Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill oral history
Long before she found a black fly in her Chardonnay, Alanis Morissette was a child star who appeared on Nickelodeon’s You Can’t Do That on Television and released a pair of slick pop albums in Canada. She was a sensation in her country—the Debbie Gibson of the North—until her second full-length, 1992’s Now Is the Time, flopped. But the 19-year-old Morissette was undeterred, and she soon teamed up with producer Glen Ballard to begin work on her trailblazing Jagged Little Pill, an album that sold an estimated 33 million copies worldwide and collected four Grammys (including Album of the Year). But perhaps most important, Morissette, now 41, kickstarted a musical revolution that saw a wave of confessional songwriters like Jewel, Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, and others—in an era that predated the hype machines of social networking, Napster, and iTunes. In celebration of the album’s 20th anniversary, the key characters in Alanis’ unlikely rise look back at how her music helped define the decade
Alanis Morissette I was in Toronto for about a year and a half, going back and forth to Los Angeles having met a few writers. I was dating a couple of people over that year and a half period, so I was going back and forth. I got the call that MCA dropped me, so I called my manager and said, “It’s time. Nobody wants me here. I have got to go.” So I moved to L.A. and nobody here knew who I was, which was awesome. I listen to demos from the time before I met Glen, and there are some stunning songs. But it wasn’t my having arrived, as such, in terms of landing in my own narrative. I was still searching it out.
Glen Ballard, Jagged Little Pill producer I had been a staff writer at MCA since 1978. In 1994, I was making records and writing and producing as a full time job, and I got a call from my publisher who said there’s a girl in town from Canada, would you write a song with her?
AM A lot of people I was writing with basically had agendas, and part of the reason why I clicked so well with Glen was because when I met him, he didn’t have an agenda. Which was awesome, because as an artist when you meet somebody who says, “Let’s just see what happens,” that’s a dream come true for me.
GB She came over to my studio on March 8, 1994. I didn’t really know what she had done, and she didn’t really want to play me anything. I usually write on the piano, but I pulled out the acoustic guitar and I said, “You ever been to a club called the Bottom Line in New York?” She hadn’t, so I gave her a little history of the Bottom Line and how all these great artists worked there. And I said, “Let’s write a song about the metaphorical bottom line and the real Bottom Line.” I immediately could see she was conceptual in the way she approached it. So we wrote this song called “The Bottom Line.” I made the track right there with her, because digital technology was at the point where I could make a record by myself. We demoed it, and by 10 o’clock that night she sang it and she went home.
Morissette and Ballard at the 1996 Grammys.
AM We were both kind of giddy. We both have a similar style in terms of how we write. I don’t know if that’s been the case for other people he’s written with, and we just started writing music and lyrics all at the same time, really quickly, and it was inspiring. There weren’t moments where I thought he didn’t get me.
GB I sent it over to the publisher the next day, and they said they liked it. So they said let’s do another one. She came back and we wrote another song called “Closer Than You Might Believe.” Sent that over to the publishers, and they said, “This is working.” I don’t think either of them was a hit song, but it was enough impetus to keep working.
AM “Hand in My Pocket” and “You Oughta Know” and maybe one line in “All I Really Want,” those came from journals I had. But most of it was written in real time. It’s such a lovely way to write for me. It’s a song a day. If you listen to it, you know there wasn’t any premeditation. But if anything was premeditated, it was me thinking, “I won’t stop until I love this record.”
GB She came back in June of ’94, we wrote a couple of more songs, and then she went away. I think she went back to Canada. Throughout that summer, I think there was a confab for the MCA publishers, and they listened to a bunch of the stuff they had done, and they liked it, so they sent her back to L.A. She came back, and we just went nuts. I think on that day we wrote “You Oughta Know,” and I think two days later we wrote “You Learn,” then we wrote “Head Over Feet,” then we wrote “Hand in My Pocket.” We wrote all those in a period of about three weeks.
