Moving to Los Angeles
In 1993, Alanis Morissette moved from her hometown of Ottawa to Toronto. Living alone for the first time in her life, Morissette met with a bevy of songwriters, but the results frustrated her. A move to Nashville a few months later also proved unfruitful.
Morissette began making trips to Los Angeles and working with as many musicians as possible, in the hopes of meeting a collaborator. During this time, Morissette met with producer and songwriter Glen Ballard.
According to Ballard, the connection was "instant", and within 30 minutes of meeting each other, they had begun experimenting with different sounds in Ballard's home studio. Despite Morissette's naïveté, Ballard knew he was dealing with a woman wise beyond her years.
The turning point in their sessions was the song "Perfect", which was written and recorded in 20 minutes. Morissette improvised the lyrics on the spot to Ballard's delicate guitar strums. The version of the song that appeared on Jagged Little Pill was the only take the two had ever recorded. With "Perfect", the floodgate was opened, and soon Morissette's thoughts and emotions began pouring onto paper at a frenzied pace.
In Los Angeles, Morissette lived in a small, one-room apartment. On the way home from the supermarket one afternoon, she was robbed at gunpoint. A man rummaged through her bag while another held a gun to her head and made her lie face down on the pavement. Morissette later revealed that her only concern was for the book of lyrics she was carrying in her bag. To her relief, the lyrics were untouched. They would eventually make up the bulk of Jagged Little Pill.
She would later write about her move to Los Angeles in the song "Unprodigal Daughter" (from the album Feast on Scraps):
- I hit the ground running, although I know not of what toward
- I hit the town reeling, forgetting all that came before
- I felt primed and ready, once surrounded by the palms
- I felt culture-shocked, but dissuaded I was not
Ballard and Morissette recorded the songs on Jagged Little Pill literally as they were being written. According to Morissette, Ballard was the first collaborator who had encouraged her to express her emotions completely and fully without any any fear of shame or embarrassment. As a result, Morissette unabashedly shared everything, from her buoyant love of life ("You Learn"), to her warm infatuations ("Head Over Feet"), to her darkest, most ruthless revenge fantasies ("You Oughta Know"). Morissette drew inspiration for her lyrics completely from personal experiences. For example, as Morissette began meeting with record labels, she wrote and recorded "Right Through You" about the patriarchy she encountered in the music industry (from the album Jagged Little Pill):
The word "shake" referred to the record executive's handshake, which was not warm and firm, but cold and slippery. All was well, however, by the spring of
- You took me for a joke
- You took me for a child
- You took a long, hard look at my ass
- And then played golf for awhile
- Your shake is like a fish
- You pat me on the head
- You took me out to wine, dine, sixty-nine me
- But didn't hear a damn word I said