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to me. It was, ‘OK, this is what I’m sup­posed to be do­ing and this is still hap­pen­ing.’”

Lav­i­gne says she would record the songs at her home stu­dio with Kroeger, with whom she main­tained a work­ing re­la­tion­ship.

“Over the last few years, I’ve ac­tu­ally gone through a lot in my life, so it was heal­ing for me in that as­pect,” she says. “You know, you hear people talk about … ‘Oh, writ­ing, it’s like ther­apy.’ But it’s good to come to terms with how you feel and talk about it in a way, and get it out and ex­press it and put it down. I felt like it was em­pow­er­ing and it was, like, real stuff that I just felt, ‘Oh, this is cool.’

“I feel like people will hear this, and be­cause it’s so real that I just hope people pull strength from it. And that it’s en­cour­ag­ing, in­spir­ing, up­lift­ing over­all. So that was sort of the pro­cess. I did that for a few years, and then just when I was ready … lay­ing stuff down and record­ing slowly.”

Lav­i­gne says she “went into the stu­dio, I recorded. I shot mu­sic videos. I shot the mu­sic video for ‘I Fell in Love with the Devil’ – I worked 14 hours. I can’t even be­lieve I did that. I’ve come so far.”

Lav­i­gne has come far mu­si­cally, as well.

Her de­but al­bum peaked at No. 2, and by the time she got ill, she had five al­bums that all charted in the Top 5 in the U.S. (2004’s “Un­der My Skin” and 2007’s “The Best Damn Thing” hit No. 1) and sold a to­tal of 13 mil­lion copies in the U.S.

But the songs on her new disc are far more in­tense, and seem­ingly far more per­sonal, than her ear­lier ma­te­rial.

Her new sin­gle, “I Fell in

Love with the Devil,” could eas­ily be seen as a state­ment on her re­la­tion­ship with Kroeger. While Lav­i­gne ad­mits it comes from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence, she de­murs about specifics.

“‘I Fell in Love with the Devil’ is just an­other song about, ob­vi­ously, be­ing in a sit­u­a­tion that’s not very healthy, and tak­ing that stand — find­ing the power to re­al­ize that and to move on and rec­og­nize that and to just once again get … make a strong de­ci­sion for your­self. And choose a bet­ter life,” she says.

“So I feel like the song also is about em­pow­er­ment, which is a con­stant theme on the new al­bum.”

The ti­tle track, Lav­i­gne says, comes from “ba­si­cally feel­ing like I’m drown­ing and hav­ing to work so hard to come up for air to sur­vive and to stay alive. And that song, I wrote on, like, a re­ally dif­fi­cult night for my­self, when I lit­er­ally didn’t think would make it.

“So ‘Head Above Wa­ter’ is just keep­ing your­self afloat.

Like, hang­ing on, hold­ing on, and find­ing strength and keep­ing your head up and mov­ing for­ward and get­ting through what­ever your cir­cum­stances.”

With mu­sic that builds from a stark pi­ano to pound­ing rock and lyrics of des­per­a­tion that say, “My life is what I’m fight­ing for/Can’t part the sea, can’t reach the shore .. God keep my head above wa­ter/Don’t let me drown, it gets harder,” the song even hit No. 2 on Bill­board’s Chris­tian sin­gles chart.

It also has Lav­i­gne’s most emo­tional lyrics in years — per­haps since her 2002 plat­inum hit “I’m With You” — a song she says was the ba­sis for “It Was in Me,” an­other song from “Head Above Wa­ter.”

The new song was writ­ten with mul­ti­ple Grammy Award nom­i­nee Lau­ren Christy, who is part of the suc­cess­ful writ­ing/ pro­duc­tion trio The Ma­trix. It marked the first time Lav­i­gne had writ­ten with Christy since hav­ing a hit with “I’m in You.”

“I think that one will end up be­ing a sin­gle af­ter the tour,” Lav­i­gne says of “It Was in Me.” “It re­ally kind of has that same feel and vibe [as “I’m With

You”] ‘cause it al­ways was my fa­vorite song. I was, like, ‘Let’s do an­other one kind of sim­i­lar to ‘I’m With You.’ Same thing but dif­fer­ent.”

But the al­bum also is full of new mu­si­cal ter­ri­tory for Lav­i­gne. The song “Tell Me It’s Over” is a straight-up soul and blues song.

Asked about it, Lav­i­gne re­sponds with a gig­gle. She says that she was writ­ing with dif­fer­ent people, and for­mer teen idol Ryan Cabr­era brought the idea to her.

“I thought it was re­ally dope,” she says. “This whole al­bum is re­ally about the vo­cals and vo­cal per­for­mance, and go­ing back to my roots and re­ally just singing.

“It was re­ally like, ‘Wow! I feel like I’m back in church singing. And it felt so good and I had such a great time work­ing on that song. … To be able to sing a song like that felt re­ally good to ex­plore that side of my voice.”

Lav­i­gne says she grew up in church per­form­ing gospel mu­sic, and singing coun­try mu­sic at fairs. “And then when I got into high school, I was lis­ten­ing to punk rock bands, you know? I stated writ­ing my own mu­sic at 14, I was, like, kind of more rock-in­flu­enced.”

Speak­ing of songs from her youth, Lav­i­gne’s big­gest hits now are, lit­er­ally, half her life ago. How does she feel per­form­ing songs such as “Com­pli­cated” and “Sk8er Boi” now that she’s 35?

“It’s so weird — I love it,” she says. “Yeah, I just re­mem­ber that time in my life, and I think those songs are just so im­por­tant to me and my ca­reer. And I can see how much the au­di­ence loves them still. They just feel so good to sing, and that’s a part of me, part of who I was and still part of who I am to­day. And I re­ally en­joy singing those songs.

“I al­ways feel it’s im­por­tant to play the old stuff and all the hits dur­ing the con­cert, and then to per­form a lot of new stuff, too. But this show is go­ing to be this re­ally cool jour­ney from where I came from to where I am now.

“I have my life back. And now we’re go­ing on tour and I can’t even be­lieve that I’m say­ing that to you — that I’m go­ing on tour, how this is even hap­pen­ing. So just bit by bit, one step at a time, I get stronger and stronger. Keep­ing fight­ing. Keep fo­cused. And just keep my head up, keep my head above the wa­ter.”

Morn­ing Call Le­high Val­ley Mu­sic re­porter and colum­nist John J. Moser can be reached at 610-820-6722 or [email protected]


Avril Lav­i­gne per­forms on­stage at The Greek Theatre on Sept. 18.

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