Pop-punk's princess Avril Lavigne talks reclaiming her crown with upcoming album
Pop-punk's princess is back.
After exploding onto the scene nearly 20 years ago with her debut album, Let Go, Avril Lavigne is returning to the genre that launched her career — only now she's a little older, a lot wiser, and a lot less complicated. Her upcoming seventh album, which she plans to release "at the top of the year," celebrates how pop-punk is once again having a moment in mainstream music. But this time the singer-songwriter, 37, is doing it her way.
Below, Lavigne previews what fans can expect from her (currently untitled) upcoming album and why she's ready to reclaim her crown as pop-punk royalty after all these years.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You're back to your pop-punk roots 20 years after your debut!
AVRIL LAVIGNE: I know, it's so crazy. [Laughs] How did that happen? I'm really stoked about the new music and just in such a good place. We're all having so much fun. I really went back to what sounds I originally was influenced by at the beginning of my career. To the core, I'm a kid from a small town who listened to bands like Blink-182 and Green Day and NOFX in high school, and I tapped into that. But I also was writing power ballads like "I'm With You" and stuff like that [when I first started out], so this time I just wanted to have fun and rock out. It just felt like it was time to make this type of an album.
When did you first start working on this album?
A year ago, last November, I started in the studio with John Feldmann [the lead singer of Goldfinger]. I didn't have a label or managers at the time, so I got together with a bunch of my friends from the scene and just started writing. Usually it's like, "I'm making a record," go in and it's all planned. And I literally went in the studio and we just started writing a ton of songs and I didn't have a plan, and then the album came together. And because it was so organic and fun, I feel like that energy really comes across in the body of work. I had been talking with Travis Barker — we worked together like 15 years ago on one of my albums, The Best Damn Thing — and with this record, I was writing with him.
What was your inspiration for the new music?
I was just like, "Let's make a pop-punk record." We used live guitars and live drums and didn't hold back, and just got to do exactly what I wanted and what I feel like I've probably wanted to do for a long time. There's always a fine line when you have a label involved and they're talking to you about what radio wants and doesn't want, so it gets really annoying. I was just like, "F--- this." Back to live drums, electric distorted guitars. It's fast. It's fun. It's just pure rock & roll from front to back. There's a lot of reflecting upon different relationships that I have gone through and where I'm at, and even though there's songs about past love experiences that didn't work out, I'm in such a good place in my life that it's still just fun and feisty and light. I'm kind of poking fun at myself that I've gone through a lot in love.
Your last album had a lot of jazz influences and tread new territory for you as an artist, so why did you want to go back to the pop-punk genre with this album?
My last album [2019's Head Above Water] was deep and heavy. This album, I'm writing about love and reflecting on the last couple of years and what I've been through and my ups and downs. I wanted to keep it light and playful, which is more of a reflection of where I am today. I am comfortable and happy with who I am today, but I still go through the same struggles and I want people to feel empowered. My message is know who you are and trust who you are. A lot of these songs are about having the strength to walk away if someone doesn't see that. I wanted to make sure I wrote music that people could relate to. It's about valuing yourself and knowing you're enough. It's really a love letter to women.
And this is the most alternative record I've made from front to back. Most of my albums have like pop songs, ballads, and it's quite diverse. The people I worked with really understood me and come from that genre of music, like John Feldmann is the lead singer of Goldfinger and Travis is from Blink. I felt like I got to just work with people I know or people that are my vibe. Sometimes you get put with these professional songwriters and they're just not even cool. And these are the people that are cool — they're authentic, they're real, they come from the punk scene. We all complemented each other. In a weird way, I felt like I was back in high school hanging out with the type of people I grew up with, and it was just effortless. We're just a bunch of band kids — this is what we've been doing since we were all in high school, and we're still doing it now because we love music.
You were one of the catalysts for the early-2000s pop-punk explosion. Why do you think we're seeing the genre's resurgence now?
It's really cool to see it become more popular right now. Pop-punk feels more popular than it's ever been, in a way. it's kind of like a soundtrack to our youth. These days there's so many cool, different collaborations, and it bridges the gap between then and now. On my record, I'm working with some bands that have been around for a while and then also some artists that are having their big moment now. I worked with Willow Smith, and it's great to see somebody like her, another female, in this genre at the moment killing it.
You released "Bite Me" from this album back in November. What made that song the perfect first single?
That just had a little bite to it. [Laughs] It sets the tone of the record. It was actually really hard to choose the first single, so we went with "Bite Me" because that was our more alternative song and this is the first time I've gone to alternative radio vs. top 40. I think every song on the record could have been a single, but this just felt like a good lead for our alternative run.
You have a song coming out with Machine Gun Kelly on this album. What was it like working with him?
That was a really fun day in the studio around the Christmas holidays [last year]. He pulled up to the studio and he had his guitar, brought in an idea, and we wrote the song together with John Feldmann and Mod Sun. It just kind of turned into a song that we were singing together. I'm really looking forward to releasing this feature, it's one of my favorite songs off the new record.
You also worked with blackbear for a song on the album. How did that one come together?
That one was different. We went for a different approach musically and stylistically. I'm a huge blackbear fan, and so we had reached out to him. I actually have not met him yet. I sent him the song and he recorded his part and really took it to the next level. His lyrics are so genius. It's actually really cool to write a song and send it to another artist and then he wrote his part and it was like summing up what I said but a different take on it and from a guy's perspective. I just thought he was genius, lyrically.
What can you reveal about the other songs we'll hear on the album — or what it will be called?
Honestly, I'm going back and forth on the title for the record at the moment. There are a few other features, some iconic musicians that have been around for like 20 years ago or more, and then some more newer, more recent musicians. Having all these features on the record has been really fun. I've been working with such a cool group of people from this scene, so there's just a lot of new and fresh energy on this album. I'm really honored to have worked with and to have collaborated with such talented people and successful musicians that I admire.
Your health had a massive impact on your last album, so how are you doing now? How did that affect how you worked on this album?
I'm feeling really good. It's nice to be at this point in my life, still making music, and I'm here today not because I have to but because I want to be. I just fall in love with music over and over. I'm really happy and feeling great and really looking forward to starting this new era.
At 37, you somehow still look and sound the same as you did 20 years ago. I've got to ask, what's your secret?
[Laughs] Thank you! It's really funny that people say that. I don't know if there's a secret. I mean, I've always been an organic eater. But on the other hand, I'm a beer drinker. [Laughs] So I just keep a really good balance in my life. But that's also because I'm a Libra.
A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly's January issue, on newsstands Dec. 17 and available to order here. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.