With streaming platforms such as SoundCloud and YouTube creating a network of suburban ennui across the globe, loneliness has become its own communal experience. Cue the arrival of Juice WRLD, the Chicago-born rapper who has transformed overnight from a self-released rapper to a chart-topping phenomenon. His heartbreak anthems — such as “Lucid Dreams,” which unravels a lovesick inner monologue — owe as much to Black Sabbath and Fall Out Boy as they do to traditional rap. The songs, he says, are the product of a plugged-in, post-genre generation that “grew up listening to everything.” Perhaps no one knows more about the paradoxes of being “mass alternative” than Avril Lavigne, the Canadian singer whose skatepark ballads skyrocketed through the bubblegum of early-aughts pop. In anticipation of Juice’s still-untitled sophomore album and a 22-stop European tour with Nicki Minaj, who happens to be Lavigne’s latest collaborator, the two artists got on the phone to discuss finding a light in the dark.
AVRIL LAVIGNE: Are you in Australia right now?
JUICE WRLD: I’m back in the States, but I’m kind of still on Australia time.
LAVIGNE: Congratulations on all your successes this year. Are you having fun?
JUICE: To be honest, I’m kind of a boring person. All I do is make recordings and ride dirt bikes.
LAVIGNE: I love dirt bikes.
JUICE: They’re cool until you fuck yourself up.
LAVIGNE: I sometimes skateboard around my neighborhood, and I rollerblade with my friends.
JUICE: I used to skateboard a lot. I don’t know why I stopped.
LAVIGNE: Your breakout hits have been about heartbreak. What has been your biggest moment of heartbreak?
JUICE: It happened after I got famous, and it wasn’t a relationship. It was more about people I thought would always be down for me not being down for me anymore. Some of my old friends that I thought I would have forever kind of just drifted away. When you’re in the moment, and you think you have good friends, you kind of assume you’re going to die next to your friends when you’re in your nineties. But then a lot of people switch it up, and that part is the biggest heartbreak. The music I’ve made after I realized that definitely reflects that experience.
LAVIGNE: Who in the world would you most like to make a song with?
JUICE: Kurt Cobain.
LAVIGNE: Who are your favorite artists right now?
JUICE: I’ve been listening to Frank Ocean, Drake, this band out of Chicago called Belmont, Fall Out Boy, Black Sabbath, Gucci Mane, Migos, XXXTentacion — the list goes on and on.
LAVIGNE: That’s really quite a variety. Do other people from the world of hip-hop think that your references are strange?
JUICE: Nobody’s really given me lip about it. Genuine people will support you being yourself.
LAVIGNE: Your music is influenced a lot by emo and punk. Why do you think those genres are making a comeback into the mainstream right now? What is it about this moment?
JUICE: I grew up listening to all kinds of music—punk, pop, anything. So that’s naturally just a part of who I am. But to answer your question, I think people are appreciating how these genres talk about mental health and different struggles. We live on a struggling planet, so I think it just all ties together.
LAVIGNE: When I first came onto the music scene, it was Backstreet Boys, ’NSync, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera — and I came out with this totally different style of music with electric guitar, wearing baggy clothes and Dickies pants. Stylistically, musically, and fashion-wise, it was just different, and there was a crowd that related to the music and this message of being yourself. I was a teen writing about what I was going through as far as breakups and boys, and there wasn’t a lot of that out there.
JUICE: In order to take somebody out of the dark place they’re in, you need to be in that dark place with them. Like, there’s a lot of hard drug use that’s public nowadays, so I’ll just take my demons and put them out there. It’s not going to work if you point fingers and say that somebody’s addicted to something. Somebody who has never done it can’t sit there and be like, “You’re stupid, you need to stop.” They don’t know what people go through, because everybody has different struggles. People have gone through horrific things in their lives, and sometimes their escape is drugs. So I speak from the perspective of saying, “You are not alone. I’m fighting this fight with you, so just know that I’m here.”
LAVIGNE: I feel like my music is better the more vulnerable it is. And I think that it also helps me. I wrote the single I just put out, “Head Above Water,” about almost dying. I was in bed and fighting for my life, and the response I got from my fans was moving and touching. It’s gratifying as an artist to be able to go through something in your life and to turn it around and to make it into a song, because not only do you encourage yourself, you help other people.
JUICE: It’s therapeutic.
LAVIGNE: I couldn’t agree more. Are you a shy person?
JUICE: It depends on the situation. Due to sudden changes in life, I feel like I’m socially awkward. I know how to talk my way out, so I don’t want to say I’m shy, but I’m not the most social person in the world.
LAVIGNE: Are you like me, where you like to go out at night and not in the daytime?
JUICE: That’s probably the only time you’ll ever get some peace.
LAVIGNE: I know a lot of artists who come alive at night and are more introverted during the day. What’s been the exciting part about fame for you?
JUICE: Being able to have a powerful voice that has an impact on people. The boring part is that I can’t really go outside the house.
LAVIGNE: Fame makes you do weird things.
“I’m not the most social person in the world.” —Juice WRLD
JUICE: And it sucks, because when you’re stuck in your house, you start thinking too much. And that’s when I start making bad decisions.
LAVIGNE: But that’s also when you can write a song. If I’m bored by myself at home, that’s when I sit down on the piano and write music. Do you play instruments?
JUICE: I play piano, guitar, trumpet, drums, and that’s it.
LAVIGNE: Did you take lessons, or did you teach yourself?
JUICE: I learned how to play trumpet in grade school, but everything else I’m just self-taught. I had a couple lessons, but I was always too antsy to sit down and learn. That’s not my style.
LAVIGNE: Me neither. My dad got me a drum kit for Christmas one year, and my brother got a guitar, so I just figured out how to play stuff on my own.
JUICE: Y’all should have started a band.
LAVIGNE: We kind of did!
JUICE: I started young, too.
LAVIGNE: You began your career on SoundCloud. Did that platform enable you to be more independent starting out?
JUICE: 120 percent yes. SoundCloud is a beautiful place because you can just share and you’ll never know who will stumble upon your songs. It’s a bigger opportunity than YouTube, because it’s strictly music.
LAVIGNE: When are you on tour next?
JUICE: I’m about to go on tour with Nicki Minaj.
LAVIGNE: That’s so dope. I love her. I hope to do a song with her one day — we’ve been talking about it a little bit.
JUICE: Now that would be a dope-ass song. You two together would make a smash.
Sittings Editor: Bobby Wesley