Three ‘Alanisettes’ on loving Morissette
Have Alanis Morissette’s fans grown up and moved on or does she still make sense to them?
Alanis Morissette performs at Palais Theatre in Melbourne, Australia. Photograph: Sam Tabone/WireImage
Alanis Morissette is one of those rare artists who has commanded the deep loyalty and respect of her fans. More than 20 years after “Jagged Little Pill” rocked their world, we speak to three “Alanisettes” who grew up with Morissette’s music. Are they still loyal fans, or have they grown up and moved on?
Ruth-Anne Cunningham, singer-songwriter
Singer-songwriter Ruth-Anne has co-written several hits, including Niall Horan’s “Slow Hands”, but has recently embarked on her own recording and performing career. She releases her new single, “Liquid”, on July 13th. Ruth-Anne will be the support act for Alanis Morissette at The Marquee in Cork on July 4th, the Iveagh Gardens in Dublin on July 5th and her two shows at the Eventim Apollo in London on July 7th and 13th.
You got your first break aged 10 when you sang a Morissette song, so isn’t it ironic that you’re now going to be supporting your heroine onstage?
“Absolutely. I never thought something like this would happen to me. I’m really excited because when I was eight or nine, I was down in Cork with my family and I sang my first gig that I got from this pub owner. He heard me sing karaoke and asked would I come back the next day and do a whole set, and he’d pay me £30. I did a lot of Alanis Morissette songs, so to have that moment and coming full circle and be supporting someone of her status, it’s amazing, I can’t wait.
What was it about “Jagged Little Pill” that clicked with you?
I was obsessed with music. And that album was so amazing, I think it was ageless really, and I’m sure there were a lot of angsty teenagers around, but I hadn’t quite got to that stage. I didn’t even know what I was singing about; I was just singing into the mirror.
Which Alanis song really spoke to you?
“Ironic”. It sounds predictable, but everybody can relate to that lyric, you know, the traffic light when you’re already late. I think the song is very universal, and a great melody even for anybody my age to be able to sing back, it was just a legend of a song. As a songwriter you wait your whole life to write a song just like that. Those songs don’t come around all the time, so I think for me as a songwriter and as a singer, “Ironic” really sticks out.
Would you still listen to Alanis?
I think “Jagged Little Pill” was the album I more stuck to, because when I was 10, I was bored listening to everything, and as I grew older I began to get more into soul and r&b like Lauren Hill and John Legend, and so I would say “Jagged Little Pill” was the main focus for me starting off, but as you grow up you start going through different musical styles.
Would you ever check out her musical, “Jagged Little Pill”, on Broadway?
I would definitely check that out. I love musicals like that, so I’d definitely check that out.
If Alanis called you up to sing “Ironic”, that would be ironic.
I’d love if that happened.
Aoife McElwain, writer and events organiser
Aoife McElwain is a writer and food blogger who has just published her new book, “Slow At Work”, about getting the work-life balance right. In 2015, she hosted a “Jagged Little Pill” sing-along event to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the album’s release, and thus began the legendary Sing Along Socials, which McElwain brings to festivals, weddings and birthday parties. She will be hosting another “Jagged Little Pill”-themed Sing Along Social at the Sugar Club on Leeson Street on July 5th, after the Alanis Morissette gig in the Iveagh Gardens.
How did Alanis Morissette inspire the Sing Along Social?
It all started when I invited a few friends round to sing along to “Jagged Little Pill” on its 20-year anniversary. My invite list just kept growing, so I put it up on Facebook as a public event and within a couple of days nearly 1,000 people wanted to go.
Why “Jagged Little Pill”?
It was a perfect piece of nostalgia. It was one of those albums that really connected to a certain type of teenage girl, especially, so when the night came, it was mostly women around my age, and it was just really fun.
As a teenager you would have had your favourite albums that spoke to you so much, and you would listen to them again and again, you knew the order of the songs, you knew the spaces between the songs, and it was really fun to press play on the album and just let everyone sing along to it. We didn’t even print up lyrics or anything. I did bring a load of plastic spoons, and everyone threw them in the air during “Ironic”, you know that line, “It’s like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife” – one example of irony.
“It was so much fun doing that event, I’ve been doing it every month. I’ve done Abba, Fleetwood Mac, I like doing battles, so I had Whitney vs Mariah, and I’ve done albums as well like Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”.
What age were you when “Jagged Little Pill” came out?
I was 13 or 14 when “Jagged Little Pill” came out, so I was at the perfect stage to hear it.