Matt Laug, drummer I walked into the control room, and Alanis was reading on the couch. At the time I was 24 or 25, and Alanis was maybe 19 or 20, and I remember feeling that Alanis was so much older and more mature than her years. It was intimidating. She wasn’t a snob, but she’s a very intelligent woman, and it was obvious even at that early age. I was older and thought I would be the more mature person, but she was well beyond her years, and you could tell in her lyrics.
AM “Ironic” kind of marked the end of the initial get to know each other demo writing and the real record. “Ironic” we wrote lyrically together, and the songs before then were written with Glen throwing lyrics out. I had written with people in the past who didn’t want me to write lyrics, so there was a part of me that knew I was a lyricist. Once we started getting into the hyper-autobiographical, it just became that way, because only I could write these stories.
GB It all grew out of a conversation we had at lunch when she said, “Wouldn’t it be ironic if a guy won the lottery and died the next day?” That was the way we started that song. We wrote it, demoed it, she sang it that night, she went home. I was really excited about it. I don’t know if anybody really liked it as much as I did, but I knew that was the one that really made me want to keep working with her.
ML It felt special in the room. We knew it was cool stuff and that the songwriting was high quality. There’s no way in hell anybody could have said, “This is going to sell 40 million records worldwide.” But in the room, we knew it was really good.
GB I had connections, so I started playing it for different people at record companies, and people said they liked it, but nobody would sign her.
AM I went to one meeting and I remember turning to my manger and saying, “I never need to be at any of these meetings ever again.” It was bad for me. Why am I sitting here hoping something will resonate, and it just isn’t?
GB I had a friend named Steve Greenberg who worked at Atlantic Records in New York. So I sent him the songs, and he called me the next day and said, “This is the best tape submission I’ve ever gotten in my life. I want her.” So she went to New York, and met with the people at Atlantic, and Steve’s bosses said, “We don’t want to sign [her].” Steve was crushed. He quit his job and said, “If I can’t sign this artist, then what am I doing?” We wrote a song called “Right Through You” right after that, and it’s basically her response to that rejection.
AM We shopped “You Oughta Know,” “Perfect,” and “Hand in my Pocket.” Nobody was interested. But we kept writing. I just thought this was the biggest dream come true, to be in a room where I’m writing and channeling, and this was really good, so let’s keep doing it even if nobody is getting it. I spent most of my life having people not get me, so it wasn’t new.
Ken Hertz, Morissette’s lawyer My partner Fred Goldring came into my office and said, “Are we nuts?” Like, what were we missing here? Nobody seemed to want to sign this girl, and we thought we were going crazy. We loved her voice and who she was as a person. I remember Fred was just standing in the doorway of my office, expressing frustration that it had become so difficult.
AM I don’t listen to music, because I’m usually over stimulated all the time. So I wasn’t really listening to anything at the time. I was definitely listening to Tori Amos and Sinead O’Connor. As a teenager I listened to a ton of music, but in my 20s I just stopped. So Glen had perspective, and I didn’t. I still really don’t. I’m always in a vacuum. But in the studio, Glen kept turning to me saying, “You have no idea, do you?” He knew something.
GB In January of 1995, we had no record deal, and we had all these songs, and I remember having a breakfast with her manager. We said, “Look, why don’t we just put the record out ourselves?”
KH She received a not-great offer from the one person who made an offer, and she was going to pass on it. It was a take it or leave it offer and it wasn’t very favorable, so we were all kind of scratching our heads thinking maybe there isn’t a deal in this girl. She was only in town another couple of days, and Fred was on the verge of wondering whether we should just give up. Guy Oseary was our client and my friend, so I suggested that she be introduced to Maverick.
Guy Oseary, Maverick Records A&R Madonna and [manager] Freddy [DeMann] were going to start a record label, and I think I was 17 or 18 years old. I came in, and I was managing a few artists and doing a few odd jobs and I knew they were going to start a label. It wasn’t even really a hire. It was just, “We’ll give you an office and we’ll see what happens.” So I was basically just provided an office and a phone.
