NME After Print: Lisa Loeb
It was 1994. My good friend was leaving for Chicago to take the plunge in the dance field. It was devastating for me at the age of 18. Driving away wondering when I would see him again, Stay was playing on the radio. Fitting, and not surprising as that song was on every hour on the hour. Lisa Loeb made a name for herself with this #1 hit. Her school girl fashion style and those cattail glasses also made her stand out from those currently in the music scene. Now finding her love, and niche, in children's music, Loeb is making a stop in Albuquerque to play the Zoo Music Series at the Botanical Gardens on August 3rd. I was excited to get a moment of her time to talk about her love of music as a child, being the first artist having a #1 hit without a record contract, and balancing work and family.
What was childhood like musically for you? Was music innate or was it all about the "Carnegie Hall" way of learning?
I listened to music all of the time growing up: on the radio, on the record player, my dad playing piano. We had music at school, I took piano lessons growing up as well as dance, and I switched to guitar when I was 14. Music was mostly about taking lessons learn to play. It was also around me all the time!
Who were your musical influences?
When was 4-8 years old, I loved everyone from Burt Bacharach to Tchaikovsky, Beatles, and the BeeGees. We listened to a lot of music on the record player, on the radio, and my father also loved playing the standards on the piano. All of this music lead to more as I grew older.
You have the title of being the first artist to have a #1 single without a record contract for "Stay." Was it a challenge accomplishing it all without a big name?
There was a sequence of events that led to becoming an artist with a number 1 single. Some were things in my control, like a lifetime of songwriting, starting at age 6, learning instruments, like piano and guitar, listening to lots of music and getting an understanding of how a song was written. Getting an understanding of the music business starting in high school, performing my entire life, and a lot of other things one does when you have a musical background. Then, in particular, with the song “stay,” the story was interesting- it sounded unique at the time, almost like an acoustic guitar and a voice (even though there was an entire band,) the folks from the Reality Bites movie and Ron Fair decided to put my song the soundtrack, after my friend Ethan Hawke passed my recording along, and he ended up being able to make a one take video, a concept that he came up with, which was really unique at the time and all of these things contributed a lot to the story. A radio station in Houston started playing the song, and other stations caught on, the folks from RCA records, led by Skip Bishop, the radio promoter, started promoting to the radio stations, and week by week, it headed up the charts. I think the fact that I had a strong background in music, a good following, and lots of experience and knowledge contributed to everything, and since I wasn’t known nationally yet, that made the story even seem more dramatic and interesting.
Were you prepared for the fame Stay would lead you?
I was prepared for anything! I was working so hard towards a professional music career for a long time, and with my friend Elizabeth Mitchell, we’d had a really strong following in college.
You went the direction of children's music. What led you to go that route?
I loved music and a variety of entertainment when I was growing up in the 1970s, and I wanted to make things like that: earnest, projects with stories, some silly, some more heartfelt and some serious for all ages. Many years later I had kids and that also has informed some my music, especially when it came to recording the nursery rhymes.
Witnessing what is happening in the music scene today, is there anyone that stands out that you admire?
It’s hard to say. I really enjoy Sia, who’s a wonderful songwriter and artist who has no fears about attempting different themes and tones and emotion in her music.
You are continuing a music career while balancing life as a mother. How do you keep it all in check?
My husband, my team, my babysitters, my in-laws and parents all contribute to the balance. I rely on others, prioritize the kids and our health over everything, and then try to follow my heart and use the ICal and lots of lists to keep priorities and meetings/appointments and activities and touring in check.
There are many artists that feel their focus is music and that's that. You have explored many different ventures during your career. How do you decide what's right for you?
I follow my interests and follow the things that I love to do. I attempt many more things than you see come to fruition, and also I keep my ears open to opportunities that come to me!
It wasn't a surprise to us that you would end up with your own eyewear line. Where do you get your inspiration when it comes to designs?
I love the sexy librarian look- something that combines masculine and feminine, looks that are pretty, structured to give the face a lift, which have varying degrees of cat-eye style. I want glasses that look cute and beautiful, strong and flirty.
What advice would you give an aspiring singer/songwriter today?
Write a lot, find collaborators in business and creativity, figure out the least expensive, most effective way to be yourself and share your music. Develop an audience and a sound and look for ways to make a living through performance, licensing, and collaboration.
What would you like your legacy to be?
I’d like to be someone who followed my heart and made a lot of music and other things too!
Zoo Music presents Lisa Loeb at ABQ BioPark Zoo on August 3rd. Purchase your tickets at https://www.cabq.gov/culturalservices/biopark/events/zoo-music-lisa-loeb