This article originally appeared in the March 2002 issue of SPIN.
Alanis Morissette is at one with the universe. Thank you, Canada. She wrote her new album, Under Rug Swept, in her native land on electric guitar in addition to her usual piano, and it’s a welcome return to pop after 1998’s murky, PMS-ing Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. Apparently, the rock gods have been smiling on the 27-year-old alt-pop queen. In the past year, Morissette worked out differences with her label, Madonna’s Maverick; performed at a slew of charity concerts (pro-choice, clean energy, etc.); overhauled her personal life; and toured the Middle East. She even did a Gap ad. But, we’re happy to report, she still says fuck a lot.
SPIN: This record is much catchier than your last. Sonically, it’s closer to 1995’s Jagged Little Pill.
Alanis Morissette: Yeah, it’s more structured, which feels good. After the big overwhelm of Jagged Little Pill, Supposed was like my way of saying, “Fuck you, leave me alone, I just need to insulate myself”—not adhere to any structure or expectation that I felt coming at me at 100 miles per hour. There was a lot of pressure. I thought, “If this is what the artistic process has now become, take me off your mailing list.”
You’ve said songwriting is scary because it shakes up your life. Did this album do that?
Yeah. I hadn’t been writing at all before I started this record, for like nine months or something—not in my journal, nothing. To me, writing is like talking with God. So whenever I stop, I feel a separation from myself, from joy. I was feeling numb. I was in a relationship that I wasn’t sure was going to be continuing, but I really wanted it to. As soon as I started writing again, I knew that I had to put my seat belt on. I broke up with my boyfriend, and over the next eight months, I changed some friends, got a place in Canada, changed my bandmates, changed my dynamic with my manager, renegotiated my contract with Maverick, reinvestigated my spirituality, and wrote a foreword for a book. Started painting again. But the biggest [change] was my romantic relationship.
Speaking of which, was there any stuff that didn’t make your list in the new song “21 Things I Want in a Lover”?
Oh yeah! I have, like, 673 things. I wrote a new list the other day. It has to be updated after every guy. [Laughs] I want someone who can be a complete dork with me and have no shame and be really disgusting. Because life is just so fucking short. Without a map, I wander aimlessly. And infatuation just blurs the whole thing for me. So I can go, “Oh, spirituality is very important to me, and this person, no matter how much I want to fuck him right now, does not believe in God.” That list has saved my ass on a few occasions.
Are you interested in casual sex these days, or does it feel like that drains your mojo?
There’s a part of me that feels 53 years old and would just love to be in a committed relationship, and then there’s a whole other part of me that is very 27. I’m still on an adventure, I’m still investigating, I’m still defining who I am in every moment. I believe you can be in a relationship and be really free. I have a sense in the back of my mind of wanting to have kids a little later and stuff, but I’m not having kids anytime soon. These are the things that I write about in my journal. I have a little more writing to do, obviously.
Why did you decide to do a Gap ad?
My initial response when they called was, “What about sweatshops, and why would I do a Gap ad?” They said my payment would go to a charity of my choice, and immediately I went, “Oooh.” And then they said it was going to be a Supertramp song, and the theme of the commercial would be the encouragement of generosity and contributing. Then they said that Liz Phair and Macy Gray were doing it, and I love those guys. After investigating about sweatshops, I decided to do it. I think maybe some people might not know what led to my decision. I’m a capitalist/socialist/communist—I believe everyone should be allowed to be entrepreneurial… but it would be great if there were a cap on everyone’s incomes. You can make this many millions per year, and the rest goes back into the world. So that’s why I thought this was cool—money going from a corporation to a charity.
Do you have a salary cap?
Yeah, definitely. I give at least 10 percent of my income. I’d like to build that up to 20.
Do you ever think, “I gotta show my belly and get the TRL kids”?
In the mid-’90s, I was responding to the patriarchy and my anger and frustration and my eyes rolling, so I was like: overalls, jeans, not showing my body. Having struggled with body image and eating disorders, I was specifically not going to be overtly sexual. In the past couple years, I’ve started to tap into embracing my womanhood—but without feeling like I have to adhere to some stereotype of how a woman should look. There’s a part of me that loves glamour, and there’s another part that could go camping for seven months and wear the same thing every day and be dirty and disgusting and feel happy doing that. So to me, it’s just fun. And it’s also only one piece of the pie of what I present.
What do you think of the sexuality Britney Spears puts across?
There is an element of power in it. I’d just love to see the other pieces. I just miss them. Your body is what it is. All shapes and sizes are sexy to me, anyway. It’s fun to see skin, but what about the rest of you? Why aren’t those pieces being shared?
Are you sad there aren’t more female songwriters on the radio now?
The pendulum swinging is always so funny to me. I just watch it swing back and forth. I’m somewhere walking between it, hoping I won’t get bashed by it.