Abbey Konowitch, Maverick Records General Manager There was no particular vision for the label at that point as much as there was to begin a label and have our toe in the water of pop culture. We had become successful, which was quite amazing, because boutique record labels or vanity labels were notoriously not successful.
GO The first artist I tried to sign was Hole. That didn’t happen. Then I tried to sign Rage Against the Machine and just missed them. I was down to the wire on both bands. And then luckily my third try at it I landed Candlebox, and that was really the start of Maverick. We had some artists we worked with, but Candlebox was the rock band that sold four million albums and that really put us on the map initially. It’s not what people would have thought stereotypically for what we may be doing. People thought we’d primarily be doing pop artists or dance artists because of Madonna. So Candlebox was the first real moment where people were like, “Oh, OK, we get it.” If Candlebox put us on the map, Alanis put us on planet Pluto.
Madonna and Morissette circa 1996.
KH At the time, if you were sending a demo to an A&R person, the typical A&R guy’s desk was covered with cassette tapes. Convincing them to listen to a 30 minute demo is tough, because that’s 30 minutes you’re not going to get back if it’s terrible. The other problem is you can only listen to so many things in a day if you want to do your job too. In any event, I called Guy up and said we have this demo that we’re very excited about and want you to listen to, and would it be OK if we sent it over? He said fine, send it over. So I called Alanis and Glen, and I had them meet me at Guy’s office. I walked into Guy’s office with them in tow, and he looked at me like I had three heads. What he was saying to me was you’re not going to make me listen to this in front of the artist, are you? And my point was if I send it over, there’s no guarantee you’ll listen to it in a timely fashion, and we were pressed for time. Plus if you hate it, then you hate it. I had nothing to lose. If he hated it, that would have been the end of the conversation if she was sitting there or not. But I knew he would listen to it if she was sitting there.
GO She walks in with this guy—I thought they were in a band together. I didn’t even know who Glen Ballard was. I didn’t know anything. All I knew was this guy and this girl are in my office.
GB I put an acoustic guitar in my car and we drove down to Maverick in West Hollywood. Guy Oseary was sort of taking the meeting as a favor, so he wasn’t necessarily enthusiastic when we walked in. We walked in and played him a song called “Perfect,” and 30 seconds into it, he sat up and was obviously interested. At the end of the song, he said, “I love this,” and nobody had ever said that to me about any of this. We were shocked. This has actually never happened to me. He didn’t play it close to the vest and say “We’ll get back to you.” He had everything to do with this thing being successful. Literally every major record company had said, “Yeah, it’s interesting, but we don’t want it.”
AK Most of the major labels, maybe all, had passed on her. And they didn’t pass on her because they didn’t think she was good, some probably thought she was great. They just didn’t know what to do with her. We didn’t either, but we knew she was great. We had no idea if we’d be successful.
AM Ken Hertz called Glen and said, “You have to come meet Guy Oseary right now.” And I said I wasn’t going anywhere because it looks like I just woke up. We were writing “All I Really Want,” and I was super dressed down. I think I was wearing sweatpants. Ken said, “No, you need to go now.” So we went to Guy’s office. We played “Perfect” and “Hand in My Pocket” and “You Oughta Know,” and Guy was in. He was freaking out. He was hyper demonstrative. He was also my age, so it makes sense that I was resonating with him in a way that I wouldn’t with a 57-year-old man.
GO They played me a song called “Perfect,” and within the first 30 seconds, I was in. In 30 seconds, I knew I wanted to work with her. I didn’t grow up on Dylan or Joni Mitchell. That wasn’t my era. This was the first time I heard anyone tell stories that way and express themselves in such a manner.
KH He stopped the tape half way through the first song to ask if the publishing was available. We obviously took that as a very good sign. He didn’t ask the question that most A&R people typically ask, which is “Who else is interested?” From the downbeat on the first song, he was into it. It was fantastic. It was a magical experience when you stop and think about it. It doesn’t happen like this except in your imagination. She was signed within 48 hours. That may be an exaggeration, but it seems like it happened almost instantaneously.
