Alanis Morissette heals heartache
TORONTO – Some 13 years after Alanis Morissette exploded onto the charts with her angst-ridden kiss-off anthem “You Oughta Know,” the candid singer-songwriter is writing about break-ups again.
This time the pain is drawn from the collapse of her well-publicized four-year relationship with actor Ryan Reynolds, now romantically linked to Hollywood beauty Scarlett Johansson.
Morissette says she turned to writing as a way to cope as the union unravelled, a painful experience that forced her to examine her own destructive patterns as she searched for wholeness again.
“It was the perfect time for me to write the (new) record, basically,” Morissette says of the period that led to the split, which she refers to as “the shift in our form.”
“And the songs are in order, so it chronologizes the rock bottom and then the phoenix rising and everything after it.”
“Flavors of Entanglement,” is due in the spring, although a firm release date has yet to be set, she says.
The 11 tracks were co-written by U.K. songwriter/producer Guy Sigsworth (Madonna, Bjork, Seal), featuring new sonic paths for Morissette that include electronic hues and Eastern percussion and strings.
“I just wanted to surprise myself a little bit and stretch,” Morissette says recently by phone from Chicago as she tours the U.S. with Matchbox 20 and MuteMath.
Lyrically, much of the disc focuses on the 33-year-old’s relationship with herself, and less so on her romantic partners, she insists.
“I notice that the stronger my relationship is with myself, the healthier my relationships are, especially over the last year,” she says.
Still, Morissette is known for writing one of the most aggressively frank break-up songs in recent years, so one can’t help but ask: Is there a song on the disc about Ryan?
“Well, you guys can tell me. I never confirm anything about who I write about so I think it’ll become self-evident when people hear the songs and people can make as many guesses as they would like,” she says.
“I’m not writing to seek revenge,” Morissette later adds.
“I think there would be an element of it being a violent thing if I were to write songs and publicly berate someone. I just think that’s horrifying, but the act of writing a song or writing in your journal, I think is really healthy.”
The Ottawa-native says she and Reynolds don’t hang out, but she is supportive of his new relationship and wishes him well.
In the meantime, she’s keeping busy with performances and an unusual book project set to collect selections of her free verse, anecdotes and photos.
Morissette says she plans to structure the eclectic publication in such a way that it can be read in a random fashion or from cover-to-cover.
“I’ve always wanted to write a book, I’ve wanted to do it for a long time but I don’t want to write a memoir,” she says.
“It’s scary, though. I’m terrified of putting everything in one spot. It’s one thing to write a three-minute song but it’s another thing to write a 200 or 250-page book, or however long it will be.”
Morissette, an occasional actress, is also set to star in the sci-fi film “Radio Free Albemuth,” based on a Philip K. Dick book and set for release in June.
She’s also toying with the idea of releasing independent music videos for songs that didn’t make it on the album. Morissette says these projects would likely be sent straight to YouTube, the same video-sharing site that helped make her “My Humps” video spoof an Internet sensation last year.
The Black Eyed Peas cover featured a tarted up Morissette crooning the club hit as a sombre torch song. Morissette says she did the spoof on a whim, after complaining in the studio about how difficult it was for her to write simple lyrics. She says it was not intended to slam the Peas or their sexy singer, Fergie.
As for her ailing heart, she says she’s focusing on tackling harmful patterns that lead to bad choices.
“You know, I always thought that my orientation – and some of this I think is because I’m a woman, and some of it is because I’m Canadian, and some of it is because I’m sensitive, or whatever – but my orientation was always to kind of look outside myself. And over the last year, especially, it’s just so much been about an inward-looking journey and really applying the wisdoms that I’m learning, not just singing about them, not just talking about them intellectually, but really applying them.”
“There is a little bit of an irony in that me, having been known for being so authentic and so direct and so intimate through my songs, I wasn’t always applying it to my relationships, so my challenge now is certainly to keep doing it in my songs, there’s no reason why I need to stop, but to start to really apply that courage in my day-to-day relationships, too.”
Morissette stops in Toronto on Feb. 22, and Vancouver on March 9.
Alanis Morissette heals heartache