Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MIKE PESCA, host:

A very public end to a very long engagement to actor Ryan Reynolds, check. Now he's about to marry one of Hollywood's hottest women, Scarlett Johansson, check. Oh, and they actually started dating just two months after you broke up, and she's more than a decade younger than you are, and check! Yeah, that's all the makings of the next anger-filled album for Alanis Morissette. Remember the first one, about a different breakup?

(Soundbite of song "You Oughta Know")

Ms. ALANIS MORISSETTE: (Singing) And every time you speak her name, Does she know how you told me you'd hold me Until you died, 'til you died? But you're still alive.

And I'm here to remind you...

PESCA: That song, "You Oughta Know," from her 1995 megahit album, "Jagged Little Pill," it got the Canadian singer labeled "the angry, white female of the '90s" on the cover of the Rolling Stone. Three albums later, and now at the age of 34, Alanis Morissette is still tackling heartache and pain through her lyrics. Her new album came out on Tuesday. It's called "Flavors of Entanglement." Alanis Morissette stopped by the BPP to perform a couple songs from the new album and to chat with Rachel Martin.

(Soundbite of reverse playback)

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

It has been four years since you have played this particular game, four years since you've done a big ol' studio album. You've been touring around, talking to folks in the press about this new album?

Ms. MORISSETTE (Singer): Yes, spreading the good word.

MARTIN: Spreading the word? Spreading the gospel?

Ms. MORISSETTE: Mm-hm.

MARTIN: How does it feel to be back on that horse?

Ms. MORISSETTE: It feels good. I feel like I've come out from under a rock, and now I'm out in the world, on, so to speak, and then I go back. Ebbs and flows for me, I have to rest and then come out and...

MARTIN: Space for yourself.

Ms. MORISSETTE: Yeah.

MARTIN: Do you like talking about your music?

Ms. MORISSETTE: I do, because it always segues into some sort of great default social activism, like talking about the things that I'm most passionate about. I always feel like artists, just in sharing their art, wind up sort of jumpstarting these conversations that are really philosophical and cool.

MARTIN: I want to get right to the music.

Ms. MORISSETTE: OK.

MARTIN: What are you going to play for us first?

Ms. MORISSETTE: I'd love to "Underneath" for you.

MARTIN: OK. Let's hear it. This is "Underneath." This is from the new album by Alanis Morissette. The album is called "Flavors of Entanglement." Let's listen.

Mr. ANDY PAGE (Guitarist): One, two, one, two, three, and...

(Soundbite of song "Underneath")

Ms. MORISSETTE: (Singing) Look at us break our bonds in this kitchen. Look at us rallying all our defenses. Look at us waging war in our bedroom. Look at us jumping ship in our dialogues.

There is no difference in what we're doing in here That doesn't show up as bigger symptoms out there. So why spend all our time in dressing our bandages, When we've the ultimate key to the cause right here, our underneath?

Look at us form our cliques in our sandbox. Look at us micro kids with both our hearts blocked. Look at us turn away from all the rough spots. Look at dictatorship on my own block.

There is no difference in what we're doing in here That doesn't show up as bigger symptoms out there. So why spend all our time in dressing our bandages, When we've the ultimate key to the cause right here, our underneath?

How I've spun my wheels with carts before my horse, When shine on the outside springs from the root. Spotlight on these seeds of simpler reasons. This core, born into form, starts in my living room.

There is no difference in what we're doing in here, That doesn't show up as bigger symptoms out there. So why spend all our time in dressing our bandages, When we've the ultimate key to the cause right here, our underneath?

MARTIN: Awesome!

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MORISSETTE: Thank you.

MARTIN: "Underneath," that's off the new album by Alanis Morissette called "Flavors of Entanglement." Much, Alanis, has already been written about this new album, and the story behind the album. And before I attempt to frame that or repackage what other people have said, I want to give you a chance to do that. How do you articulate the story of this album?

Ms. MORISSETTE: Well, there's two main themes. One of them is the unraveling of my internal personal world, hitting rock bottom.

MARTIN: Oh, just that.

Ms. MORISSETTE: Oh, just that, that little detail.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MORISSETTE: Hitting rock bottom, which was really chronicled in this record. And then the - I like to think, the rising of the phoenix ultimately at the end. And then, there's another theme of just really taking personal responsibility, rather than trying to change everything that's going on out there. "Underneath" is very much about that.

MARTIN: This came out after you had a pretty high-profile breakup with the actor Ryan Reynolds. What was the process like of writing this album? Did you - it just came out in one fell swoop? Did you have to kind of sit and meditate about what you wanted to say?

Ms. MORISSETTE: Well, sometimes I'll write in retrospect, six years prior, six months prior. But this particular record was written in real time. I was just writing it, every day, whatever it was that I wrote was happening in that moment. So it was like a life raft of some kind, because going to the studio was a way for me to, you know, really get it out of my body so that I wouldn't get sick. I had to just release, and journal, and write, and communicate, and art is my favorite way of doing that, through music.

MARTIN: Did you know it was going to be an album? Or at that point, were you just writing for yourself, for your own catharsis?

Ms. MORISSETTE: Well, I always knew it will be a record, but when I'm writing, I write for me. And then the act of sharing it is really an invitation or an offering for people to make it their own.

MARTIN: Is it truthful, this album?

Ms. MORISSETTE: Yeah, if truth means sort of autobiographical storytelling of what's actually happening.