AM After I met Guy, Freddy DeMann and Madonna wanted to meet me. So I came in in my tattered dress and my maroon Converse and met them. I had just been held up at gun-point, so I remember going into the meeting and my manager had to say, “She was just held up at gun point. Give her a minute.”
GO Madonna identifies with female artists that have a point of view and are willing to take risks and willing to open up and be innovative and speak their truth. She’s always been supportive of artists like that.
KH I don’t know if the people at other labels heard all of those songs. Guy had the benefit of hearing a mostly finished Glen and Alanis record. That was the thing that was also so interesting, that she and Glen had gone into the studio and recorded an entire album. It’s not like they had to bet on her talent. She walked into Guy’s office and had that album.
AK My recollection is first hearing the song “Perfect” and drawn into hearing these lyrics that for me, having grown up with Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and Joni Mitchell, there was a voice, and it was so incredible, it constantly brought tears to my eyes when I heard these songs.
AM When I handed in the record, Freddy was like, “This record is a little too caustic. It’s too intense.” And I said, “I’m 20 years old!” And I told him if he wanted a record by Dan Steely, he should sign Dan Steely. And Glen was like, “It’s Steely Dan.” And I was like, “Right, whoever.” They had asked us to re-record some of the songs, so out of respect I did that. Production-wise, it just got softer. It was more like a 40-year-old’s record. It wasn’t me and didn’t make sense. “Right Through You” is a punch in the nuts, and you don’t want to produce it like a soft little Steely Dan record. None of them liked it, thank God. They were like, “The originals were better!” And I was like, “I know!”
Morissette with bandmates, Chris Chaney, Jesse Tobias, Taylor Hawkins, and Nick Lashley circa 1996.
GB It was a very small advance, basically no money. So there was a lot of talk about who is going to really turn this into a record, maybe we should get someone else in. And Guy said no, this is the record. He got Dave Navarro and Flea to play on “You Oughta Know,” and he got a guy named Joel Shearer to play guitar on “Right Through You,” and those are the two things he did to make the record better. He said leave everything else alone.
Dave Navarro, guitarist on “You Oughta Know” At that time, Alanis wasn’t a well-known artist. She was on children’s television and had her Canadian stuff, but she wasn’t known in the states or even in Los Angeles. Flea and I went down to the studio at the request of Guy Oseary, who was a mutual friend of ours.
GO They came on board and really gave that song that extra intensity that the lyrics and the rest of the production had. “You Oughta Know” resonated, and I think the work that Flea and Dave did on it as well really took it to another level.
DN We got sent a demo tape of the track, and it was really aggressive and real and raw, and lyrically she was talking about things we weren’t used to hearing at that time. It was already a written song, and I don’t want to say we remixed it, but we deconstructed it and then reconstructed it musically.
AM “Hand In My Pocket” is directly the demo. I had not played the harmonica before that. I had not played almost anything, and Glen would just hand things to me to try. I loosely say I play the harmonica. I blow into it, and have rhythm.
GB She never changed one vocal. “You Oughta Know” was one take, and I barely got it on tape, and it’s kind of distorted. Believe me, I wanted to change a lot, and she wouldn’t let me. She had made two records that had a lot of, “That’s not right, let’s redo it, let’s get more takes,” and I had made records like that in the past too. There was something so refreshing about just doing it and having it sort of stand up on its own. It was working beautifully.
Andrea Warner, author of We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ’90s and Changed Canadian Music If you listen to Now Is The Time, there are so many little moments that she hints at. All the moments that fill Jagged Little Pill with such fantastic seething emotional violence and tumultuousness of life, all those seeds are there in that second record, but you can feel how people were like, “No, no, you make pop music, and this is not what pop music sounds like.” You can really hear the pressure cooker on her in those songs. You either fail spectacularly and lose any ability to cope and carry on, or you make Jagged Little Pill.
