Interview: Avril Lavigne Keeps It Posi, Has Met Radiohead, Is Big In Japan
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My Chemical Romance once cheered three times for sweet revenge. Kanye West once toasted to the douche bags and the a**holes. Avril Lavigne, like Peter Pan and Ponce de León before her, raises her cup to immortal youth — the fantasy of arrested development. You know, those idyllic years before deferred loans and divorce, when the world was ahead of us as opposed to on our shoulders. Is it so much to ask for?
“With ’17’ — the song — that’s an age that I think about a lot, or I speak about a lot with my friends,” says Lavigne, of one of the tracks on her fifth studio album Avril Lavigne. “It was such a big year for me.”
At 17, Lavigne was essentially a millionaire. Less than two years before that, the young Canadian came to New York with her acoustic guitar and sang songs for famed producer L.A. Reid, who was then the head of Artista Records. She wowed him, and from then on her career was set on a path that would lead to her being labeled the “anti-Britney,” someone who played her own songs with certain je ne sais punk and Hot Topic eyeliner. Complicated Sk8r Bois were only the beginning.
“I think that’s also what’s so great about this record,” says Lavigne. “It’s a little bit nostalgic … with the first single, ‘Here’s To Never Growing Up’. You know it’s all about your attitude and your approach in life, and I always just want to have fun with everything.”
After over a decade in the music industry, Lavigne has returned to work with Reid for Avril Lavigne, a grab bag of sounds from her familiar pop-punk anthems (see “Rock N Roll”), to EDM club-ready tracks (see “Hello Kitty”), to songs co-written by her new husband and Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger (see literally every track on Avril Lavigne).
“It was really important for me to be true to my roots, but to also be open to experimenting working with new people and trying out new sounds. I wrote a lot of music for this record and that’s why I think this album is so diverse. I picked my favorite songs, and I feel like it’s a strong record. There’s a lot going on, there’s summer songs, there’s pop songs, there’s rock tunes, there’s ballads, and, you know ‘Hello Kitty’ is an electronic tune.”
After Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger (colloquially known in the celeb rag circuit as “Chavril”) tied the knot last year, the two found even more chemistry in the recording studio.
“I was interested in working with [Kroeger] after my manager brought it up to me,” said Lavigne. “I thought it would be a nice opportunity to write with someone who also has the same sort of experience out on the road and being up on the stage and being a performer. And we had a lot in common.”
While you may only hear Kroeger’s post-grunge growl on their hand-in-hand duet “Let Me Go,” his arena rock footprint is all over the album. Nothing here is done on a small-scale, especially not Lavigne’s pop-rock voice, easily belting with big choruses that fit inside even bigger songs.
“When [Kroeger] was recording vocals and I was doing vocal takes, he wasn’t just a producer who does that for a living, he was a singer… I felt there was a different type of understanding and that made it a whole different type of understanding for me.”
While she’s most assuredly familiarized herself with the Nickelback catalog, Lavigne keeps her iPhone full of songs that mainly remind her of her youth.
“The majority of the music I listen to now, today in my free time, is the stuff that I’ve sort of always listened to. Blink  reminds me of being in high school, and Green Day. When I first started out on the music scene, Green Day was playing a lot of the festivals I was playing and it was really cool for me to see because in grade nine, I was listening to a lot of their stuff and I was playing Summer Sonic festival with them. A lot of Frank Sinatra and Coldplay, but I listen to a lot of older stuff that I have on my computer.”
But she wasn’t singing “Dookie” at the top of her lungs, she was singing Radiohead songs. One of the first things we heard from Lavigne this year was the lyric “Singing Radiohead at the top of our lungs” at the beginning of “Here’s To Never Growing Up”. Out of hundreds of Radiohead songs she could have been singing, what did she have in mind when she wrote it? Radiohead’s first single, “Creep,” of course.
“I love Radiohead,” says Lavigne. “I cook a lot, I put Radiohead records on in my kitchen. I actually had a really cool night where I got to meet the guys, and it was all very pleasant.”
When not canoodling with bands back stage, she’s just trying staying positive. At 29, Lavigne has no fear of 30. She laughs it off, even. Her relentless optimism seems to be half defense mechanism and half survival, and as pedestrian as it may seem for artist or musician to maintain that focus on the posi-vibes, it’s refreshing. And it at least seems honest.
“For me, now, at this stage of my life, I chose to stay on the positive because that outweighs the negative. I’m here and I’m living my dream. I always loved singing as a very young girl, and now I get to sing on stage and have people around the world know my music.”
Now that the album’s out, Lavigne is jet-setting around the world doing select gigs, including a live recording session at New York’s Highline Ballroom. She also currently has the No. 1 album, song, and video in Japan. Before all the hubub and commitments to Avril Lavigne began, she found time to snuggle up with Chad and watch the entire Harry Potter series in one marathon. It was a good distraction from the press, the online comments and the music business she has firmly been entrenched in since she was just a teenager. The thing is, it seems as though she doesn’t need the young wizard as a distraction. She already knows what many people two or three times her age have yet to figure out.
“To focus on any negativity, you get to understand that that’s just a part of the world, and the most important thing is to be happy.”