Alanis is like a guilty pleasure; she’s so earnest, but it’s perfect for someone who’s not quite ready for something darker. It was polite enough that I didn’t mind if my parents heard me listening to it. But it was still very angsty.
Which Alanis song really spoke to you?
“One Hand In My Pocket” is one of my favourites, but I love the whole album. She’s really angry in it, it’s a break-up album, and for me as a 13-year-old who definitely did not have a boyfriend, and didn’t even know how to go about getting one, it was cool to live vicariously through Alanis.
Do you grow out of Alanis? Do you need to be a certain age to really appreciate her?
I suppose I didn’t engage in her later music – I don’t even know what songs she’s going to be playing in her show – so it really is a nostalgic connection. For me personally she did inspire something that’s brought me a lot of personal joy. She helped me through my teenage years, and she inspired something that I’m proud of that I created as an adult, and that’s the Sing Along Social. So I have this huge connection to Alanis, but I do know it’s one-sided.
Will you be going along to the Iveagh Gardens gig?
I’m on a WhatsApp group with a bunch of other Alanis fans, and we’re all going to the gig together. There’s about eight or 10 of us. I don’t have any idea if she’s going to play any of the old songs, but if she doesn’t play anything from “Jagged Little Pill”, we have the Sing Along Social later on as a security deposit.
Was Alanis the perfect pop star to help you through your teens?
I remember halfway through that first Sing Along Social, and everyone was roaring along to “Jagged Little Pill”, I was thinking how I’d love to be able to create a portal to my 13-year-old self and just say to her, like, it’s all gonna be okay.
It’s a difficult age, when you’re trying to work out who you are and who you want to be, and for some of us, we need these pop star role models to connect with, whether it’s AC/DC, Alanis or Peter Andre.
I love all different types of music, but I think what people really connect with is authenticity, and though you might think “Jagged Little Pill” was over-produced pop, and the actual grunge bands of the time would have hated it, there was authenticity there, and it was a young person singing this. I didn’t really like Nirvana when I was 14. I found it was too dark, I didn’t understand it. I was lucky, I was a happy kid in a happy home, and Alanis was a very safe way for me to channel my angst.
Norma Sheahan, actor
Norma Sheahan made her mark in “The Clinic”, and went on to star in “Moone Boy”, “Damo and Ivor”, “Bridget and Eamon” and “Can’t Cope Won’t Cope”. She’ll soon be seen in Amy Huberman’s new comedy series “Finding Joy” and in Sharon Horgan and Aisling Bea’s new series “Happy AF”. She can be seen as Mary Hanafin in new movie “The Bailout”, and stars in an Irish independent film called “Lost and Found”, which won Best Film at the Arizona Film Festival in May.
What age and stage were you at when “Jagged Little Pill” came out?
I would have been 19 when it came out. I was in UCD from 94-97 and I had just so much time to piss around. And obviously you think the whole world is against you, so it was perfect timing.
What was it about Alanis Morissette that connected with you?
There were different songs for different reasons. It was a phenomenal album, because it had seven major hits. The video for “Ironic”, her in the car with four different versions of herself, screaming at herself. That was so catchy. And the free-ness of “One Hand in My Pocket” and the other doing whatever, and then the love song, “You’ve already won me over” (“Head over Heels”). I remember I was going through a break-up at the time, and I just literally sat in my student accommodation all weekend playing it on repeat all day. Like the biggest loser, thinking Alanis was talking to me, and Alanis was the only woman who understood me. Yeah, very very pathetic.
Would you agree with the spoilsports who say the lyrics to “Ironic” aren’t all that ironic?
The irony isn’t the point. It’s that everyone can relate to it. “It’s like rain on your wedding day” – sure that’s the whole country there. She’s a lyric person, and she’s a poet. My husband listens to music and he’s no interest in the lyrics, whereas I’m mad for lyrics. Alanis is definitely all about lyrics, cos it’s all poetry. like the “transparent dangling carrots” on her second album. She reminds me a lot of Suzanne Vega; there was another angry vagina.
Will you go to see Alanis at the Iveagh Gardens on July 5th?
I might go to Alanis now. But if she comes out and does a whole load of stuff from other albums that no one knows, I’ll be very annoyed.
A new musical has opened on Broadway, based on Morissette’s songs, which she has executive produced, called “Jagged Little Pill”. Would you be tempted to go and see that?
What, it’s not called Angry Vagina?