AM I think I decided on “You Oughta Know” as the single. I loved that song, and I thought it might be easier for people to go on the journey with me from an intense place to a softer place, versus getting comfortable in the softer tender part and then segueing into an intense part. It might have been too jarring.
DN The fact of the matter is with an artist like her, her performance carries the tune, regardless of what’s happening on it musically, you know what I’m saying? It could have been a string quartet or a punk band or a blues band or what have you, and it still would have had the same impact.
GB I didn’t think “You Oughta Know” was a single. Honestly, I didn’t think any of them were. I’ll tell you the one we all thought was the single was “You Learn.” When Abbey Konowitch heard that, he said, “That’s a number one record.” There was a song called “Superstar Wonderful Weirdos,” and it was Steve Greenberg’s favorite song. He thought it was a smash, and we didn’t even put it on the record.
AK We believed that “You Oughta Know” would make the statement about who she was, and to be frank, with her unwillingness to edit and censor the lyrics, we were not wildly optimistic that it would be a radio staple globally. But we knew that those who heard it would know there was a voice and something very special.
Tami Heide, KROQ DJ I do remember record company people at the time saying basically they didn’t want to talk about the first two albums. Pay no attention to those albums behind the Canadian curtain. I think those first couple of albums had to inform Jagged Little Pill, and her.
AK I went and played it for Kevin Weatherly, and there is a funny story there. I went to meet with Kevin to play “You Oughta Know,” and I was waiting in the lobby of KROQ, and after waiting in the lobby for 20 minutes or so, I looked inside the CD case, and there was nothing in the case. So when Kevin was ready to see me, I had to vamp. So I asked him “Why don’t we go have lunch?” I told him there was no CD in the case and that they were going to bring it over to me. But as a result, I had the chance to talk to him about her. Kevin is brilliant not just at playing records but understanding pop culture, and understanding where people are in the zeitgeist. We knew that she was a voice of a generation, we just didn’t know if anybody would ever hear it. That’s how it is with poetry and that’s how it is with great artists. I mean, who knows if Bob Dylan would break in 2015? So I got to talk to Kevin and played him “You Oughta Know” and left it with him, and when I got in the car to come back to my office, it was on the radio.
TH I really liked “You Oughta Know,” and KROQ started playing it. We played at least two or three other songs from that album too. It was kind of right place, right time for her and for those songs. They weren’t pop, they weren’t grunge. It was kind of singer-songwriter throwback from Joni Mitchell or something like that. I think the modern equivalent Taylor Swift.
AK Howie Klein, who was the head of Reprise, had asked me to come over and talk to him about Alanis because they were not in the loop and they were Maverick’s partner. I came over and told him the story of how we were positioning “You Oughta Know,” and the idea was to have people hear about it and discover her and hear her point of view. We were not censoring the lyrics, so it’s unlikely it would be a giant radio hit but a song that people would find and discover. I played it for him, and my recollection is he was the first person to say to me, “Your plan is totally off.” He insisted that everyone was going to play this record, and he was right.
GB They sent the song to Kevin Weatherly at KROQ, the most powerful program director on the planet. He played “You Oughta Know” one time on the radio, and the phones went crazy. It was a hit immediately. Then they started spinning “Hand in My Pocket,” which is not an alternative rock song. We were trying to promote “All I Really Want” if they wanted another song. So he added it, and then everybody else added it. We had two songs at modern rock from a female artist at the same time, and then it was just a rocket to the moon.
DN I was driving in my car and this song came on, and it sounded vaguely familiar, and I was like, “Wow, this is kind of cool.” I didn’t put together that I was playing on it or that it was the same song until KROQ mentioned who it was, and I was like, “Oh wow, that’s very weird, that’s the song I played on not too long ago.” She would have blown up regardless of anything Flea or I would have done, but I’m glad to have been a part of that story.
