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Anything but ordinary. That's putting it mildly when describing Avril Lavigne. A skater-punk, a dynamic spirit, a true wild child. One of those rare creatures who started wowing people with her voice and character at around age 2. She was in many talent shows as a child. She got her first guitar at a young age.
"I always knew this was what I had to do," she says. "I remember when I was really young, standing on my bed like it was a stage, singing at the top of my lungs and visualizing thousands of people surrounding me". She segued from her bedroom to singing, well, whenever and wherever she could-starting in church singing gospel music, and on to festivals, then singing country music at fairs and talent contests-until she was discovered by Arista Records.
She broke out of Napanee, Ontario when she was 16. She had been writing her own songs ever since she got her first guitar and has been skateboarding ever since she was 14. A startlingly up-front and outrageous 17-year-old with everything it takes to reach stardom-completely on her own terms. "I'm just coming out and I'm going to clearly be myself-I write what I feel, I never worry what others think, " Avril avows. "I'm gonna dress what's me, I'm gonna act what's me and I'm gonna sing what's me".
Avril does exactly that on her debut CD, Let Go, flaunting sassy vocals, a crystal clear voice with real-girl lyrical style. "Anything But Ordinary" is a rockin' ode to individuality, while guitar-driven first single, "Complicated," is a simple song that kicks pretenders to the curb. The string-inflected "I'm With You" reaches out for connection to reflect Avril's more mellower side, but tracks like "Losing Grip" and "Unwanted" courageously confront rejection and betrayal with all the heaviness such subjects demand. Then there's "My World" and the metaphoric "Mobile," which perfectly articulate the Avril experience. "I have this awesome opportunity to fulfill my dream. I am all over the place, flying here and there, going through different stuff every day," she explains. "This is my lifestyle, but I wouldn't want a normal life or I'd get bored".
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While she was in New York, she got signed to Arista Records by L.A Reid. "I don't like it when people say that Antonio "L.A" Reid discovered me. I discovered myself." Avril says. It pisses her off if anyone says something about L.A discovering her. This seventeen year old is very unique. She wrote every single one of her songs. "Everytime I got home, I went to my guitar and wrote a song about what happened to me that day. I don't care if nobody cares because it's the way I'm feeling and that's what I'm going to write about." Avril says, about the inspiration for her songs. That's what makes Avril so unique. She writes her own songs and she refuses to do something that she doesn't want to do. For instance, take a photo shoot. "At one photo shoot, they tried to glam me all up and I didn't like it. They just wouldn't listen to me." she says.
Although Avril virtually lived in the studio during that New York stint, her efforts didn't pay off at first. "I started working with these really talented people, but I just wasn't feeling it; the songs weren't representative of me," she admits. "Then they started talking about having people write for me, but I had to write myself. I had to do my music. It was a really stressful time, but I never considered giving up." Instead, she flipped coasts. Los Angeles gave Avril the fresh start she needed.
It was there that she hooked up with producer/songwriter Clif Magness, and "I was like, "Yeah! I've found my guy!'" she enthuses. "We totally clicked, because he just let me guide; he really understood me and let me do my thing." The songs for Let Go began pouring out, with Magness at the helm as well as up-and-coming production team the Matrix. Soon after Avril hooked up with Nettwerk Management who've steered the careers of Sarah McLachlan, Dido, Coldplay, Barenaked Ladies and Sum 41.
Avril couldn't be happier with the way the album turned out. "In this past year I've really grown as a writer. 'Complicated' wasn't written about anyone in particular. It is basically about life, people being fake and relationships." As to one of her favorite tracks, "Losing Grip," she says, "That is definitely one of my ex-boys-he didn't give me what I needed emotionally." Avril laughs, "It doesn't matter now, and plus I got a good song out of it."
