You Live, You Learn.

MAY 10, 2018

Alanis Morissette on creating harmony in life and art.

Cast and team of Jagged Little Pill

What have been some of the biggest influences on your music?

I think that storytelling itself drives the melody and drives the harmonics. Then, my temperamental highsensitivity makes it such that when I write, it’s a very physical, visceral, urgent experience, and it all happens very quickly. I find writing music to be a way to be responsible for the current of energy and emotions that course through me moment to moment. Writing is the ultimate filter and processor. In terms of musicality, I’ve been influenced by such a wide cross-section of genres, mainly having been exposed to them through my parents playing music in the seventies. Everything from Carole King, Joni Mitchell to Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston—storytellers and activists who use music and writing as a means to an end, with the end being service. That’s something I’ve always related to.

You host a podcast (Conversation with Alanis Morissette) that focuses on wholeness and healing from a variety of philosophical, psychological, and neurobiological perspectives. Could you talk about why you began this project?

I started writing records when I was nine, and from that time—and in my twenties especially—I was given the message that I had to separate church and state. So, the more psychological aspect of me, or even the dancer in me or the actor in me—I felt that somehow these all had to be very, very hyper-compartmentalized. I remember that certain people who had a vested interest in the “rock and roll” archetype in me were terrified of the psychotherapeutic version or the academic version of me. So, I was constantly trying to figure out what hat to wear in what context. Now it’s more of a holistic experience for me. I get to be my authentic self wherever I am. I’m a musical person who is academically, psychologically, and spiritually inclined. I’ve always cared about healing and service and connection and recovery and attempting to find one’s own true voice and authentic self. It’s an ongoing journey on a personal level for me. And then, I happen to enjoy both being a student and being at the front of a room supporting people by facilitating, guiding, and teaching. So, this podcast addresses many of the things I love the most.

It’s clear that self-reflection and deep self-knowledge have been important to you for a long time. How does this impact your work as a creative artist?

For me, every art form that I participate in is fed by the capacity to go within and tap into the sensations within my body, or the messages, or the thoughts—the false thoughts and the real thoughts—or the wisdom within, the direct experience of a feeling. It’s a very receptive and intuitive process. That interiority muscle is infused into everything—it’s the engine behind everything I do. Whether I take a photo, or post something on Instagram, or collaborate with someone on a song—or in this case, a musical—the capacity to look within at the scary parts of my own humanity is what fuels everything.

Family plays a central role in your life, and you talk about your family and your experience of parenthood a lot on your podcast. Family relationships are a key part of the Jagged Little Pill musical as well. Can you comment on this?

When we’re traumatized, we are traumatized relationally. So, however or wherever we’re wounded in a relationship, it’s safe to say that we can be healed in relationships as well. I’ve been obsessed with what can create functionality within the three big relationships—the relationship with God, the relationship with one’s own self, and the relationship with others. I’m interested in the intricacies of those—where I am sleepwalking, where I hide, where I’m totally checked out, where I am terrified, where I’m present. The human condition is fascinating to me, and the more I try to traverse my own inner terrain, the better I’m able to support people while they are traversing their own as well. Whether it’s my children, or people who come to my workshops, or people who come to the shows, I’m able to understand humanity more and more in others when I’m able to understand it in my own self.

What about the upcoming Jagged Little Pill musical has you most excited?

I love that the album has served as such an incredible platform from which to jump off of, and to add to. This collaborative experience is my dream come true. I just think the team is crackling and incredible. The story that Diablo Cody is writing in her inimitable style— direct, poignant, layered, intelligent, hilarious; Diane Paulus’ genius lens, sense, vision and perspective; and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s soulful, wild, spatially masterful choreography: it’s truly a case of one plus five equaling 5,000. I like the community aspect of it; I like the interdependent aspect of how we are all working together. I have a sense of belonging, and I have to be transparent about the fact that that is not an ongoing thing for me. These are my people.

Interview by Elizabeth Amos, a second-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T. Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University

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