Million dollar lady
It's been a heady year for pop-rock princess Avril Lavigne. Her third album, The Best Damn Thing, sold a million copies in a matter of weeks when it was released in April and topped charts around the world.
She then rewarded her fan clubs with a series of exclusive performances, including a wildly well-received night at Hong Kong's Hitec in May. And, for the past week or so, the Canadian singer-songwriter has been returning to select Asian cities for bigger gigs.
But it hasn't all been about staggering sales and screaming hordes. Lavigne has weathered a storm during the past few months, after accusations - denied on her website - that a few of her songs weren't exactly original. Since then, the 23-year-old has been reluctant to face the issue in public - or to answer a series of other questions by e-mail ahead of her return to Hong Kong this weekend.
The plagiarism accusation is off limits, judging by the unanswered questions, as is any interest in her image (apart from what clothes she wears), her family's religious background, how she handles the madness of the music world, or even how she copes with the constant media attention.
Lavigne seems content to let her music do the talking. And well she might, with close to 30 million copies of her records sold since her 2002 debut album, Let Go.
The public swooped on her post-grunge style of powdered-down punk, the single Complicated becoming an anthem for a generation of young girls looking for music that came with more grunt than Britney & Co could offer. Lavigne says her style comes from a childhood of listening to various types of music, but she counts bands such as Green Day as an influence.
'I started playing the guitar [when I was] around seven years old,' she says. 'My dad had a guitar. I was curious and picked it up. Plus, I loved to sing. I didn't have any guitar teachers, but I took piano lessons for a few years when I was younger. The first song I learned was the Lenny Kravitz song Fly Away and also Knockin' on Heaven's Door. I always felt like I had music in my soul [and] I automatically started writing.'
Lavigne first got up on stage while living in Napanee, Onatario, and says she knew which road her life would take from the very first note. 'I remember feeling so excited and knowing that this is what I always want to do.'
She was signed by her first agent at 16, and it took her just two years to hit the recording studio - and the top of the charts. Whereas Lavigne's debut was a sensation, her second studio album established her as one of the most powerful forces in pop.
Under My Skin (2004) brought a sharper tone to Lavigne's pop sensibilities and made its debut at the top of the US charts. She shared most of the writing credits on the album, with the likes of ex-Evanescence singer Ben Moody adding his influence, helping to give the album some rougher edges.
'I'm inspired and get ideas from everything: relationships, friendships, experiences from everyday life,' she says. 'It's really not limited in any way. My lyrics are a summary of my thoughts and feelings, without giving away all the details.'
She toured almost constantly for a year after Under My Skin's release, but still found time to marry Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley. When it was time to return to the studio, Lavigne says she realised she'd changed a lot.
'Three years has passed since I did Under My Skin,' she says. 'I think it's very natural to grow in all areas of your life over such a time period. I'm in a very different place in my life now than I was then. I'm so excited about this album. It's fun, playful, upbeat. My last record was darker. This record has a very different vibe. I had so much fun.'
Lavigne has said that the album was fuelled by 'Jager, limoncello, vodka and beer', which may help to explain why she had so much fun recording it.
Once the Asia tour is over, she'll return to the US and perform at the Teen Choice Awards. Later in the year, she'll appear at the MTV Russian Awards and then the MTV Latin Awards in Mexico City. After that, the world awaits.
'My world tour will begin in 2008,' she says. 'This year, I've travelled promoting this record. It has been so great to play the new songs for the fans around the world. Everyone has been really supportive.'
Avril Lavigne Live in Hong Kong 2007, Sat, 8pm, AsiaWorld-Arena, HK$480-HK$880, Tom Lee, HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 3128 8288