Avril Lavigne spoke for the first time on camera about her battle against Lyme disease. She is now halfway through her treatment.
Video provided by Newsy
Avril Lavigne never thought she’d be on Christian radio.
But the former pop-punk princess found herself there last October, when her uplifting anthem “Head Above Water” became an unexpected crossover hit on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs chart, peaking at No. 2.
“I loved that,” Lavigne says, laughing. “But I’m not surprised because that’s where I got my start and how it all began. I grew up in a small town (in Ontario, Canada) singing in church, so it made me very happy. And needless to say, it made my parents very happy, too.”
Although her strict Catholic upbringing eventually soured her on attending church (“They were really long services, and I was always so hungry,” she jokes), Lavigne says she still has her “own personal relationship with God, where I’m not a crazy Bible-thumper, but I do have faith.”
Her spirituality has only deepened in the past few years, following a life-threatening battle with Lyme disease. The illness, which she contracted from a tick, causes extreme fatigue and joint pain and left the singer bedridden for months.She recalls one particular night during that time – lying in bed with her mom, feeling weak and convinced she was dying – that she was inspired to write “Head Above Water,” which is also the title of her new album, out Friday (her first since 2013).
“Music has been more healing than ever for me,” Lavigne says. “I was at a point where I wasn’t sure whether I’d be working or even doing music again, and then I started writing songs from my bedroom. ‘Head Above Water’ and ‘Warrior’ were the first two songs that I wrote, and then they just kept coming. It was cool for me to see because it showed me that music is such a big part of who I am without even thinking about it or trying to make a record.”
‘Head Above Water’ diverges from previous sound
The album’s 12 songs are a marked departure from the snarling hits that defined Lavigne’s early career, when she embodied teenage angst on top-10 singles “Sk8er Boi,” “Complicated” and “Girlfriend.” “Tell Me It’s Over,” for instance, is a soulful doo-wop ballad about a fizzled romance, while “Crush” is a swoony, strings-laden confessional about being wary of new love.
Lavigne, 34, looked to jazz and Motown legends including Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Diana Ross as she wrote. She hoped to showcase more of her voice, which was surprisingly strong after months of not using it as she recovered from Lyme. (“I was definitely concerned and thought I’d have to do a lot of warm-ups, but when I went into the studio, it was fine,” she recalls.)
It’s ‘scary’ making comeback
Nearly five years after her 2014 diagnosis, Lavigne says her disease is now under control. She spends much of her downtime painting and cooking at home in Los Angeles and hopes to go back on tour at some point, though she’s not quite there yet physically.
“It’s a little scary,” Lavigne admits. As she begins to promote the album, “I’m like, ‘I just want to step into this, pace myself and enjoy every moment.’ Making that record was a big milestone for me and something I’m really proud of, and now I’m (starting to) get back up on stage. So I have my family with me and a good group of people around me that are helping me get through this.”
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2019/02/14/avril-lavigne-lyme-disease-battle-comeback-album-head-above-water/2871284002/