Avril Lavigne

“Do you think I act 17?” asked anything-but-ordinary skate-rock gal Avril Lavigne.

It’s been about two years since Lavigne’s parents and then-manager Cliff Fabri made the trek to Toronto from the small Canadian town of Napanee, Ontario, to meet some industry folk. In an office of a major publishing company, she sat down with POLLSTAR and former Arista exec Ken Krongard, in town for North By Northeast 2000.

There was something about her even then. Cute with blue eyes, she wore no make-up, was dressed in a cool, dark green T-shirt with long orange sleeves, her dirty-blonde, shoulder- length hair in dozens of tiny braids.

She barely spoke a word. One couldn’t help but be intrigued and wonder what kind of pipes this quiet 15-year-old possessed. Two years and a breakout single later, POLLSTAR tracked her down again.

“That was my first time ever doing anything, leaving home to meet people in the business. What was the point of that trip?” she laughed, noting she never actually ended up singing for anyone.

She is definitely more outgoing now. That’s what those two crucial years can do. She is opinionated, smart and, one suspects, a little amused by all the pandering the “adult” world shows her now that she has a hit album, Let Go, and her face plastered all over magazines and television.

“Obviously, I have those moments where I’m like the crazy kid, jumping around and being really immature but, at times, I think because of what I went through I can handle things like an adult,” she said.

Lavigne is about to have fun now the real fun touring with a rock band whose members have quickly become her best friends.

Like her, guitarists Evan Taubenfeld and Jesse Colburn, drummer Matthew Brann and bassist Mark Spicoluk are all young and cool. They were assembled by Greig Nori of the band Treble Charger and co-manager of Sum 41 with Nettwerk, which now handles Lavigne.

She’ll be able to have a blast with people her own age as she launches into what promises to be a crazy year.

“Making the record that year, without the guys, I was with adults 24/7. It was just so insane. It completely aged me. It was quite the experience, you know,” she said. The experience, however, with all its trials and tribulations, she called “a weird fate thing.”

Avril Lavigne

Lavigne started singing at age 2 and was often in the local paper. She performed at churches, country fairs, Christmas concerts and talent shows. Three years ago, she won a radio competition to duet with Shania Twain on “What Made You Say That” at the star’s Ottawa show.

“Things have come together really well,” she said. “It feels like God has been watching over me and really taking care of me. When things are meant to be, they are meant to be. No one can fuck with that.”

Lavigne knew she was meant to do this, but had she not come to Toronto and met Krongard, would she have landed at Arista? Few record label people were even aware of Lavigne.

Mark Jowett of Nettwerk Productions’ label division was ahead of everyone. He saw a video of the young performer and signed her to a demo deal and later arranged for her to work with producer/songwriter Peter Zizzo.

Krongard was later invited to Zizzo’s studio in New York City to hear the work in progress. “She blew me away,” Krongard recalled. He immediately phoned his boss, L.A. Reid, who agreed to come see her. Reid signed her practically on the spot.

The teen-ager’s early recordings had country and pop leanings, but she soon took charge and the youthful, melodic rock of Let Go emerged.

“It was so frustrating because I knew there was stuff in me that had to come out,” Lavigne said. “I needed the chance to work with the right people to get it out. Arista was awesome to give me the opportunity to do that.”

Meanwhile, she started thinking about what’s important to her who she was going to spend the next 18 months with on the road.

“I knew that I didn’t want some old guys standing there behind me,” she laughed. “I wanted really cool young guys. And I really wanted it to be a band vibe, as opposed to it being Avril Lavigne, the solo artist.”

To that end, Lavigne has been writing songs with the band that she hopes will appear on the next album. The follow-up to Let Go, she agreed, will be an easier process because, at 17, she is more certain of who she is and what she wants to project. And that’s anything but ordinary.