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Honoured to be angry

by Archives October 7, 2008

Alanis Morissette is a woman of both great strength and weakness, anger and bliss. She is an international icon, but still the girl next-door and a wholesome Canadian sweetheart.
Most of all, Morissette has shown the planet she’s only human. Throughout her career, the world watched as she was reborn through rage, dwelled in sadness and found peace of mind only to hit rock bottom.
The last two years alone were filled with the highest ups and lowest downs that Morissette has ever known, in particular, the breakup of her engagement to actor Ryan Reynolds ruptured.
Like a personal diary, her latest album Flavors of Entanglement documents these tumultuous times, her survival and her rediscovery of joy.

What does Flavors of Entanglement reflect from your life?
It reflected some serious disassembling in my personal life. It’s like a breaking or a broken moment captured and then a phoenix rising. It allowed me to hit rock bottom in a way that I had never done before. I’ve always sort of bottom-dwelled, but I never really bounced off the bottom. Now that I know this is possible, I realize the only thing that is bottomless is joy. That’s the snapshot of this record. I could have written something six months later and it would have been a whole other landscape.

Jagged Little Pill opened up a new kind of confessional song writing, especially for women. What kind of long term impact do you think it had?
It was about reducing shame. As a woman, I had shame around being powerful, being a warrior, being angry. I had shame around being vulnerable, devastated, ugly, rejected and all these seemingly shameful things. For me in art, there’s this no-holds-barred approach as soon as I start to write. There’s this uncensored, unedited freedom to step outside of the shackles of some of the thoughts in my head. If I could offer anything to anyone who would listen to my songs, it would be just a four minute moment of dropping any shame around being human.

How has your own music helped you with your personal struggles?
I have this uncanny ability to be able to listen to my own music and pretend like I don’t know myself. So there are times when I’ll be going through something and I’ll listen to a song that I would have written maybe eight years prior and it would serve as comfort, inspiration or validation. My own songs give me relief, but I don’t listen to them all the time.

Flavors of Entanglement is written in real time, rather than in retrospect. How is the writing process different in terms of being therapeutic?
A lot of times I’ll write a song about something that happened six months prior or even something that happened in my childhood, whereas this record wrote itself with what was happening that day. I barely, if at all, needed to bring in my journal because I would just show up and write about what was going on.
Someone said to me the other day that catharsis is not healing. I really do believe that. There’s something to be said for writing through art or performing on stage and getting it out of my body, so to speak. But it doesn’t necessarily tie the bow on what’s going on. So no matter how many times I sing “You Oughta Know” there’s some catharsis in it and certainly there’s value in that as I see it, but it doesn’t necessarily tie it up. It kind of becomes a “to be continued” in a way.

What responsibility do you feel to those people that you write about, especially with your high profile relationships?
I’ve never talked about who my songs were about and I won’t because when I write them they’re written for the sake of personal expression. I’ve had many people over the years say to me before I write a record that they absolutely give me their blessing to write about whatever I feel, because they know that no matter how personal I get about my journey I will always respect their privacy.
I think there’s a distinct difference between privacy and secrecy. Privacy I will always respect.

How did you become so comfortable with opening your heart and exposing your feelings and vulnerabilities to the world?
I never felt uncomfortable with it. I think the bigger pain for me is the lie of pretending to not be human. When I try to defend myself and present myself as an infallible, invincible, impenetrable human being, that’s when I’m in pain because it’s not true.
To share what I experience, comfort, uplift, thought provoke, invite, that’s my life purpose.

Alanis Morissette plays Place des Arts Thursday, Oct. 9.

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