Her album "Under My Skin" opens with the dramatic tracks "Take Me Away" and "Together," which set the scene for the kick-ass guitars and radio-ready chorus of "Don't Tell Me," a song of willful female empowerment that picks up where "Complicated" left off. From there it's a one-two punch of three-chord guitar licks ("He Wasn't") and head-bopping optimism ("Who Knows") alongside swirling, brooding melodies ("Freak Out") and moody tracks ("Forgotten," "Nobody's Home") that reveal a darker side of Avril Lavigne.
"I grew up so much in the past two years," admits the Napanee, Ontario, native. "I've been through a lot, I've learned a lot, and experienced a lot both good and bad. These songs are about all of that, and each is very personal to me." Working with producers, Butch Walker (of the Marvelous 3), Raine Maida (of Our Lady Peace), Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Pearl Jam), Avril co-wrote the dozen introspective songs on Under My Skin in near secrecy. "I'd just come off my world tour and got back to Toronto and was writing right away," the 19-year-old says. "I had no idea what I was going to do. No one did. People wondered if I'd run out of things to write about, but it was the opposite."
After a lunch date with fellow Canadian singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk turned into a major chick-bonding session, Avril and Chantal sat down to write. The chemistry was ineffable. "We got together one night and all of a sudden we had a song," she says. "No one knew what I was up to, not my management, not my label." The duo got together the next night and wrote another song. "We did that for two weeks and wrote 12 songs." Momentum took over and by summer Avril was moving into Chantal and her husband Raine Maida's Malibu house to record. "I was only off my tour for a couple of weeks, and I was ready to record," Avril recalls.
The California air provided a needed escape from Avril's frantic life. "It was a great time for me, living out there, being out of the public eye, and having my independence. And my friendship with Chantal evolved into one of the best I've ever had." Chantal and Avril would spend all night in the studio perfecting the songs. During the day, Avril learned the city by driving to and from the studio and wherever she needed to be. No photos, no interviews, no pressure. Eventually they recorded most of the songs in Raine's studio, and those songs appear unaltered on Under My Skin. The rest of the tracks, co-written with her guitarist Evan Taubenfeld (and one track with former Evanescence guitarist Ben Moody), were cut just up the road. "I was involved in every aspect of making this record. I'm very hands-on," she says. "I knew how I wanted the drums, the guitar tones, and the structures to be. I understand the whole process so much better this time because I've been through it. I'm really picky with my sound."
Picking favorites out of her 12 hand-made babies is another matter. "They all mean so much to me, but I love 'Together,' which is all about being in a relationship and knowing it's not right. It's a song that basically says, it's not working out honey." A couple of other tracks mine dysfunctional relationships and have hooks as catchy as those on "Complicated" and real-life narratives (like "Sk8er Boi"), but what truly underscores Avril's growth are the more positive tracks, such as "Who Knows" and "Take Me Away." "I guess that's just the way that I am now," admits the former supposed attitude junkie. Deep, piano-driven tracks like "Together" and "Forgotten" reflect Avril's growth, maturity, and change since the release of Let Go. "I'm happy with what I'm doing and have faith that everything is going to work out for the best." She's also found a feminine side to offset her well-publicized tomboyishness. "I'm such a chick. I'm a hopeless romantic, and surprisingly old-fashioned," Avril laughs. "That's why I wrote a song about not giving it up to just any guy ["Don't Tell Me"]." Girly quirks aside, Avril's anxious to get the show on the road. "It feels so good to be singing new songs," she says. "I feel refreshed and I'm looking forward to the next thing."
Optimistic or melancholic, Avril's two-year wild-ride on the rock-star express has shaped her world view and taught her a whole lot about balance. "The songs on Under My Skin are definitely deeper than those on Let Go," she says, "But I still love a good pop song. I'm basically just a girl who likes to write, who likes to rock out, and who wants music to be a part of my life forever."
But Avril's music is capable of reaching the girls and the guys, and more than a few adventurous adults too-and she's chomping at the bit to bring it to 'em. "I can't wait to be out there; I want to rock the world! I want people to know that my music is real and honest - it came from my heart. I was just being true to myself."