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Avril Lavigne feels most comfortable in the dark. Im nocturnal, she admits, in the dungeon-like basement of a recording studio in West Hollywood. Its well past the s time everyone else in town ha clocked out, and her work is just getting started. Dressed in a rockers version of business casuala leather rt, motorcycle jacket and miniski, vintage Guns N Roses T-shirtne and high-heeled bootsLavig is putting the final touches on her fifth studio album, which will be released this fall. She claims its her best one yet, though everyone says that about all their records, she g admits. The tune Im workin . on right now is super moody lite Go figure. But, unfailingly po and cheerful, she promises that her new work is much uff. more diverse than her old st s This time its not just all song about relationships and dudes, she swears.

The first single, Heres to Never Growing Up, has the kind of shout-it-out chorus and effervescent hook that mark her classic alt-rock anthems, which Lavigne loyalists (9.9 million of whom follow her on Twitter) have spent the last decade blasting on repeat. For proof, just check out the video, which features clips that were submitted by fans rocking out to the track. The winners were chosen from thousands of entries. Its unlike the melancholic, introspective mood of her last release, 2011s Goodbye Lullaby, which Lavigne wrote during the collapse of her three-year marriage to Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley. The assault of emotional, romantic ballads didnt exactly resonate with her fans. I just wanted to write songs and make something that was a little more artistic, she explains. But, going only gold in the United States, it was a commercial failure compared to her previous albums, all of which charted immediately and went multiplatinum. Lavigne insists it was time to challenge herself. I wanted to go down that road, she says. I wasnt trying to write a big radio record. But she must have known that something was off. Disputes with her longtime label, RCA, over the delayed release and promotion of the

album soured the relationship beyond repair. I was trying to do something on that record, but I didnt have the support from my label, she says. There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of arguing about certain styles and songwriters. There was drama. I had many challenges all around with the entire experience of that record, based on people on the business end. Despite feeling burned out, Lavigne still embarked on a worldwide tour, being tough and holding my fuckin head up high, she says righteously. The shows were the strongest Ive ever done, and that felt really good. The support of the fan base, no matter what...its crazy. Still, she admits, I had exhausted myself in several ways, and I wasnt really sure where I wanted to go moving forward. And then, during her tour, Lavigne heard that her longtime mentor L.A. Reid was taking a new job as chairman and CEO of Epic Records. The two first met in 2000: Lavigne, then a 15-year-old living with her parents in a small town in Ontario, came to New York to record a demo, and rumors about this rock wunderkind piqued the interest of Reid, who was then running Arista. He signed her on the spot with a two-record, $1.25 million deal. [The studio producers] kind of assumed people would give me music, and I was like, No, I have to write my own songs, says Lavigne. They were looking at me as if I was this little kid, like, How is she going to write music? The best part about L.A. is that he listened to me. He let me do what I needed to do. Their professional relationship ended in 2004, when Reid left Arista and Lavigne moved over to RCA, but the two remained

dress by allsaints, belt by zara, lavignes own ring.

close. When I was going through that bullshit on my last record, he came to my house, and we werent even working together, she says. We sat down, we talked, and I played him some songs. He was there for me. How cool is that? No one does that shit. I love Avril, says Reid of the decision to stay in touch with his protg. I never liked not working with her. I was always interested in what she was doing musically, and whatever was going on in her life. With Reid at the helm of Epic, the scramble began to get Lavigne signed. And when he called and said, Were back together again! it couldnt have come at a more perfect time, says Lavigne. From that moment on, I felt reinspired. I ended my tour in late February last year and went right into the studio a week later. Meanwhile, Lavigne had hired Larry Rudolph, the manager best known for building Britney Spears empire and then reviving her career post-breakdown. The two immediately got to work on a new record, aiming to make a collection of songs on par with Lavignes breakout album, 2002s Let Go, which Rudolph calls a pop-rock masterpiece that has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. I loved the rock edge that was infused in everything that she was doing then, he says. So we talked about going back to basics, and that became our mantra as we were doing this record. Two weeks later, Rudolph encountered an ideal collaborator for his new clientNickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, whom he met at a New Years Eve party in Mexico. I said, Listen, man. Ive got to get you to do a song with Avril. He had never met her, but he was interested in the

