A year ago, Avril Lavigne finished her fourth album — but her label, RCA Records, wasn't interested in an album's worth of introspective, acoustic numbers. "They were like, 'Uh, can you make a new record — something that's more today?'" says Lavigne, still sounding pissed as she sips white wine in New York's Plaza Hotel. "It really hurt my feelings when they didn't say, 'We're proud of you.'"
On "Goodbye Lullaby," Lavigne, 26, meets the label halfway: Softer songs like "Remember When" and "Darlin" share space with throbbing productions by Swedish hitmaker Max Martin — including "Wish You Were Here" and the first single, "What the Hell." ("I had to release that first," she says. "It sounds like something the fans are used to, like 'Sk8er Boi' or 'Girlfriend.'")
The big twist is that half of the album was produced by Lavigne's ex-husband, Deryck Whibley of Sum 41, from whom she was divorced last year. "Everyone's always surprised that we're still so close," she says. "Like, 'Really?!'"
"Goodbye Lullaby" is obviously a breakup album, and you made most of it with the guy you broke up with. How'd that go?
Deryck is the most talented person I know. He produced, mixed, played guitar and bass. I wouldn't say it's a breakup record. It's about life. I went into it with a mind-set of not trying to write hits. People will make assumptions, but they'd be surprised what certain songs are about.
This article appears in the April 14, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available now on newsstands and will appear in the online archive April 1.
What's the experience behind the line "Last night I blacked out/I think/What did you put in my drink?"
That's the fun, playful, other side of me that just sort of popped up for a minute on this album. Like the line "Because I was making out with your friend" — obviously that didn't happen. I just thought it was funny.
Do you remember meeting Deryck?
I made out with him the first day I met him. He gave me my first shot of Jäger. I had a tie on — it was back in the days of the tie. I was 17. As I was getting carried out of the bar I saw Chad from Nickelback! Isn't that funny?
What's your house like in L.A.?
It's in Bel-Air. I decorated my house like a medieval gothic castle, European-style. Chandeliers and red velvet curtains. My bedroom is pink and black, my bathroom is totally Hello Kitty, I have a massive pink couch and a big antique gold cross.
Is it a gigantic house?
Yeah, I'm not gonna lie, it's 12,000 square feet. It's so big it scares me. At night I like to put on candles and jazz music, and I like to cook.
What's your specialty?
Homemade spinach and ricotta ravioli, with butter-sage sauce. And I get out the wine! I like to put my TV on to the Rat Pack station; it's a music channel. And I like listening to Radiohead and Coldplay. I like going to a steak restaurant, or the Beverly Hills Hotel, and listening to the piano player. It's relaxing and romantic.
What are your thoughts on Ke$ha and Katy Perry?
Their music's fun. They're cute. Ke$ha has some really funny lyrics that remind me of how light and playful my lyrics are in "Girlfriend." It reminds me of me.
You always wanted to be famous. Is it like you imagined?
I just wanted to sing in front of people. I came from nothing, a tiny Canada town with no connections. I'm here because I worked hard.
Do you ever miss your hometown of Napanee, Ontario?
Just the pizza place. I mentioned La Pizzeria when I was on my first cover of Rolling Stone, and it's ended up being a place where fans go. They have a special Avril Lavigne pizza there. And I eat free for life.