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Avril Lavigne on Touring Asia: China Is 'Mayhem' (Q&A)

Avril Lavigne
David Needleman
Avril Lavigne

Photographed for the "Pop Goes the World" portfolio in THR's music issue, the Canadian singer talks about her travel essentials, how she discovered camera phones and being one-half of a Canadian music power couple.

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Technology has made it easier for Toronto-born Avril Lavigne, 29, to reach her fans, but there's nothing like having boots on the ground. "I still like to be old-school and go city to city," she says.

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For her self-titled fifth album, released in November by Epic, Lavigne combined both, promoting it in person and streaming a concert across the globe.

She starts an Asian tour Jan. 31 in Japan, which embraced the singer early on; during her first trip there after the release of 2004’s Under My Skin, the label pulled her aside to tell her not to be concerned if people were holding up their phones. "We didn’t have cameras on our phones yet; they did first," she marvels.

Lavigne loves to play for both the orderly Japanese fans and more boisterous Chinese crowds but admits all the flying is grueling. "It’s way more difficult and a lot more stress on the body" than a trek by bus, she says. But the audiences -- and the retail therapy -- make it worthwhile. Says Lavigne, who has sold 35 million albums worldwide, "I’ll wake up to go shopping in Japan, because it’s the best ever."

Featured in THR's third annual music issue, Lavigne elaborates while on a break in Mexico with husband and Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger, about her upcoming Asian trek, her travel essentials and being one-half of Canada's music power couple.

Your Asian tour kicks off in Japan, where you’ve had a strong following since you first played there in 2004. Why do you think your music resonates so much there?

My message to my fans has always been be your own person, believe who you are and you can do anything and I think they connect with that... I feel like the international fan base really comes out to the shows to celebrate, and they’re letting loose.

How are your fans in China different than in Japan?

In Japan, the audience is always in sync together. If you ask them to clap, they all clap. If I start fist pumping, they all fist pump with me. It’s pretty cool. In between every song, they stop and they’re quiet because they’re so respectful. Then if you play a fast song, they all start rocking out, and the minute you’re done, they stop... In China, the show starts, and everyone in the bleachers comes running down to the front and everyone’s tripping over each other and it’s rowdy, mayhem. It's craziness.

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Do you get into a different mind-set when you’re touring overseas, as opposed to in North America?

A lot of the international tours, it’s a flight tour, which makes it way more difficult. I enjoy being on a tour bus. The only place you can tour with a bus is Europe or North America. [Flying] ends up being more grueling. It’s a different thing when you’re packing and unpacking bags, and you’re in a new hotel room every other day in a new city. When I tour on the tour bus, I don’t even get off my bus. I live on it like it’s a trailer...[Flying] does require more energy, but it’s so worth it. The fans are so incredible and the shows are so amazing.

Is there a country on your wish list that you've yet to play?

I’ve never been to Dubai. I would love to go there. 

How much of the world do you get to see when you’re on tour?

On tour, there’s not really enough time to do anything, but whenever I go to Japan, I make sure that I get to go shopping... because it’s the best shopping ever. And then in Europe, I really enjoy [dining] and they stay open later, so in Italy, I’m going out to eat.

How many people do you usually travel with?

Thirty to 50 [people on] tour. It’s 30 [when] we’re doing promo: we’ve got band and crew. But my party of people is me, my brother, security, my mom, hair, makeup, that kind of thing. I have a Hello Kitty "rollie" [rollaway bag] that has my laptop and all my notes and stuff. And then I usually just have a bag. I don’t travel with my instruments; they usually are shipping it. I haven't had anything break.

What are your must-haves on the flight?

Vodka. (Laughs) I don’t actually take anything on the plane with me. I stopped traveling with pillows. I have my rollie, which has my computer in it, so I’ll work or listen to music or write music or go through approvals. I wear tights, black leggings, and I always wear a hoodie and sunglasses.

You and Chad are Canada’s first music couple. How have your Canadian fans responded to your July marriage? 

It’s really neat because I feel like we got a lot of love and warmth and support when Chad and I got engaged and married. It was really nice. We ended getting married [in France] on Canada Day. That’s the day we officially started dating and it was our anniversary, so we decided to get married on that day, too. It’s kind of funny how that all worked out.

He’s been doing tons of promo with me the past year, and then when Nickelback did some legs, I would join him. He will join me in Asia for part of the tour.