Folk-rock songstress Lisa Loeb hit it big in 1994 with ‘Stay (I Missed You)’ — and hasn’t dropped off since
Lisa Loeb will forever be associated with the vulnerable, bookish woman in the music video for her 1994 smash hit, “Stay (I Missed You).” But unlike so many of her ’90s contemporaries, Loeb never renounced that image then moved on to something cooler. Instead, she’s still rocking her same quirky cat-eye glasses (she even has her own signature collection), still writing and recording intimate, catchy folk-rock tunes, and still navigating the dog-eat-dog creative world with smart, self-assured ease. Ever the polymath, Loeb is also mother to two young children, a celebrated author and kids’ musician, and an in-demand actress and voiceover talent.
Folio Weekly: You threw the music world a curveball with “No Fairy Tale,” working with a punk-rock producer, recording songs by outside collaborators like Tegan & Sara, and recording some of the most upbeat tunes of your career. Are you happy with how the album turned out?
Lisa Loeb: Yes, and I had such a great time during the process of making the record. As you get older, you realize the process is important to the end product. So, I’m really proud of it and excited that everybody has responded so positively for the most part.
F.W.: What first inspired you to pick up music as a child?
L.L.: Everyone in my family was encouraged to play instruments. My older brother is a classical pianist and conductor, my younger sister makes music, and my younger brother has a recording studio where he does post-production. So we’re all involved in the arts, which was a big part of our household.
F.W.: You went to college at Brown University in Rhode Island. Is that where you began to take music seriously?
L.L.: Well, I had a lot of encouragement to start playing original music in high school. But playing with Elizabeth Mitchell in college as Liz & Lisa allowed us to develop a great following, and we took that to New York City with us and expanded on it when we graduated.
F.W.: What was the New York music scene like in the early ’90s?
L.L.: We met some interesting folks, and there was a loose-knit group of us who hung out a lot: Ethan Hawke, Josh Hamilton, other musicians. It was a really encouraging and fun atmosphere because we were all transitioning from being indie artists to being welcomed into the commercial world, where we actually got paid for what we do.
F.W.: Was Elizabeth Mitchell your inspiration to start recording kids’ music?
L.L.: I’d always wanted to make kids’ music because, when I was a kid, summer camp songs and records like Carole King’s “Really Rosie” inspired me. They sounded like grown-up records, so I felt really cool as a kid listening to them. So when I was encouraged by Barnes & Noble to do a record that was different, I decided to do a kids’ record, and I asked Elizabeth Mitchell to produce it because her records featured real people playing real music, and that’s what I also wanted to make.
F.W.: Your Camp Lisa nonprofit supports children’s education, too.
L.L.: It actually helps raise money to send kids to summer camp. While school is really important, I think it’s also important to develop outside of school. And summer camp is a great place for that. It helps you develop as a person, a member of the community and a leader, and it helps you have fun and place value on things that are more important than just getting grades.
F.W.: You’ve also pursued tons of work outside the music realm. Have those opportunities arisen naturally?
L.L.: Yes. Acting, which I studied growing up, led into voiceover work, which I love. It’s a wonderful additional career as a mom living in Los Angeles who still wants to see her kids. Just now, I ran out to do an audition for 45 minutes, and now I’m heading home to put my kids down for their naps. Whether I’m doing TV shows or making records or starting an eyewear line, they all stem from things I love to do. I’m just glad that the industry now welcomes that kind of diversity. Balance is important.
F.W.: Do you have a lot of experience touring in Florida, Lisa?
L.L.: I tour as much as I can in Florida because not only do I like visiting as a tourist — I love the blue skies and being near the water — but I also really like the people there. For some reason, I always have fantastic audiences in Florida that know all the words. More than other states, even. I’m not sure why.