In 1994, Alanis Morissette, a teenager with no actual record deal, stepped into the studio with producer Glen Ballard to work on Jagged Little Pill, her third studio album, after releasing two with MCA Records (they kicked her out after her second flopped).
There weren’t such high hopes for the young singer, and many believed she would fade away. But when a popular LA radio station began playing her single “You Oughta Know” on repeat, the honest lyrics and Alanis’ raw voice made a lasting impression.
A Song a Day
Songwriter Glen Ballard and Alanis Morissette were a match made in heaven. Alanis wasn’t signed
to a record deal at the time, but she had dozens of ideas for songs in her backlog. The musical duo teamed up and began working on the album in a studio in Encino, California.
The studio was beautiful, with plenty of huge windows that let the sun shine on the musical duo as they brainstormed together. The space even had a nice, green garden surrounding it. Other than Ballard and Morissette, no one else worked on the album at the time.
They Wrote 12 Hours a Day
The duo would spend about 10-12 hours in the studio, writing music together and reviewing it. At the end of each day, a demo would always emerge. Glen Ballard shared what it was like working with the talented musician. According to him:
“She had bunches of journals, she had dreams of thoughts and ideas, which she did reference. But usually, it was only as a reference. Most everything, she was just writing it right out based on where we were going musically.”
An Incredible Voice in the Room
Ballard encouraged Alanis to sing her heart out, and not stress so much about the lyrics. “The most important thing for me was that she started singing early,” he explained. “I was hearing this incredible voice in the room, even if the words weren’t completely there. It certainly guided me musically – it was a really wonderful process.
The recording process came naturally to them. The moment Alanis began to sing, it helped Ballard finetune the music, better understand the lyrics, and come up with the final cut. “The words came out of what we were doing right in that moment and the conversations we had,” he shared.
Fame Was Depressing
When Alanis was younger, she believed she wanted the attention that came along with fame. But when she released Jagged Little Pill, she reacted quite differently. Instead of enjoying the stardom, she began having panic attacks.
Slowly but surely, she sunk into a harsh depression. Two decades after she released the album, Alanis spoke publicly about the time and said that the overnight breakout success of her album pushed her over the edge. It nearly ended her; she believes.
After a Lot of Work and Therapy…
“It’s taken a lot of work and therapy…” the singer revealed. “There’s been a little PTSD I’ve had to work through over the years.” So, what really happened after the album’s release? According to Alanis – “I didn’t know what I was signing up for.”
“I was already quite an isolated person,” she continued, “and it got worse. I became averse to people even looking at me. I was always a people-watcher, I’d sit for hours observing, and then all of a sudden, every eyeball was on me. I was horrified by it.”
Dumped by Her Record Studio
Prior to Jagged Little Pill, Alanis wrote two pop albums, one was a hit, and one was not. In 1991, she released her self-titled debut album with MCA Records. The album was only released in Canada and managed to produce three hit songs. In general, the album was a commercial hit.
Alanis was dubbed, “The Debbie Gibson of Canada,” a title she wasn’t quite fond of. The following year, she released her second album, which was considerably different than her first. While her debut record had mainly dance songs, her second had ballads. After the album’s disappointing outcome, Alanis was dropped by her label. They believed her career was over (she was just 17!).
Does Alanis Understand the Meaning of Irony?
According to Alanis, one of her biggest embarrassments is the way the world reacted to her hit single “Ironic.” Yes, they loved it. But they also laughed at her, saying that she completely misunderstood the meaning of irony.
“Ironic” was the third single released off Jagged Little Pill. It became the singer’s highest charting hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 and received two Grammy Award nominations. On being publicly shamed for not understanding the word, she said: “People bring it up to this day. And you know what? I didn’t even want that song on the record! But everyone else did, so I caved.”
You Can’t Do That
By the time the singer was 18, she had already recorded successful albums and released her chart-topping pop single “Too Hot,” for which she shot a music video in Paris. She also opened for Vanilla Ice, as well as won a Juno Award for Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year.
