At the end of last year, Alanis Morissette fans were familiar with her voice, but they wouldn't have been able to recognise her face to save their lives! Before a sold out show in the US, a crowd of would-be concert goers were searching for scalped tickets to buy. One desperado went up to a woman with long, dark locks and asked her if she had any tickets to sell. Unbeknown to the young lad, he was actually speaking to the voice of Generation X, ie Alanis Morissette herself!
Ignoramuses! Well, to be fair, there weren't a lot of pictures of the lass floating around at the time. And what photos there were, were purposely made hazy to make it difficult for her to be recognised. The video for the single "You Oughta Know" - the song which catapulted Alanis to fame and fortune all over the world - was purposely shot out of focus, while the snapshot gracing the cover of her Grammy award winning album Jagged Little Pill didn't help any either! However, since scooping four awards at the Grammys earlier this year (Album of the Year; Best Rock Album; Best Rock Song; and Best Female Rock Vocalist), the face and the long, brunette tresses of the 21 year old Canadian songstress have been splashed across television sets across the planet and are as well known now as her hit singles. "I've been told a few times now that I don't look like my songs," says Alanis. "People expect me to have purple hair, and a pierced nose and boobs! Then they meet me, and I'm just....me! I hate to let anyone down, but I'm not the cleavage sort of aesthetic babe. I've been down that road before, and that's not what I'm about."
Fans of rock's latest foxtress connect, not only with the raw power of her music, but also with the pure honesty of her revealing, and often poignant, lyrics. "A lot of times when you're immersed in something painful, you don't realise there's any lesson. A lot of what I wrote about was difficult times from which I walked away a better person."
"The record (each song being co-written and recorded in a day) is my story," says Alanis. "I think of the album as running over the different facets of my personality, one of them being my sexual self...By no means is this record just a sexual, angry record. You Oughta Know wasn't written for the sake of revenge, it was written for the sake of release. I'm actually a pretty rational, calm person." However, that's not to say she never feels a little vulnerable, opening herself up to the entire world. "It take s a lot out of me singing every night, knowing there are people listening to things I never thought your could even share with one person, let alone everyone." It may appear that Alanis Morissette is an overnight sensation, but she's done her fair slog. She has, after all, been cutting records since she was ten years old! So when it came around to having to deal with record companies, being an old hand at it, she didn't allow herself to be walked all over. "Since I was 14, I've spent a lot of time with people focused on everything except the music. For me this was not about the money or getting patted on the back. I met with some pople who'd tell me, 'Why don't you change this lyric and the kids will respond more.' And I'd say, 'I didn't write it for them. I wrote it for me.'"
After a stack of major labels turned her demo tapes down, Alanis and her co-producer Glen Ballard (who co-wrote Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror) met 21 year old Guy Oseary, A&R executive for Maverick Records (the label which just happens to be owned by Madonna). He liked what he heard and got his bosses to sign the lass immediately. So, just how much motherly advice has Mads bestowed on the budding young starlet? "I had lunch with her once," says Alanis, "before I decided to go with Maverick. Since then "she's sent me a blouse. That's it!"
However, Madonna's approach (or non-approah) to her new signee, ie keeping a distance, must have been the best medicine she could have administered. "She reminds me of me when I first started out," says Madonna. "Slightly awkward but extremely self-possessed and straightforward. There's a sense of excitement and giddiness in the air around her - like anything's possible, and the sky's the limit."
The sky certainly is the limit. Not only has her "real" debut album Jagged Little Pill sold more than 6 million copies in the US alone, tour and movie offers have been pouring in. But a cautious Alanis is not jumping at anything. "I just have to make sure I do things for the right reasons."