Lisa Loeb’s highly anticipated return to the pop/rock world after immersing herself in other projects may be called No Fairy Tale, but it’s actually another charmed chapter of her storybook-like career which began in the mid-90’s. She emerged from the New York coffeehouse and club circuits with her trademark Grammy® nominated hit “Stay (I Missed You)”--the only artist (still) to ever have a number one Billboard pop single while not signed to a recording contract. Stephen Dare catches up with her on her birthday for a little grilling and light conversation. Awesome interview after the Jump!
The interview with Lisa Loeb, came--as so many things do-- from an email alerting the press that she would be performing at The Florida Theatre, one that included availability for speaking with her.
The email naturally did not come from the Florida Theatre, but from the national publicist in charge of advance promotion for her tour (which will be performing this Friday, the 15th.) I say "naturally", because it is unfathomably easier to get marketing materials and interviews from anyone---including the clandestine services of the CIA--- than it is from the Florida Theatre. Crazy huh? But its true for any of the local publicly funded institutions. (*see caveat below)(for her bio and information about the new project---which includes Tegan and Sara(!), click here)
I think the last time that the Florida theatre willingly set up an interview with one of their performers was sometime during the 1950s. It was an Elvis Presley performance and one of the local preachers ended up trying to get Elvis arrested. Since then the Florida Theatre apparently rhymes the word 'publicity' with 'arrest' to this present day--- at least this is my working theory. I had a friend working free lance for a local publication who tried to get an interview with one of the amateur directors during the 48 hour film festival. They were told in a manner that would have made Nora Desmond blush that the Press would not have 'access' to the artists, and that there would be no press passes issued for the event. All reporting would have to be done on the sidewalk. This resulted in a near total blackout of coverage that year.
Frankly, it is one of the more bizarre features of cultural life in Jville. None of the marketing people seem to have an interest in getting the word out to the public.--*with the noted exception of Sarah Roy at The Artist Series and the excellent team over at 5&Dime; Theatre Company. But perhaps it is what it is, as the irritating common phrase endlessly punctuates any situation which is both ludicrous and unavoidable. The upshot is that this time, the national press people were able to overcome the deep foggy bottom of Jville's cultural community and contact was made with the local press.
Lisa Loeb has been one of the continuing cuties of American Pop for a couple of decades (well, 19 years to be technical) now. Ever since she blipped onto the callow radar of sudden pop success with her (still iconic) release of "Stay".
With her fresh, clean scrubbed, smart girl looks (complete with the little black dress and oversized eyeglass frames) and the sweet, intelligently written and wittily awkward lyrics she instantly became an accessible metaphor for a whole new ethos in american femininity. Tailored, grounded, well groomed, smart, measured, sweet, thoughtful and nobody's fool she resonated with an entire generation.
But to think that her single went straight to the top of the charts as a result of image and marketing would be to miss the creative contribution that it represented at the time. Lisa Loeb pretty much pioneered a new vocal style of sing songy, smart white girl raplike pop rhythms that quickly infected the mainstream and remain with us in iterations as far away from Lisa Loeb 1994 as Taylor Swift 2012.
Here is what wikipedia says about "Stay"
Loeb's big break came through her friendship with actor Ethan Hawke, who lived in an apartment across the street from her in New York City. They met through mutual friends in the NYC theater community. Loeb gave Hawke the Juan Patiño-produced version of "Stay (I Missed You)", who in turn gave it to director Ben Stiller during the making of the 1994 film Reality Bites, with Stacy Sher. Stiller subsequently decided to use the song in the film’s ending credits, and it was included by Ron Fair on the soundtrack on RCA records. Hawke also directed a rare one-take video of “Stay” with no edits.
"Stay" ultimately went on to become a number one hit on the American charts. When her song hit number one, Loeb earned the distinction of being the only artist to top the Hot 100 before being signed to any record label. The single reached Gold status on July 12, 1994, just over three months after its official release date. Loeb and Nine Stories received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance by a Group, and were named Best International Newcomer in the Brit Awards.
She followed up the success of "Stay" with "I Do" in 1997 (again from wikipedia:)
"I Do" is a song by Lisa Loeb from her album Firecracker, recorded in 1997. The song is also featured on The Very Best of Lisa Loeb.
On the surface, the song seems to be about "the realization that a person isn't right for you, that the relationship has gone bad". However, the real intention of the song is quite different according to the liner notes for The Very Best of Lisa Loeb: "We were almost finished recording the album, Firecracker, and the record company told us that we still needed a single. I decided to write a song that sounded like a song about a relationship but was actually about the record company not 'hearing' a single on the record already. You can hear it in the lyrics, 'You can't hear it, but I do.' The song ended up being an expression of strength and power even when someone's not treating you right."
The song was warmly greeted by Billboard who called the melody and chorus "nothing short of pure pop bliss." The single is Loeb's second most successful single in the U.S. to date, reaching number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single also peaked at #3 on Billboard's Adult Top 40 chart, #11 on Billboard's Top 40 Mainstream chart, #8 on Billboard's Top 40 Adult Recurrents chart, and #22 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart.
What was interesting (at least to me) was the responses that we got when we announced that we were going to be interviewing Lisa in advance of the concert. So many, many women in Jville sent emails or made comments on our facebook page to the effect that her song 'stay' was their favorite and most meaningful song to them.
Nineteen years after its release, Lisa Loeb fans are apparently thick on the ground in Jville. (I wonder how many of them have any idea that she will be performing at the Florida Theatre?)
Several times, I was stopped in the Riverside and San Marco neighborhoods of downtown by readers who wanted me to get to the bottom of her inspiration for "Stay". It seems to be a universally held notion that the song must have been intensely personal and each of the people who asked after the interview wanted to know about her experience.
Lisa Loeb went on from the pop song successes to become one of the most intimately connected personalities of the 1990s/2000s pantheon of young and hip stars. Duncan Sheik was in her band before he made mainstream success with "Barely Breathing" or gained theatrical acclaim with "Spring Awakening".