About the same time, she managed to book a gig on the kids’ show “You Can’t Do That.” Slowly but surely, she began discovering her true voice. However, Alanis was just at the start of her career, and she was about to discover that finding her true self would be quite… challenging.
She Developed an eating disorder
At the young age of 15, Alanis developed an eating disorder after some rude and terrible music executives told her to lose weight. It went something like this: Once she hit puberty and her body started to change, she was called into the studio to “redo [her] vocals.”
However, when she arrived, all they wanted to discuss was her appearance. According to the executives, if Alanis wanted to maintain a good image, she would need to keep an eye out for what she ate. From that point onward, her food intake was monitored. This obsession with her looks was absolutely detrimental.
She Would Sneak Food at 3 A.M.
According to Alanis, on video shoots, she would sneak cheese slices from the fridge in the late hours of the night. But she was often scolded because one of her handlers would always count the slices the following morning.
When she would go out to dinner with her handler, he would order a whole, large size pizza in front of her while she would only be allowed to order black coffee, no milk. Gradually (and understandably), Alanis became bulimic. To this day, Alanis claims she is in “active recovery.”
She Was Constantly Hit On (Creeps Included)
Teenage Alanis Morissette was often surrounded by adults, male adults. They monitored her food, her cash, how she spent her free time, etc. These adults were oblivious at best and downright creepy at worst. “I was a young girl in a studio from 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. every day till three in the morning,” she explains. “Y’know, you don’t leave her alone.”
However, the real issues began when she reached an “appropriate age.” At that point, those same creeps felt they could push the boundaries. “[At the age of] twelve, they were a little scared,” Alanis shared, “Thirteen, they were a little scared but they’d still… y’know. Fourteen, less scary but still scary. Fifteen, all bets were off.”
“Where Is My Protection? Where Is Everybody?”
Alanis describes a point in which every romantic relationship she had hit the fan. She believed that the dynamic that had suddenly shifted between her and the elder men was somehow her fault. According to the singer:
“I would be like, ‘OK it won’t happen in the first week for this one, but it’ll happen.’ And then, sure enough, it would. And it would either end the relationship or there would just be some big secret that we’d keep forever.”
“On the one hand,” Alanis continued, “it was the life of my dreams…[but] on another hand it was like, ‘Where is my protection? Where is everybody?’”
A Bag Full of Letters From Her Ex-Boyfriends
Alanis has a bag that could “fit a medium-sized child inside,” full of love letters to and from her ex-boyfriends. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, as the singer songwriter certainly has a way with words.
Where does Alanis keep this mysterious and nostalgic bag of letters? In a storage locker in her house. “After briefly unzipping it,” she reveals, “I need to sage myself tonight.” Does she peek at it here and there? Sure. Why not?.
Her Sweater Was Really on Backwards and Inside Out
Remember the line from the song “All I Really Want” about her sweater being all topsy-turvy? Apparently, it was based on a real moment. While recording Jagged Little Pill, Morissette was feeling strung out, as she and Glen had been trying to finish writing the album for quite some time.
She left for Canada, to breathe a bit, and when she came back, she walked into the studio looking “pale, rail-thin, and [with] her sweater on backward and inside out,” (according to Glen Ballard. “Even though she’s suffering,” Glen recalls, “she’s still got this thing.”
“Who Comes Up With That Sh*t?” Alanis, That’s Who
In one year, between February 1994 and February 1995, in just 20 sessions, Alanis and Glen Ballard managed to write 20 songs, 13 of which landed on the album Jagged Little Pill. Ballard, who previously worked with huge names like Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul, marveled at how the young songwriter was able to “turn phrases right out of her psyche.”
He revealed that the writing process was fast. He would play something on the guitar, she would begin writing, and boom! Nine hours later, they had a song. Fun fact: Glen was the only one pushing for the song “Ironic” to be on the final product. “For her to write ‘It’s like rain on your wedding day’… What a hook! I’m sorry, she just f*cking nailed it. […] ‘Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.’ Who comes up with that sh*t? Alanis,” he raved about her imagination.
