Born in Napanee, Ontario to conservative parents, Lavigne grew up singing country music and in a church choir and taught herself guitar. She was signed by Arista Records head L.A. Reid when she was 16 years old. She moved to New York City to work on an album.
Apparently, early attempts to co-write songs for her failed to meet her approval, and she eventually moved to Los Angeles, California and cowrote her album with Clif Magness and a songwriting team called "The Matrix", whose previous work included songs for Sheena Easton and Christina Aguilera. Her first album, Let Go, was released by Arista on June 4, 2002, and was certified "Quadruple Platinum" less than six months later by the Recording Industry Association of America. She was named "Best New Artist" at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards and at the 2003 Juno Awards, where she led all musicians with six nominations, winning four Junos. Singles off the album include her breakthrough hit Complicated, and Sk8er Boi (txt for skater boy).
Press accounts frequently credit her, along with singers Vanessa Carlton and Michelle Branch, with bringing a new sense of earnestness and genuine creativity to an often vacuous and pre-fabricated teen pop music market. Whilst her marketing has been every bit as sophisticated as, for instance, that of Britney Spears and her competitors, a profile in the Washington Post found that in the flesh, her personality reflected the marketing and found her, if anything, something of a wide-eyed innocent, citing the fact that she was intending to purchase her first Ramones CD. In another interview, she listed her current listening tastes as including Blink 182, Sum 41, and System of a Down.
Her "skater punk" fashion style was one of the most imitated of 2002.