Avril Lavigne is unapologetic about her right to speak her mind. And with her new album, Under My Skin (the follow-up to her multiplatinum 2002 debut Let Go), heading straight to No. 1 in its first week on the charts, plenty of people are sure to be listening to what she has to say. Lavigne, 19, recently chatted with PEOPLE while en route to a Brooklyn concert and talked about growing as an artist – and as a person, her rebellious reputation and a certain pop star known for her sexy stage antics.
You really took control of the process of making this album. Tell me about that.
I picked everyone that I worked with and I interviewed different producers and sat with them and discussed what my vision was about the song before they worked on it. I wouldn’t give up – I kept writing and writing until I got the songs that I was happy with. I’m really hard on myself.
Why did you name the album Under My Skin?
Because the songs are personal, they come from within and I just thought Under My Skin was a good record title about what’s inside.
You wrote your single “Don’t Tell Me” when you were 17 and you’ve said that you might not have written it at this point in your life. Why?
Because I trust guys more than I did before. When I was in high school I’d go out with a guy for two weeks and then I’d like another guy. I’ve grown and I know who I am now. I’m on my way there at least. (Laughs) I’m just more comfortable with who I am.
And you’ve made some major changes to your diet.
I used to eat junk food all the time and it’s really tiring on the road, so you have to eat healthy. I don’t do meat or dairy anymore – I’ll do a lot of fish and vegetables and I drink water. I used to wake up in the morning on tour and get off my bus and eat chips first thing in the morning. I ate pizza every single night and drank beer all the time. I always drank in moderation, but now I just wait for a good party.
Recently on TRL you flipped the bird in response to critics branding you an angry young woman and MTV cut your set short. What did you think about that?
We were just talking about how people think I’m this angry person and I’m not. I was saying that the media don’t know who I am and what I’m really like, and then I gave the camera the finger. I was just expressing myself. I was smiling and laughing the whole time.
There’s been controversy in recent months about your comments regarding Hilary Duff and Britney Spears. Have you ever said something you later regretted?
No, I don’t really care. I say whatever I feel like saying and do whatever I feel like doing at the time. I don’t have regrets. I don’t look back and go, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.” Whatever, just because it was caught by cameras that means I shouldn’t have done it?
But you’ve also had moms come up to you and thank you for being a good role model.
Because I’m not a sex symbol. I don’t walk around basically naked onstage humping my background dancers like other people do.
The International Olympic Committee recently selected you to be part of their Celebrate Humanity campaign to promote the Athens games. What’s that all about?
I’m just representing the Canadian spirit – why I think the Olympics rock. I grew up being very athletic – I think I still am – but I’ve always really liked sports and I totally support that.
You’re also involved with War Child Canada, which provides humanitarian assistance to children in war-torn nations.
Yeah, I was going to go on a trip with them to Africa but it’s too dangerous over there. I’m going to do other stuff to support them instead.
So, what do you hope to happen with this album?
I’m not hoping for anything, I just hope to keep my fans. That’s all.