The Song That Got Alanis Signed
Contrary to what many believe, the song that got Alanis signed by Guy Oseary was “Perfect,” not “You Oughta Know.” Her moving ballad was the first song she played with Glen Ballard for Guy in Madonna’s Maverick Records offices.
Even though they had plenty of other songs ready, they didn’t need to play more. “Within 30 seconds, everything changed,” Oseary recalls. “I was already floored. I had not heard anything like it. The simplicity of the way she was able to narrate yet how complex it was at the same time.”
She Was Held at Gunpoint Before Meeting Madonna
The night before she met Madonna, right before she was signed, Alanis was held at gunpoint and robbed. Her bag was packed with material with the potential to downright change her life – lyrics to “You Oughta Know” and some more cassettes.
Thankfully, the robber only snatched a small sum of money she had on hand. “I was pretty close to having to start the record all over again,” she told Rolling Stone. Today, she can laugh at that harrowing event, but at the time… she was terrified!
A Pre Foo-Fighter Musician Was Her Drummer
Before joining Foo Fighters, Taylor Hawkins was called to an audition for the singer’s touring band. The drummer received a cassette of three songs he was told to practice for the audition, including “You Oughta Know.”
After hearing that one song, he knew she was going to be huge. And as it turns out, another famous musician joined the band – bassist Chris Chaney from Jane’s Addiction. He was a jazz guitarist at the time and stumbled upon the singer by accident.
Hanging Out with the Guys Was Easier
Nick Lashley and Jess Tobias (who both played with the Red-Hot Chili Peppers), joined the band as well, and that was that, they were all set and ready to tour! This all-male band begs the question – why weren’t there any women with her on stage?
Alanis admitted that she had challenges with “women who wanted to be in my seat.” She added that there was a “scarcity mentality at the time,” explaining that there could “only be one,” and that for her, “hanging out with the guys was just easier.”
Her Band Seduced Groupies Behind Her Back
On the 18-month tour they set out on together, Taylor Hawkins said: “[It was the] most debaucherous” time of his life. While Morissette was out there promoting feminism and empowering young girls, her bandmates were backstage fooling around with those same girls.
She obviously had no idea how bad things were. Alanis would always ask them if they were being “good boys,” to which they would nod. But that just wasn’t the case. “We literally had a room on the other side of the arena, and our guitar tech would give out passes. […] We were trying to bang as many chicks as possible,” Hawkins revealed. They fooled around so much that, years later, Slash commented: “I heard you guys were partying harder than we were!”
Radiohead Opened for Her, and They Weren’t Nice
According to Morissette, Radiohead would take hours for soundcheck, and they were only friendly to the men, in particular to Hawkins. “The f*cking aloofness killed me dead,” the singer said years later; “I was dying from the aloofness.”
They wouldn’t really talk to Alanis, but rather, they busied themselves by cracking jokes with her male counterparts. Why wouldn’t they include her in their fun nights out? She was a girl. And they were opening for her. And they probably didn’t like her music either.
She Kept Her Experiences with Older Men a Secret
The reason Alanis never went public about the romantic relationships she had with older men was that she wanted to protect her family. Those early relationships, which she now knows were statutory rape, were a shock to many when they were revealed in her documentary “Jagged Little Pill.”
While Alanis admits she dislikes the way the relationships were framed in the documentary, she is happy to be able to come clean about the topic. “There was a lot of shame,” she revealed. “I would always say, ‘I was consenting.’ And then I’d be reminded, ‘You were 15. You’re not consenting at 15.’ Now I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah. They’re all pedophiles.’”
It Fell on Deaf Ears
Alanis didn’t always keep quiet about those men. In fact, she did tell a few people, but she said it kind of fell on deaf ears. “It would usually be a stand-up-and-walk-out-of-the-room moment,” she told Rolling Stone.
