Alanis Morissette previewed her new album, Havoc and Bright Lights, for a few hundred fans last night at a sweltering, packed Sonos Studio in Los Angeles. Before a mix of industry, media and contest winners, Morissette began the two-hour event by showcasing four new songs off the album, including an exclusive track, "Big Sur," that will only appear on a special edition at Target.
Following the four songs, which also included "Celebrity," Morrisette made her way from the back of the space through the crowd to join Billboard's Phil Gallo for a 35 minute Q&A that touched on a range of topics, from the new album to social activism to her songwriting process and more.
The wide range of subjects was fitting for an event celebrating Havoc and Bright Lights. When we spoke with Morissette in the studio a few months ago she said of the new album, "All the things I care about – personal story, the spiritual side, the consciousness side, the rock side – every part of my artist came forth."
Talking last night with Gallo about her writing and recording process, she said, "I put my helmet on and hope for the best." As she added, "I don't know if I should get into . . . " a fan yelled, "Yeah, get into it!"
The space, not much bigger than a nice-sized living room, allowed for a lot of intimacy and encouragement. Among Morissette's main topics were feminism – "This is a great time to be alive as a woman, especially an alpha woman," she said – and activism. Echoing a sentiment she shared with Rolling Stone, she said, "Artists are social activists, whether we want to be or not." But she also believes that is secondary to having children.
"I think parenting is the biggest activism there is on the planet," she said.
Getting back to her songwriting process, she described "You Oughta Know" as a "desperate diary entry." And she addressed the subject of "Celebrity," a song that derides those constantly seeking fame.
"It's a composite," she said. She made sure to put herself in that group of "dancing monkeys . . . I love all the trappings," she said of fame. "I'm as shallow as you can be. I love my 16-inch heels."
With her typical blend of candor and thoughtfulness, Morissette held the room as rapt as if she were backed by a full band, rocking out. To reward the audience for their undivided attention, she closed the night with a trio of acoustic songs, starting with "Hand in My Pocket," during which she busted out the harmonica to tremendous applause.
She followed that with a lovely rendition of "Guardian," which, in its acoustic format, took on a peaceful, easy feeling. The encore wrapped with "Thank U India."