MARTIN: Yeah.

Ms. MORISSETTE: I looked back on it a couple of months after it was finished, and I saw that all the stages of grief were on it. And what are they? They're shock, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance.

MARTIN: Yeah, acceptance.

Ms. MORISSETTE: I had no idea. When I was writing it, I was just writing it. And looking back, I realized that they're all on there.

MARTIN: Can I ask you more specifically about how you perform this album? If I were going to put out an album, and if I were going to write a bunch of songs about, let's say, a miserable breakup that I had, I would assume that every time I performed those songs, I would revisit those wounds. I would think about that person, and I don't imagine that that would be a very pleasant experience. Do you get to a point where you start to superimpose other images, ideas, people into those songs?

Ms. MORISSETTE: Sometimes, like "Straightjacket" and even "You Oughta Know," if I'm tweaked that day or I'm PMSing, I'll channel all that into the songs that night, to the point where the songs will be done or the show will be done, and I'll be exhausted and spent and quite happy, frankly, cleared out, so to speak.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MORISSETTE: But yeah, I don't have any trouble with the emotions that I sing from on this record, so revisiting them is kind of lovely, actually.

MARTIN: It's not painful?

Ms. MORISSETTE: No, no. I think if I were singing these songs a week after it happened, I'd be traumatized. But I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't put myself through that.

MARTIN: Talk about your decision to use really different textures and sounds.

Ms. MORISSETTE: Well, Guy Sigsworth, who produced it, and I co-wrote the songs with him, he's this technological genius. He's the kind of guy that will sit in front of a laptop, and he's this maestro, mad scientist, really. So he was really great, I think, at matching the content of the songs, sonically, so the landscapes he would create really matched the emotionality of the songs. So some of them were vocal-piano. Some of them were really kind of technologically crazy. "Straightjacket" and "Moratorium," those two songs are really...

MARTIN: Even, like, dance tunes.

Ms. MORISSETTE: Yeah, outright, which I love. I was sort of writing dance songs when I was a teenager, less autobiographical. So it's almost like a return for me. I feel like I keep looping back and back to what I used to do when I was 16 and then updating it in my 30s.

MARTIN: Cool. I want to ask you about "Jagged Little Pill," such a huge success. I love that album, by the way. I'll just come clean with that. Sold 30 million records, earned four Grammy awards, how do you live and create in the shadow of that?

Ms. MORISSETTE: I kind of don't. I always say, you know, how in "South Park" they say "Blame Canada"? I always say, blame "Jagged Little Pill," because there's such a precedent that was set with it in terms of sales. But in terms of the approach in the songwriting, an approach very consistent with how I've always written songs from the time that I was 19 onward. So that's sort of a go-to place that I go to. It's a really quick, accelerated process of writing. So that's consistent.

MARTIN: What would you like to play for us next?

Ms. MORISSETTE: This is the last song on the record. It's a song called "Incomplete."

MARTIN: I like that song. OK, let's listen. This is "Incomplete," off the album, "Flavors of Entanglement."

(Soundbite of song "Incomplete")

Ms. MORISSETTE: (Singing) One day, I'll find relief. I'll be arrived and I'll be a friend to my friends who know how to be friends.

One day, I'll be at peace. I'll be enlightened and I'll be married with children and maybe adopt.

One day, I will be healed. I will gather my wounds forge the end of tragic comedy.

I have been running so sweaty my whole life, Urgent for a finish line, And I have been missing the rapture this whole time Of being forever incomplete.

One day, my mind will retreat, And I'll know God and I'll be constantly one with her night, dusk and day.

One day, I'll be secure, Like the women I see on their 30th anniversaries.

I have been running so sweaty my whole life, Urgent for a finish line, And I have been missing the rapture this whole time Of being forever incomplete.

Ever unfolding, Ever expanding, Ever adventurous and torturous, But never done.

One day, I will speak freely. I'll be less afraid and measured outside of my poems and lyrics and art. One day, I will be faith-filled. I'll be trusting and spacious authentic and grounded and whole.

I have been running so sweaty my whole life, Urgent for a finish line, And I have been missing the rapture this whole time Of being forever incomplete.

MARTIN: The new album's called "Flavors of Entanglement." Alanis Morissette, thanks for coming in.

Ms. MORISSETTE: Thanks for having me. It was great.

MARTIN: Good luck with everything.

Ms. MORISSETTE: Thank you.

PESCA: And to hear more of Rachel's interview with Alanis Morissette and to see video of Alanis performing, check out the BPP blog at npr.org/bryantpark. And our musical guru, Jacob Ganz, and I were talking the other day and looking at the list of all-time bestselling albums. She's up there. "Jagged Little Pill" sold 16 million in the U.S.

JACOB GANZ: Sixteen million copies in the U.S. I mean, there are any number of reasons to have a problem with Alanis Morissette's music. Like, she's, for me, like, I'm, like, certainly, like, the musical snob in the office, and she over-shares a little bit. And she's a little over the top sometimes. But I know half the songs on "Jagged Little Pill" by heart, like, I just, like, you know...

PESCA: They were just part of life in the mid-'90s, and in the ether, and I don't know if anyone's going to sell - only two other women have sold more albums than her, Shania and Whitney. And that's it for this hour of the BPP. We are always online at npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Mike Pesca, yeah, got my name right. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR news.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: