Avril Lavigne got more than she bargained for when she went in the studio to make her fifth record. She came out with a husband, too.
The 29-year-old pop-rocker worked with a mix of producers on her previous album, "Goodbye Lullabye," including her first husband, Deryck Whibley of Sum 41, and Swedish hitmakers Martin/Shellback. She was looking to switch it up this time by enlisting the help of David Hodges (Evanescence) and infamous Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger.
Recording started in late 2011, and when fellow Canadian Kroeger joined the process in March 2012, they soon realized there was something more than just a musical spark. Amidst working on songs such as the romantic duet "Let Me Go," they began dating that July, were engaged a month later and married this summer.
The self-titled album that emerged from the sessions put Ms. Lavigne back on the pop charts and the Top 40 stations with "Here's to Never Growing Up," a fun, formulaic single akin to "Complicated," "What the Hell" and other previous hits. Elsewhere, she reflects on high school days with "17," gets salacious with Marilyn Manson on "Bad Girl," goes Japanese techno on "Hello Kitty" and delivers obligatory power ballads like "Hush Hush."
Now, Ms. Lavigne, who came to fame as a 17-year-old with her Grammy-nominated first album, "Let Go," is on a tour that brings her to the Petersen Events Center on the O Starry Night (Star 100.7 FM) radio bill Tuesday with the Backstreet Boys, The Fray, Gavin DeGraw and more.
What was your general approach going into this record in terms of what kind of album you wanted to make?
I wasn't really sure with this being my fifth record, in the beginning, what I wanted to do, so I just booked some time in the studio and I got together with all new people. And then we would just walk into the studio and write a new song every day. And then I ended up with a lot of material, with working with new people, experimenting a little bit, trying out some new styles, and singing differently. It was really good, a really nice way to create. Now, as a result, the album is really diverse and showcases all the sides of me.
I wanted to ask you about a couple songs in particular. The first song, "Rock N Roll," were you thinking Joan Jett at all?
Not really, but it's cool because it does have a little bit of that, which I think is neat. When we wrote the lyrics, I said something about a reputation in the second verse [she sings it to remember: "Don't care about a reputation/must be living in the wrong generation"]. Yeah, it made me think of her, like an ode to her, because I'm a huge fan, and so it has that spirit, and she's definitely somebody that I think is pretty dope.
I think some people still think of you as a teenager ...
[Laughs.] That's a good thing, right?
Was it strange for you to do a song like "17" looking back at teen years?
That was such a big year for me and I always feel like in conversation, I'm going back and telling stories about "Oh, da-da-da when I was 17" or "I did that when I was 17." So, to write a song about 17, especially with that being such a big year for me, was something I wanted to do for a while. It's nostalgic, but it's cool because in the second verse, stealing beers out of the trailer park, was something I actually did with my brother, so when I played the song for him, I was like, "You gotta listen to the second verse!" and we laughed. It's nice because it really does take me back.
How did the Radiohead reference get into "Here's to Never Growing Up"? How much do you listen to Radiohead?
I listened to Radiohead for probably 13 years. I have all their CDs. I like Radiohead and I like Coldplay, and I like listening to their music when I'm at home, something that's on in the background that's consistent. It has good mood. It's relaxing. So, when we were looking for the perfect band, of course, it had to be the appropriate amount of syllables for that section of the song, which is four, and Radiohead was the first band that kind of came up. I wrote it with other people, so we were joking around, "How does Nickelback fit in there?" We were going through every band: blink-182! Nirvana! But it had to be a cool band that had the right amount of syllables, so I was really happy with Radiohead, because I didn't want to put a band in there that I didn't listen to but it just sounded good. It had to mean something to me, so not everyone was set on it, but I was. And I had an opportunity to meet the guys last year, so that was really cool.
How did "Bad Girl" with Marilyn Manson come about? And have you done a song as racy as this one?
No ... I haven't [laughs]. And it was a lot of fun! Hahaha. It was late one night and Chad and myself were with David [Hodges] and we were writing it, and David was like, "What are you guys talking about? What are you guys doing?" And I was like, "No, this is awesome. I love this!" Chad and I were heading in this direction lyrically that was somewhat flirtatious and sexual, but it was great, it was different. I love it because it's a rock song and then a few weeks later, I was listening to it and I thought, "Oh my God, it would be so cool if we could get Manson on this." So I called him up.
So, it didn't feel right to do it with Chad?
Chad and I had already done "Let Me Go," our duet, which is our single. That was the first song we wrote and he was already on that track. But no, I wasn't initially thinking anyone would be on the track with me. I recorded it and was really excited and we gave it the production, a very live feel and when Chad was out of town, it was just David and I in the studio together, and we were both like "Manson would be so awesome on this" and just made me think of him. I was so happy he came by and he just killed it.
In terms of your working relationship with Chad, what does he bring to your music?
[Pause.] Fresh energy. He's a new person to work with. And with this being my fifth record, I was like, "OK, all new people here." He's ... he's very talented. He's a performer, he plays guitar, he can get on the drums, the piano, he can do it all and I think it was just nice to work with another musician, another vocalist. He produced some of the songs on this album, so I had to do vocal takes with him, singer to singer, we could really understand each other and it was nice.
Do you feel that there's some unfair animosity toward Nickelback?
Um, I don't really think it's my place to say. I'm a huge fan of the band. And they're very successful. So, I really respect Chad as a songwriter as he has about 17 No. 1 hits ["How You Remind Me" is the only No. 1 in the United States] and I'm on the road with him right now and they have a lot of very dedicated fans. Right now we're in Europe and they just sold out the O2 two nights ago in London, and it's pretty exciting out here with them.
You've probably seen so many people who start young, who are teen stars and they head for disaster or oblivion. How did you keep your head together through 12 years of the music business?
I work hard. I try to create balance. I'm either in the studio, then I'm on the road. I listen to myself. If it's time for a break, time to breathe, time to go home, I make sure that I do that. I think because I worked so hard to get to where I am, I don't take it for granted. And I just really try to live in the moment and enjoy it. I think in some cases it can be really difficult, especially being a female, dealing with the pressures of fame, being under a microscope, you have to be careful. It's important to have good people around you that are real. In anything, no matter who you are, I think that's always the case.