After the documentary came out and the cat was out of the bag, Alanis got many remarks saying “why did that woman wait 30 years?” But Alanis basically flips the bird at those kinds of people. “Women don’t wait,” Alanis insists: “A culture doesn’t listen.”
Engaged to Ryan Reynolds
If you’ve ever listened to one of Alanis Morissette’s songs (and if you’re reading this, I’m assuming you have), then you know that she sings a lot about heartbreak. Her unique capacity to translate those moving feelings into a universal song is just mesmerizing.
In 2007, she got plenty of new writing material after splitting from Ryan Reynolds, her then-fiancé. They met at Drew Barrymore’s birthday party in 2002, and two years later, they got engaged. They enjoyed the engagement phase, but ultimately realized it just wasn’t meant to be.
Always an Optimist
Despite being a self-professed love addict who takes breakups probably harder than anyone in the world, Morissette insists she has always had a positive outlook on true love. In 2010, a few years after her harsh and widely publicized breakup from Reynolds, Alanis met the love of her life, MC Souleye.
She married the rapper, born Mario Treadway, and today, shares three children with him. So, what’s the secret to a long and happy romantic life? Morrisette said, “flirting. Believe it or not, sometimes it’s as simple as making time for “dates, gifts, and compliments.”
What Her New Album Is Really About
A lot has changed since the singer released her last album nearly a decade ago. She now has three kids – Ever, Onyx and Winter. Understandably, her new album, Such Pretty Forks in the Road, talks a lot about motherhood.
Her newest single, Ablaze, centers around her children. During a live performance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, the star sang the song while holding Onyx, and if you listen to the lyrics, you’ll know she’s singing about her.
Insights Into Motherhood
In the song Ablaze, Alanis sings “They seem to easily forget we are made of the same cells,” which could certainly hint at the struggles of being a parent. She sings of her son who has an “energy so wild,” and about her daughter, she sings:
“To my girl, to your innocence and fire / When you reach out, I am here hell or high water / This nest is never going away.”
In the chorus, Alanis states that her one and only purpose is to keep the light ablaze in their young eyes. Alanis says the cord is unbreakable, and that they will always be a family. She knows that her children may have inherited her mental struggles, so she sings:
“It might feel dark, it might feel lonely, and you’ll wonder why you’re here / You may be overcome with darkness and a sense of hopelessness / But it won’t matter if you keep your core connected to the one-ness.”
She Is Stronger Than Ever
After all these years, Alanis Morissette has certainly grown as a person and has learned how to weather the storms that sporadically barge into her life. In 2020, she sat down with The Guardian and said that she has come to terms with her life-long dependencies on work, love, and food.
Now a mother (who has struggled with postpartum depression), the musician is in a much better place, and she thanks the people around her: “If I didn’t have a whole team of therapists throughout my life, I don’t think I’d still be here.”
Songwriting Lets the Unconscious Out
Nowadays, music is a whole different outlet for Alanis. “Songwriting is an exercise in letting the unconscious out. I live my whole life, then I take 10 minutes to write the story of it,” she explained.
While Alanis acknowledges her contribution to feminism, she still believes that there’s much more to do in order to dismantle the patriarchy for good. Still, life has become better for the singer. “I used to feel like a freak in every room I was in. Now I don’t feel strange,” she happily stated.
She Played God in Kevin Smith’s Dogma
Ahhh… Alanis Morissette played none other than the holiest creature ever – God. She starred alongside Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Janeane Garofalo, Chris Rock, and Salma Hayek. In Dogma, Alanis banishes two fallen angels back to Wisconsin.
Her dramatic ruling in the film brings about a chain of events that practically wipes out all of existence. Unsurprisingly, this fantasy-comedy was bashed and described as complete blasphemy by the Catholic church.
Just Friends (2005)
Another fun movie Alanis found herself in is Just Friends, starring her former fiancé Ryan Reynolds, as well as Amy Smart and Anna Faris. The movie centers around Reynold’s character and his journey from being a bullied, chubby kid to a womanizing music agent living in LA.