AM There were a handful of people around the planet who I dated over the years, and they were all coming out saying “You Oughta Know” was about them. Dave Coulier was the most public declaration about it. I will never say who it is or isn’t about, but it was interesting to note that people were falling over themselves to take credit for it. You know you don’t sound like the greatest guy in the world, right? I keep coming back to this line: I didn’t write it to get back. Everybody called it the perfect revenge song, but that’s not what it was. I wrote it so I wouldn’t get sick. It was the humble beginnings of my love addiction. The withdrawal from love addition is probably the most excruciating pain. Having had many addictions in my life, that withdrawal is the most horrifying. So that song captures that searing pain. That’s it. It’s a devastated song, and in order to pull out of that despondency, being angry is lovely. I think the movement of anger can pull us out of things. Fifty-five people can take credit for that song, and I’m always curious about why they’re doing it. But Dave is the most public about it.
Morissette and Coulier.
AK We shipped 12,500 records, and in a hotel in Hamburg, Alanis said “When my album goes to number one, I’m going to shave my head.” And we were like, “When your album goes number one? We’re shipping 12,000 records! Let’s hope we sell 100,000!” Nobody knew how big it would be. There was a member of her management team who, after hearing the record finished, said to her, “This record is going to pay your rent. You’re going to be OK because of this work, and you’ll probably sell 200 or 300 thousand copies of your first record.” That was being presented as great news, because she was a square peg going into a round hole and she wasn’t playing the game.
GO I was convinced it was going to be big. I was aiming way higher than anybody else was. It was one of those things. You just know it. It’s like the first time you were in the car and heard Nirvana. That’s what this was.
AM When “You Oughta Know” first came out, a lot of the reaction from the radio stations was, “We can’t play this because we’re already playing Sinead O’Connor.” They were playing one female artist, so they couldn’t have a second. But that changed thankfully. It’s still patriarchal, but then it was really patriarchal. I remember playing festivals around the world, and it was me and 27 guys. And sometimes Bjork, who wouldn’t look at me.
AK Madonna was personally invested. Maybe not in the beginning, but by virtue of Alanis being on Maverick, and Madonna having a new record that we were able to leverage to get people to listen to Alanis and understand that we had the resources to move it, she indirectly had a great deal to do with it.
AM We did a show at Luna Park [in Los Angeles], and there were people there and it was a lovely show. Then I think two nights later we did a show at the Dragonfly, and it was during those two days that KROQ started playing “You Oughta Know,” and so that show at the Dragonfly, there was a line around the block and people were singing “You Oughta Know” louder than I was. Two days ago, no one knew this song, and now everybody knows this song. I was just hiding in the back corner while the place was jammed with celebrities.
AW It felt like a community. To know the world is full of people who self-identify as angry but hopeful but damaged, that was a revelation, especially compared to the other artists around at the time who seemed so polished and so unattainable. It’s something to aspire to that they had offered, but it wasn’t something you relate to. Like the big ones—Mariah Carey and Celine Dion and Shania Twain. Obviously there was this other big indie groundswell, but in terms of mega artists that everyone knows that you don’t have to explain to your parents, Alanis was the relatable one while the rest were aspirational.
AM I had this naïve thought that if I became famous internationally or even in America that I’d be hanging out with Johnny Depp or having lunch with Sharon Stone, but what happened was I felt more disconnected from people. I thought the opposite would happen—I would feel seen and less invisible. But that didn’t happen.
GB “Ironic” is my favorite song on the record. It almost didn’t even make it, and I kind of pushed that one to make it. I liked it musically, and I liked the playfulness of it, but also her take on what she says in the bridge: “Life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s going wrong.” Life is never what you think it is, and I thought it was a huge amount of wisdom from such a young person, to be able to look at fate and twists of fate. It’s a really astonishing take.
AM I might be the only person on the planet that wasn’t in love with “Ironic.” I almost didn’t want it on the record. I had snuck into this whole new gear after writing “Ironic.” It marked that turning point when we were playing ping-pong for real. I thought this one would go the way of the other early ones, but Glen insisted it was the greatest song. And I just thought, “OK, I’ve been wrong before.”
