How Alanis Morissette Helped Propel Taylor Hawkins to Greatness

Taylor Hawkins presents Alanis Morissette with a Billboard Women in Music Icon Award in 2019
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Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Billboard

Music lovers all over the world were stunned by the sudden passing of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins on March 26. For a quarter century, his undeterred percussive energy, combined with a laid-back charm onstage and off, became the perfect foil for frontman Dave Grohl and his band of rock torchbearers. (Grohl, of course, was something of an accomplished drummer himself, so Hawkins' ability to complement those songs was really special.)

READ MORE: Taylor Hawkins, Foo Fighters Drummer, Dead at 50

But longtime fans know Hawkins' big break came not with the Foos, but as the backbone of Alanis Morissette's touring band as she emerged from budding Canadian pop star to a new kind of world-renowned singer/songwriter. Matching the raw energy of the multiplatinum album was no small task, but as he would in Foo Fighters, Hawkins made it look easy and fun.

The two musicians first met through Alanis' manager, Scott Welch. At the time, Hawkins was all of 23 years old, working with another Canadian roker named Sass Jordan. Their friendly interaction turned into a serious musical partnership not long after Hawkins was sent a cassette of some of the songs off Jagged Little Pill to learn ahead of a tryout to serve as Alanis' drummer. "I heard 'You Oughta Know' and 'You Learn' and three or four others...no question, it was going to be [big]," he later told Billboard. "To see her go from zero to a thousand - and I'm telling you, 'You Oughta Know' came out, and within a week, it was just bananas."

READ MORE: What's the REAL Irony of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic"?

Hawkins soon emerged as a presence of his own, backing her not only on various promo gigs and concerts but even appearing in the videos for "You Oughta Know" and "You Learn." During that time, he admired Morissette's resolve as a performer acclimating to the eyes of the world on her. "She gave me a lot of space to do what I wanted," Hawkins later told Alice Cooper in a radio interview. "It was probably the biggest album of the year, and there was a lot of pressure on her. She was having to learn to be this leader on the job, which isn't easy. But it was really one of the most fun times of my life."

So what led him to join Grohl in Foo Fighters nearly immediately after the Jagged Little Pill cycle wound down? For Hawkins, it was simple: he wanted to be in a band instead of supporting a musician. And the timing was right: Grohl, who'd played every instrument on Foo Fighters' self-titled debut, had recruited Sunny Day Real Estate drummer William Goldsmith for 1997's The Colour and the Shape, but tensions between the two led to Grohl re-recording all the rhythm tracks himself. Having met Hawkins a year before, he called in search of recommendations for a replacement and was surprised at Hawkins' suggestion.

"Dave said, 'Do you have any good recommendations?'" Hawkins said to Entertainment Weekly. "And I was like, 'Well how about me, you asshole?'" Grohl couldn't believe he'd give up such a plum gig, but any doubts evaporated when they first practiced together. "He sat down and played for three seconds, and the first time he hit a snare drum, I knew it," Grohl told EW.

Though Hawkins and Alanis parted ways, he never forgot the opportunities she afforded him. In 2019, he was on hand to present an award to her at a Billboard Women in Music event. "I would probably be delivering pizzas to someone you know tonight if it wasn't for her," he said. "I mean it. She gave me a break, and she's awesome."

Plus, Alanis had an intuition about it at the time. “We met the Foo Fighters when I was still playing with her, and she said, ‘Dave’s gonna ask you to join the someday,’" Hawkins told Louder Sound. "She called it a year before it happened.”

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