In the film, Alanis makes a quick cameo in which she argues with Ryan Reynold’s character. In America, though, the scene wasn’t featured in the final cut. It was featured in the DVD version of the film (giving fans all the more reason to go back and watch it again!).
She Kissed Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City
Sex and the City has some scandalous, groundbreaking episodes, we can all agree on that. But one in particular stood out from the rest – the episode titled “Boy, Girl, Boy, Girl…” which aired in 2000 and guest starred Alanis Morissette.
In the episode, Alanis plays a lesbian who kisses Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw during a spicy round of spin the bottle. Carrie is pretty reluctant about the whole situation and doesn’t quite know how she feels about homosexuality. This episode made waves across the nation for being one of the first shows to tackle such topics.
She Played Herself in Curb Your Enthusiasm (2002)
Curb Your Enthusiasm’s episode from 2002 titled “The Terrorist Attack” centered around the nation’s paranoia in the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In the episode, Alanis Morissette plays herself.
The episode centers around the singer’s benefit concert, and how it could be totally scrapped due to a rumored terrorist attack in the area. There are several fun references to her biggest hits, including the beloved, snappy, witty “You Oughta Know.”
Degrassi: The Next Generation (2005)
In one of the best episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation, which aired in 2005, Kevin Smith films his new movie in the high school called – Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh! In his film, the principal is none other than Alanis Morissette.
Alanis is given tons of super Canadian lines, including things like, “You’re gonna learn the dual languages of my home and native land, and you’re gonna savor my poutine!” This fun episode has been widely praised by both Degrassi and Kevin Smith fans.
She Narrated The Great Warming (2006)
The controversial documentary The Great Warming, filmed during the Bush administration, focused on bridging the gap between evangelicals and democrats. It followed certain communities that were severely impacted by the climate crisis and was meant to raise awareness of their dire situation.
The documentary was narrated by Morissette and Keanu Reeves. It received both negative and positive reviews. Some claimed that it put way too much emphasis on an emotional narrative, instead of discussing solutions or other practical topics. However, the film still played an important part in forming the evangelical environmentalist movement.
You Can’t Do That on Television (1986)
Morissette starred in the comedy sketch show “You Can’t Do That on Television.” For those of you who were born a bit later, this famous show was the precursor to All That. It was packed with funny sketches starring teens and was also the first show to use the infamous green slime that was later used in Nickelodeon.
Even though it was a Canadian show, Nickelodeon re-aired it in America, and it quickly became the network’s most famous show. The green slime turned out to be such a great prop that the network kept on using it years after the program was canceled in 1990.
Alanis Sang in De-Lovely (2004)
De-Lovely is a touching movie about Cole Porter, the composer and songwriter who created famous Broadway musicals like Anything Goes and Kiss Me Kate. Part of the movie shows one of his most famous songs, “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love.”
It follows the song as it’s being written, first performed during rehearsals, and all the way to the stage for showtime. Not only did Alanis sing the song for the film’s soundtrack, but she also got to play the one singing it in the movie itself. The song was such a hit on the soundtrack that it was also featured on Alanis’ album “The Collection.”
She Played a Superficial Fitness Fanatic on Nip/Tuck (2006)
In 2006, Alanis Morissette landed a reoccurring role on the fourth season of the primetime show Nip/Tuck. In the soap opera, she plays a lesbian character. This time, she’s a superficial fitness freak who tries to convince her partner to get plastic surgery.
The funny thing is, this role is the complete opposite of Alanis Morissette’s personality, but despite the stark differences between her and the character, Alanis played the role wonderfully. She perfectly embraced the vanity and narcissism.
During the peak of this show’s popularity, Morissette appeared in several episodes as Dr. Audra Kitson. Her character was an obstetrician taking care of the show’s protagonist, Nancy Botwin, who had become pregnant.
Alanis Morissette went on to play in eight more episodes, and eventually became a fan favorite of the show. In fact, many consider the singer to be one of Weed’s best guest stars. And they’ve had some pretty neat people on the show!