Singer and songwriter
Born Avril Ramona Lavigne, September 27, 1984, in Belleville, Ontario, Canada; daughter of John and Judy Lavigne.
Addresses: Management —Nettwerk Management, 8730 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 304, Beverly Hills, CA 90211. Record company —Arista Records, 6 W. 57th St., New York, NY 10019. Website —Avril Lavigne Official Website: http://www.avril-lavigne.com.
Won contest to perform with Shania Twain, 1999; signed with Arista Records, 2002; released Let Go, 2002; released Under My Skin, 2004.
Awards: MTV Music Video Award, Best New Artist, 2003; Juno Award, Single of the Year for "Complicated," 2003; Juno Award, Album of the Year for Let Go, 2003; Juno Award, New Artist of the Year, 2003; SOCAN Awards for "Complicated," "Sk8er Boi," and "I'm With You," 2003.
The rebellious Avril Lavigne has led the way for teenybopper mall shoppers to find a new path to music that is different from the sex-oriented pop released by such performers as Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera and other singers popular with the MTV crowd.
Lavigne was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, and raised in Napanee, a town with a population of roughly 5,000 people located 100 miles southwest of Ottawa. It was a strong Christian home with a stay-at-home mother, Judy, and a father, John, who worked for Bell Canada. Avril was the second of three children, including older brother, Matt, and younger sister, Michelle. As a youngster, Lavigne loved to follow her older brother around. "If he played hockey, I had to play hockey. He played baseball, I wanted to," she told Entertainment Weekly. The family enjoyed camping and canoeing trips, dirt-biking and four-wheeling. They attended church at Evangel Temple, and when she was ten years old, Lavigne sang a solo in the Christmas pageant. "They really had no choice," her father told Maclean's, "she hogged the mike anyway. She had such a big voice."
Lavigne began taking her talent beyond the church, singing at local fairs and festivals, and even a Canadian Tire celebration. She was discovered singing in a bookstore when she was 14 by her first manager, Cliff Fabri. Fabri recalled to Entertainment Weekly, "When I first saw her, I liked her voice, and obviously the looks. But it was the attitude. She goes hunting all the time with her brother and dad.
Here's this sweet little thing, and I said to her one time, 'What about when a little doe comes out and starts nudging up to the mother? What do you do?' And she goes"—Fabri makes the sound of a shotgun blast—"'Dinner.'"
In 1999 Lavigne won a contest to sing with Shania Twain at the Corel Centre in Ottawa. "As soon as I walked out in front of 20,000 people, I'd never smiled so much in my life—it was like permasmile," she told Entertainment Weekly. "And I thought, 'This is what I'm going to do with my life, walk out on stage, have my own band, and be doing my own concert with my own songs.' I'm serious—this was meant to happen to me."
This event helped Lavigne move beyond local performances. Soon the chief executive officer of Arista Records, Antonio "L.A." Reid, noticed her. He signed her to a $1.25 million contract when she was 16. Lavigne, seeing a bright career before her, proceeded to drop out of high school. Arista provided her with country music to record, but after six months of working with co-writers it became clear that Lavigne was more interested in rock music. Arista sent her to Los Angeles, California, to work with some writing teams, including The Matrix. Lavigne poured all her teenage feelings into her lyrics and quickly worked to write "Complicated." Shortly thereafter, Lavigne transferred management allegiances from Fabri to the powerful Canadian management group Nettwerk. Nettwerk provided Lavigne with a touring band consisting of young musicians including guitarist Jesse Colburn, drummer Matt Brann, bassist Charles Moniz, and lead guitarist Evan Taubenfeld. Shauna Gold, Lavigne's manager, told Maclean's, "She's young, her music's young, we needed a band that would fit well with who she is as a person."
Lavigne's debut album, Let Go, was released in June of 2002, and within six months it had sold more than eight million copies worldwide. "Complicated" and "Sk8er Boi" topped the charts at number one. Lavigne and her band were off to tour through Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. It was the third biggest-selling album of 2003, and garnered the MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist.
With her tomboy looks and tough attitude, Lavigne's skategirl pop music gained in popularity with parents as well as teens. Her signature necktie look suddenly sprouted on girls around the world. When Lavigne changed from the necktie to camouflage, her fans followed suit. She was often called the "anti-Britney," referring to Britney Spears' revealing outfits and suggestive music and videos. Lavigne was uncomfortable with the comparison. "I don't like that term—'the anti-Britney.' It's stupid," Lavigne told Entertainment Weekly. "I don't believe in that. She's a human being . Leave her alone."
Lavigne earned even greater recognition during 2003. In April of that year she received several Juno Awards, winning Single of the Year for "Complicated," Album of the Year for Let Go, and New Artist of the Year. In May, Paramount Pictures optioned the song "Sk8er Boi," planning to adapt the words into a feature film. In June, the ABC Family cable network aired the television special Avril Lavigne: Anything But Ordinary. And in November of 2003, the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) Awards honored Lavigne for "Complicated," as well as for "Sk8er Boi" and "I'm with You." In addition, the song "I'm with You" was showcased in the feature film Bruce Almighty starring Jim Carrey.
Lavigne began work on her second album, this time choosing to bypass the writing machine teams and to work on the lyrics and melodies herself. Her second album reflected Lavigne's own growth. "It's a more serious album in [some] ways," she told Newsweek. The album included a song, "Slipped Away," about the death of her grandfather. She worked with Canadian singer and songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk to write some of the new music. "She's one of my best friends," Lavigne told Billboard. "We understand the same stuff, and writing with another girl is easier." In addition, Lavigne co-wrote the song "Don't Tell Me" with Taubenfeld, her guitar player. It was her self-proclaimed "girl-power" song about resisting pressure to have sex. She wrote another song with Ben Moody, who had previously played guitar for the band Evanescence. Lavigne did not allow anyone at Arista to hear any of her music until after it was recorded. "There was no way I was gonna write songs and send them to people to re-write them like I did last time," she told Newsweek. "I need to feel I'm doing this on my own." Under My Skin was released in the spring of 2004.
In order to promote her new release, Lavigne performed a series of concerts at large malls across the country, starting with the Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "We thought it would be cool to put on a free show and give back to fans," Lavigne told Billboard. "It was more than I expected. The crowds ranged from a few thousand to 10,000. Some of [the events] were moved outside. It's been great."
Late in 2004, Lavigne gained an even younger audience when she sang the "SpongeBob SquarePants theme" for the film based on the hit Nickelodeon cartoon. According to Heather Phares of All Music Guide, the album was "both a witty soundtrack and a hip children's album with wide-ranging appeal."
Let Go, Arista, 2002.
Under My Skin, Arista, 2004.
(Contributor) The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Music from the movie and more (soundtrack) Sire, 2004.
Billboard, May 22, 2004, p. 1.
Entertainment Weekly, November 1, 2002, p. 22.
Maclean's, January 13, 2003, p. 22.
Newsweek, December 30, 2002; March 22, 2004, p. 58.
People, April 5, 2004; May 31, 2004.
Avril Lavigne Official Website, http://www.avrillavigne.com (December 7, 2004).
The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: Music from the movie and more, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (December 7, 2004).