Avril Lavigne: the Beatweek interview – Goodbye Lullaby, hello to taking control
April 25, 2011 by Bill Palmer
by Bill Palmer
“I was really just writing them for me,” she says of the fact that the majority of the songs on her new album are unlike anything fans have come to expect from an Avril Lavigne record. Goodbye Lullaby may be most popularly known for the punk-pop single What The Hell, but it doesn’t tell the full story. Her fourth record, for the most part, sees Avril taking control: she wrote most of the songs without outside collaborators, and even did some of the production work herself. The result is a record with more acoustic ballads than rockers, and now everyone gets to see Avril from both sides.
“The record company wanted a more pop song, kind of like my older stuff,” she says candidly of where What The Hell came from. “That is a side of me, rocking out on stage, running around fist pumping, jumping, and I love to do that, but I also love to just be solo at a piano and sing or an acoustic guitar. That’s just another side of me. I didn’t want to make the same record over and over, so this is where I’m at creatively. When you hear the majority of the songs on this album, it’s a different tone than my other records, a different vibe, and that’s just where I’m at today as a twenty-six year old and as an artist.”
Avril’s evolution is apparent by the album’s third track. Even as the song Push delivers blunt lyrics like ‘If you fuck this up then go take a hike,’ the song presents itself with a gentle sounding tone as a result of a conscious decision she made during the writing process. “When I write a song I usually just write it on the acoustic guitar, and you can take any song in any direction,” she explains. “It could have been an aggressive fast song. It could have been a song that’s more acoustic. It’s kind of like I took the direction in a more acoustic but still pop song. I think just lyrically it explains itself. It’s a very up front lyric, a very honest lyric, and it’s an emotion of frustration but it’s also positive, like hey we love each other, let’s not sweat the small stuff.”
But the back half of Goodbye Lullaby is where the evolution comes full circle. Songs like I Love You and Remember When, which Avril wrote on her own without any outside co-writers, sound like they’re straight out of the singer-songwriter genre. So why now? “I’ve always written songs on my own and I’ve just never recorded them. It was time. I was like, you know what? I’ve got to put my songs on this record,” she says. “I didn’t want to think about the pop world so much, and I didn’t want to analyze what was happening on radio. I just wanted to be true to the emotion of the songs and the instruments and make everything in its most natural form. So it was a very organic process of the writing and the recording, very real. It was like okay, I’m gonna write this song because this is the song I’m gonna write, not I’m writing this for radio and it needs to be all whatever.”
That’s not to say that Avril has left behind her pop-rock past altogether. In fact her upcoming tour will see her faithfully trotting out old favorites alongside the new material, despite the contrasting tones. “I love performing all of my older songs, especially the more upbeat songs like Sk8er Boi and Girlfriend,” she says of her biggest hits from her previous records. “This album is obviously a different tone and feel. It’s more emotional, more song driven. But what’s really great about my tour is I get to make it very diverse and have these more stripped down acoustic moments where it’s about me as a musician and a singer and a songwriter, but I get to have my full-on rock out moments with my crowd and be rock and roll. So it’s always great, and I think it’s very important to play your old songs.”
Even though her late twenties have seen Avril Lavigne morph into a businesswoman with her own perfume and fashion lines, she’s still finding ways to have fun in her live performances, sometimes finding ways to combine the two. During her recent performance on a late night talk show she was spotted wearing oversized glasses along with a t-shirt which pictured the same pair of glasses. “I’ve always liked wearing glasses since I was little,” she says. “So it was kind of funny because that t-shirt is my line, it’s Abbey Dawn. I was wearing the t-shirt and I was walking around my house and I put my glasses on because they were literally just there, and then I was like oh my god, this is too funny that I’m wearing the glasses with the t-shirt. I might as well just rock it,” she laughs.
The entrepreneurial endeavors, however, shouldn’t be seen as a sign that she plans to let up on the music side any time soon – or ever. “I want to do this the rest of my life,” she says. “I can always make these records that I make for myself and put it out there for whoever wants to hear it and check it out. I’m just so grateful to still have this opportunity to be here today.”
Avril’s willingness to take control on Goodbye Lullaby begs the question of why she didn’t go there sooner. “I’ve always written songs on my own. I actually tried to record a couple of mine one time, and I wouldn’t name names, but there were a couple producers who just kind of like pushed it aside, obviously because they just wanted to put their songs on the record.”
“I mean I always could do what I wanted to,” she admits, but this time “I went for it.”