“Lisa Loeb has staying power.”

By Jason Tanamor

When Lisa Loeb burst onto the scene, she was an unsigned artist with a hit song for a hit movie. That was in 1994. Now, nearly 15 years later, the multi-talented singer and songwriter of “Stay (I Missed You)” is back with a new album that’s not only for her regular audience, but for kids as well.

Loeb recently took time from her busy schedule for an interview.

Q - You first broke onto the scene with “Stay (I Missed You).” How fast did your life change after the release of this song?

A - My life got even more crazy busy after the song became popular. I was in the middle of doing everything an independent musician does - playing shows, advertising the shows, making flyers, doing temp work, writing, recording, rehearsing with my band and playing shows, a few shows in other cities, developing the fan base, and all of a sudden I was also balancing the activities that happen when you have a commercial hit song - promotions on radio stations all over the country, interviews, TV appearances, and lots of people who wanted to re-connect and celebrate the success, lots of contracts that had to be signed and business relationships that had to be officially defined in contracts, a bidding war between major labels, which was the culmination of years and years of exploring the music business. It's hard to explain exactly, but it was like living many lives at once, and it was just very busy, and exciting.

Q - You came onto the scene when the likes of Jewel, Sarah McLachlan, Liz Phair, and Sheryl Crow were a huge part of the musical landscape. Now, with “American Idol,” and the country music version of the show, how different is it for you as an artist who primarily relies on her singing and songwriting and playing to put out music nowadays versus back when you first came out?

A - I still think the songwriting, performance, and production are most important, but as always, marketing is also very important to get the music out to people. I've always thought that musicians should make music and then figure out how to sell it (or get a friend or business partner(s) to help them) so that they can make a living, which gives most people the peace of mind to have the mental freedom to continue to create. I think you're really asking if I feel pressure to make really commercial music with more focus on the selling than on the music. If so, the answer is "no." I couldn't imagine doing something with the sole focus of making $$ or being famous. That's not a good life to lead.

Q - Your music has always been melodic in terms of a listening and storytelling standpoint. Is there a specific approach you take when you sit down to write a song?

A - Each songwriting process is different. There's some combination of ideas falling out of my head onto the guitar or into words or melody and at some point I have to sit down and figure out what I want to say, and/or just say it/sing it. That's the homework part: the finishing of the song. Sometimes I write with other people from scratch. Sometimes I call up writer friends to sit with me and help me finish songs, especially when I've started to over think the songs.

Q - Your new album is called “Camp Lisa.” Now there’s a Camp Lisa Foundation. Tell me a little bit about this.

A - I loved summer camp growing up, and I loved the music we did there. I thought it would make a great kids' album - there's so much variety too - fun songs, gross-out songs, deep songs sung around a campfire, songs with lots of words, melodic songs that sound like1970's soft rock songs. I wanted to share the camp experience with people who've gone to camp and those who haven't. Then I realized we should share the camp experience with kids who normally wouldn't have the opportunity to go so I started the Camp Lisa Foundation to do that. The proceeds of the album sales are going to send kids to camp!

Q - Now I understand you were on a television show on the Food Network. How did this come about?

A - I love food, and named an album “Cake and Pie.” It was based on my philosophy that sometimes you don't have to choose - if someone offers you cake or pie, you can say cake and pie. Also, it refers literally to the fact that I usually take both (or all) desserts offered to me. Anyway, as part of the promotion of the album, Dweezil Zappa and I devised a show in which our chef/friend Mark Tarbell would do a pie making demo on stage and we'd play songs and interview him, much like a cooking show, and then the audience would take away pie samples. Interscope Records, our label at the time, wasn't interested in financially supporting the idea, so we decided to go directly to Food Network to see if they might want to showcase our pie-making/music-playing promotion in one of their already existing shows, and instead, they were taken by our enthusiasm for the network, which we watched constantly, and our love of food, and how it related to our lives as musicians. So, they offered us a show.

Q - What types of foods do you like to cook?

A - I love sweets - cookies, cakes, brownies, and salads - really diverse salads that are delicious and healthy. I also make a lot of fake sweets, in which all real ingredients are used - no fake sugar or fat-free anything, but just tasty things that happen to be less sugary and fattening.

Q - So you sing, write, and cook. Why would you need to have a show about trying to find love? You would think there would be men lining up at your door.

A - Very nice. When I made the show, I thought a lot of other women were going through what I was going through (in my thirties, balancing my career and personal life, and hadn't really dated much), and through some experimentation with a great team of producers/TV people we came up with a reality concept that I thought could share my experience. E! let us do a reality show that real people, not the typical crazy drama queen people, and we were able to tell the story. It's not that there aren't great men out there, but you have to find the person that you really connect to, and that was the process of the show. I do have a boyfriend now.

Q - “Camp Lisa,” I had read, combines a lot of camp type songs you grew up listening to. Is this album geared toward younger people or do you still wish to reach your existing fan base?

A - I think the album is for all ages.

Q - What message do you want listeners to get out of the new album?

A - I want people to remember camp or if they haven't gone, I hope they feel the breadth and depth of emotions that you feel going to camp. It's a really unique experience, and one that everyone should have.

Q - Since you broke out in 1994, how do you think you’ve grown and matured in regard to writing music?

A - It's a constant evolution. I'm more comfortable with the fact that songwriting is work sometimes. That's very zen, huh? Also, I feel more of a challenge to write songs that people can connect to when they hear them. Sometimes I need to write more directly, sometimes more abstractly. Mostly, I need to try not to over think it. That's a tough one.

Q - How has your writing changed?

A - I think it's evolving, and it hasn't changed super dramatically.

Q - Your glasses have since been a trademark for you. Will you ever get to the point where you lose the glasses for contact lens?

A - I'd love to wear contact lenses, but my eyes have always been too dry.

Q -Anything you wanted to add?

A - Check out my website, Lisaloeb.com to find out other things happening. It's a community. I hope to see you out there on the road. Please keep me posted about restaurants I should try, and feel free to share book and music recommendations too!


Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous."

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reayx5 said...

Nice interview. Lisa's music is more than just "Stay", and I appreciate you pointing that out.


Jerry said...

Do you still talk "so" all the time?


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