutes, or 10 minutes, or I just need to be alone with my son and nurse him or hang out with him and just follow him around.
Basically the structure of the day being oriented to my well being is huge, but secondarily and importantly, this form of service through art and through this very conversation and doing interviews and showing up on stage, it has a way of filling me up. So even though there’s a huge element of generosity and service that is inherent to the whole touring experience for me, I also receive so much from it and it really does fuel me.
Our first show was a serious dream-come-true because I just watched [my husband] from the side of the stage with my son wearing his noise canceling headphones and I just thought, this probably is the best moment of my life, watching my husband, who, I fell in love with him as a fan first, I didn’t think I’d have the gift of being able to actually go on a date with him, but he’s such an amazing stream of consciousness, high consciousness rap artist and so for him to be playing with me on tour with my son in my arms, who incidentally loves the communal traveling, touring…to know that his well being is taken care of, to know that my husband is expressed and kicking ass, and that I am as well, that’s high-fives all around. So, yes, the schedule looks harrowing and it ups the ante on my having to take responsibility to take time and be quiet and rest whenever I can.
[As] a title, havoc speaks to the song “Havoc,” so that’s the underbelly of things, the challenging part. I’m obsessed with dark and light, I think. Because I’m a Gemini by trade I’m obsessed with the dualism that it is to be here on this planet and play in that high/low, cold/hot world. So Havoc is the underbelly of recovery from addiction. And then “Bright Lights” has a double connotation, one being in the white-hot heat of fame, and there’s a song called “Celebrity” where I just comment on fame and the whole journey of it, especially in pop culture in America …, not just America, though, everywhere. And then “Bright Lights” also connoting the spiritual aspect of things, that we’re all light beings and that that’s what connects us, whether we’re aware of it or not.
I actually think portraying another character is way more terrifying for me, for what might be obvious reasons. For me it’s just because when I’m singing and performing there’s such a direct experience, it’s such an authentic expression that I can almost relax into it. I don’t even have to be in my head at all. Whereas, when I’m on camera I actually do have to hit a mark and I do have to portray sometimes, a lot of times, qualities that aren’t default knee-jerk choices for me to make. So I’m actually on the edge of my seat when I’m portraying another character, as opposed to improv, which is self-generated, and then song writing is self-generated and my stage music performance is self-generated, so in a sense it’s actually quite relaxing up there. I think it just feels more like I’m on edge when I’m portraying someone in Shakespeare or I’m doing a character on “Weeds” or whatever it is, I feel like I’m more responsible to the director and I’m more responsible to the big picture of the team putting on the play, or putting on the show, or the film.