idea. I said, Look. Youre both Canadian. Youre both pop-rock royalty. This guy has had like 17 No. 1s! It made sense to think about them working together. When he approached Lavigne with the idea, she was game. He does what I dohes a rocker, he plays guitar, hes onstage every night, he writes songs, she explains. It took two months to get them in the same room, and the only thing both parties were hoping for was, at best, a solid track or two. Their first collaboration was a romantic ballad called Let Me Go. Its one of my favorite songsnot just of hers, but one of my favorite songs ever, says Rudolph. Lyrically, I pushed myself to talk about different subjects I havent talked about before, Lavigne admits. I didnt want to be so simple. I tried to really express myself and go deeper. Lavigne further refined her sound with the help of Grammy-winning musician David Hodges, the former Evanescence member and hit-maker known for his work with Carrie Underwood. A couple of signature songs, 17 and Rock n Roll, pay homage to youth and badassery, while Hello Kitty, a glitchy electronic track, indulges her experimental side. The guitar-heavy Bad Girl delves into darker territory, thanks to a collaboration with Marilyn Manson. The two had met a decade ago at one of Mansons shows in Toronto. Besides sharing a severe aversion to the sun (which Lavigne claims is her best beauty secret), they also harbor a mutual
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respect for the others strength. While working on Bad Girl in the studio with Hodges, says Lavigne, I looked over at him, and I said, Fuck, Marilyn Manson would sound awesome on this. And he said, I know! So she sent him a text message, and soon enough, Manson was in the studio. He went into the vocal booth and came up with his part on the spot. He took it to the next level. Last summer, websites ran rumors of romance between Manson and Lavigne, but the two were quick to dispel that notion. I was like, Fuck, I wouldnt do that. Shes Canadian, joked Manson to the press at the time. No offense to Canada. It turns out that Lavigne had fallen for someone elseKroeger. One song led to two, then three, and eventually, an entire albums worth of material. We were having a really good time, Lavigne says with a shrug. We hit it off first as writing partners, then friends, and we started dating last summer. In August, he proposed by inserting a photo of himself holding a 14-carat diamond ring into a scrapbook Lavigne was making of the albums recording process. As if on cue, Kroeger strolls into the room from an adjacent recording suite. Toting a six-pack of beer, he kisses her on the cheek. Stunning, he proclaims before heading back to work. Hes nice, and real, and kind, she says, reveling in the attention. For me, its about having a connection on a deeper level. Be romantic! She points

to a few dozen longstemmed roses, sitting atop a pedestal, as evidence that Kroeger fits the bill. Ironically, Lavigne first laid eyes on Kroeger over a decade ago at the Roxy in Vancouverthe same night she met Whibley. Wild, right? she says with a laugh. I was 17, and Complicated had just come out. Lavigne was celebrating its success with Jaeger bombs, and as Whibley carried her out of the club over his shoulder, she spotted Kroeger, then at the height of Nickelback fame. He didnt even know who I was at that point! she exclaims. I had just gotten on the radio. He would know her soon enough. I wasnt the girl baring her midriff with backup dancers and a headset microphone, she insists of her origins in the business. I came out and had a lot to say with my lyrics, and I played the guitar. I had a completely different getup, stage presence, everything. She counts her willingness to embrace the flaws that other pop stars are trained into hiding as part of her unique appeal. Im so transparent. If Im not being myself, I wont do well, and that goes for writing songs, work, relationships, everything. And if Im not happy, people are going to know that. Rudolph agrees. Shes not going to adapt to whatever is fashionable at

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the timeshes a rock star, and shes going to remain loyal to her core. She has a natural sense of identity. Though when asked to pinpoint the biggest challenge she faces, he answers immediately: Shes got to balance her personal life with her professional life. Thats a challenge for anybody in her situation. Shell have help from a longtime ally. Im Avrils security so people dont fuck with her, so she can do what she wants, says Reid. Im her bodyguard. Im the guy who says, Dont fuck with Avril. And with the trials of the past few years behind her, Lavigne claims to have discovered the importance of stability. Ive learned to be calm and take it all in, she says, revealing a freshly inked forearm tattoo that reminds her to vivre dans le moment prsent the French expression for live in the moment. But the rebellious spirit thats at least partly responsible for the sale of tens of millions of albums is still firmly intact. I like to be silly and goof off, especially when things are supposed to be serious, she says. Too much of anything cant be good for you. You know how if you have your favorite food every day, youll get sick of it? Well, I just discovered balance. And now I know that Ive got to have some.