GO Sometimes people identify with what “You Oughta Know” is about. But there’s a lot more there. “Head Over Feet” and “Perfect,” so many songs on that album don’t have any angst in them at all. So the anger is just one piece of the puzzle. There are so many other aspects of Alanis that go far beyond just that one song. “Head Over Feet” is my favorite song on that album.
AM As soon as it became white hot, the hatred came out. Abject hatred, and incessant. There were websites erected to figure out how to kill me. It was dark s—. There was one UK journalist who wrote about a photo of me on stage with my hair flying around, he wrote, “She looks like the elephant man.” Like, why would you even write that? That’s just mean. So I quickly stopped reading anything. It was a survival strategy. And I still do that now. I have PTSD from it.
GB The “Ironic” video, one of my favorite all time videos, with all these different personalities in one song.
AM To this day people are still making videos shaming me and my malapropisms. I didn’t even think anybody was going to hear this song, because I didn’t think it would end up on the record. But I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, these aren’t Webster-defined ironies.” I knew that. But now if you look in Webster’s dictionary, and I don’t know how much I had to do with this, but they’ve updated the definition of it to include coincidences and other things that aren’t necessarily classic ironies. These sweet New Yorkers would be like, “Is ‘Ironic’ ironic because there’s not a lot of ironies in it?” And I’d be like, “If you say so!” I wish I could give myself that credit.
GB I went to a concert in Australia, and it was like a Beatles concert. I couldn’t hear the music. There were 18,000 women who never stopped shrieking. I was at the sound board with earplugs in, and there was this white noise at like 110 decibels, and it never stopped.
AM There were times when I would sing from the felt sense in my throat. I knew how certain notes felt, so for the better part of the first six months, I was basically screaming but hitting the notes where I knew they would land in my throat. I knew I couldn’t sustain that. We were on tour, and I remember Dave Grohl wrote on the wall “Decaffeinate, Alanis!” All my shows were so loud and intense, and he was like “Chill out.” And I was like, “You chill out!”
GB That tour nearly killed her. She was riding a wave, and it just kept getting bigger, and they kept releasing singles from the album. It couldn’t be stopped.
AM One part of me was psyched to win Grammys, and another part of me was really conflicted because it went against my value system. It was pitting artists against one another, and of course I’m going to show up, but this runs counter to what I really believe. In my mind, I’d reference the ’60s and ’70s. I guess there was a rivalry between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, but I can’t imagine Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez and all these women competing. Does Carole King give a f—whether she’s deemed higher or lower than anybody? I think not.
AK The overnight sensation is usually well overstated, and usually incorrect. Most overnight sensations have been years in the making. What comes to mind is Adele, she was that phenomenon like Alanis was that touched people everywhere, and people believed that they discovered her, and meanwhile she had previous records and worked very hard. But I believe that Alanis would have been successful in any age.
ML Alanis was the start of a lot of the wave of women artists who came up, and I think she gave a lot of those women the confidence to go, “Yeah, we can do this, we can voice our opinion and be honest and rock at the same time.” That started that whole phase of ’90s organic rock for women.
KH I would argue that Tracy Bonham’s [“Mother Mother”] would have never gone to radio were it not for Alanis. That whole style was inspired by the success of Alanis.
AM It was the greatest. And it wasn’t just women: Elliott Smith and all these people were saying thank you. All these male artists were saying I was basically giving them permission to write about the most vulnerable, the most embarrassing, the most harrowing, the most personal. That was great news, because then they could be themselves.
GO This is a classic album. When you talk about music and people think about that album, they always have really fond memories of it. It’s a soundtrack to that year. That year, there’s a good chance you listened to it and you owned it and you loved it.
GB It’s fun that 20 years on, people can still look back on it and go, “That was a significant record.” Hit records are hit records and nostalgia is nostalgia, but I think this was a real significant record in the culture.
AM I love this record. I like the timelessness of the lyrics. I think the vocal performance of the 21-year-old is a little intense and a little immoderate, but I was immoderate then. I’m barely moderate now.