I felt like I knew a lot about Lisa Loeb – the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter with multiple gold records to her credit, as well as appearances on both the small and big screen. Hell, I thought I learned it all from her show “#1 Single” on E! (I definitely learned that the crush I had in 1994 still goes strong today). But as it turns out, there’s even more to the near iconic Lisa Loeb.
The lady who made cat-eye glasses one of the world’s sexiest facial accessories has always had the smarts to maintain so many years of success; a graduate of Brown University with a degree in comparative literature. But it was more than smarts that landed her where she is today – passion and dedication on the New York indie scene eventually led to “Stay (I Missed You),” the hit single from the film “Reality Bites” that to this day remains the only No. 1 single belonging to an unsigned artist.
We all knew that “Stay” was written just after an argument with a boyfriend, but did you know it was also at first for Darrell Hall of Hall & Oates, who was looking for new songs at the time? Or that friend and neighbor Ethan Hawke directed the well-known music video that followed? I didn’t.
I also just learned that this year Loeb launched her own independent record label called Furious Rose Productions. She has re-released “The Purple Tape,” her first recording made over 15 years ago in 1992. In addition, Loeb has just put out her second children’s CD, “Camp Lisa.” It’s all about those good ol’ summer days when your biggest concern was the length of the line at the swimming pool. Lisa says “it’s songs that are fun and silly to sing when you’re a kid, but something that adults can sing as well.” One of the best parts? The Camp Lisa Foundation takes a portion from “Camp Lisa” proceeds and provides funds to help send underprivileged kids to summer camp through its partnership with S.C.O.P.E. (Summer Camp Opportunities Provide an Edge, Inc.).
Sigh. Kind, smart and sexy. I wish I knew where those “#1 Single” auditions were being held… anyway, Lisa is still recording music, so don’t be surprised if another record pops up some time in the not so distant future. She’ll be on tour as well, so keep an eye out. Grab some of the new CD’s and jump into the XXQ’s.
XXQs: Lisa Loeb
PensEyeView.com (Richie): Hi, Lisa. Where’d I catch you right now?
Lisa Loeb (LL): We are on the New Jersey Turnpike, driving to Washington, D.C. for some gigs and radio things – XM Radio things.
Richie: So, I just wanted to back track a little bit, at Brown University and with your first band, what were the first performances like?
LL: It was really an awesome experience. I had a band with my freshman roommate. We started it a week before school started, literally like the first day we met each other, we started singing together. And the first show was packed! We played at this place called, The Underground, which is the club at Brown and everyone came out to support us. We had a packed house from day one. There was always a great support from the audience. I think that acceptance from the audience gave me, and probably Liz, a lot of confidence. At the same time there were a lot of musicians at Brown that we really looked up to. There was also a certain amount of challenge to write the best music we could. It was a perfect combination of having a standard to reach and good support system.
Richie: Was there a certain point that you realized music was going to be more than just a hobby and more of a career?
LL: In a way… well, I don’t know how to describe it, it just seemed so natural, it was just happening. I was always playing music as a kid. I went away to acting camp one summer in London. People would come into my room and ask to hear songs. It was just something that was happening, each step of the way. I was a little bit concerned about being a professional musician. Although I was always raised to value the arts, I was not raised to become a professional musician. So I always tried to work really hard on the business side of music, work really hard on the creative side and try to make, the least amount of questions… you know to always make sure we had a good audience at our shows, to make sure we advertised properly, to record our music, watch the business side of things.
So every step along the way, Liz and I were working towards becoming professional musicians but it kept being proven to us along the way that it was the right thing to do; the audiences were there, the recordings were going well, the record labels started getting interested in college. I had this voice in the back of my head, kind of from my parents that kept saying ‘you should get a real job, you should be a doctor or lawyer’. But there were always signs that this was right.
Richie: So how have your friends and family reacted to your career?
LL: They’re really supportive, you know. But they are always talking about the next thing – ‘When are you going to be a lawyer or a doctor?’. That’s a good question, that may happen next (laughs). Through music I learned along the way, that it is really about telling stories, and meeting people, sharing experiences. Like my summer camp record, “Camp Lisa” I get to do that. And it’s not necessarily about how many records you sell, you can have that experience on a plane on a way to a gig, or on stage or… it’s just a cool career with flexibility and opportunity to experience a variety of things.
Richie: I was actually listening to “Camp Lisa” when you called. What can fans expect from this album?
LL: A handful of good old camp songs, like “Peanut Butter and Jelly”. It reminds me of something that I would have been listening to when I was 12… but now I think the 12 year old is an 8 year old but it’s songs that are fun and silly to sing when you are kids but that adults can sing as well. Then there are original songs that remind me of the songs I was listening to on the radio at summer camp. They have themes like best friends or last day of summer camp, or school. There is something that is family friendly about it. It reminds me of like a Dynamite magazine from the 70s.
Richie: What was camp like for you?
LL: Well, there was a variety of camps, because I started going to day camp when I was little and that was all about snacks… like Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches they would refrigerate during the day. Then when I was older and got to sleep away camp for a few years. That was about independence, borrowing the older girl’s hair dryers, and learning how to use eyeliner. It was about arts and crafts – lanyards, songs, making friends. It was the first place I learned how to play guitar. My friend taught me how to play “Stairway To Heaven”. So, it was having cool counselors, and people we looked up to. Our own little private community.
Richie: Is that love for camp what brought on the “Camp Lisa Foundation”?
LL: Yeah, because when we were making the record we were talking about trying to create some TV programming and things that would show summer camp experience year round, by watching it on TV. Then I started to think, wouldn’t it be kind of cool to send kids to camp rather than watching it on TV. We’re still working on developing that programming but we started to look around to see if there were foundations already set up that helped send kids to camp. Through a lot of research we found S.C.O.P.E. (Summer Camp Opportunities Provide an Edge, Inc.) which sends under privileged kids to summer camp, where there is great leadership programs, sports programs and things that they would not normally get to experience. So, I realized that would cool to donate proceeds from the record to help raise money, to send kids to camp. I just wanted to share that summer camp experience with as many people as possible.
Richie: You talk about growing up and going to camp, so what kind of music were you listening to growing up?
LL: I listened to everything from, well, a lot of 70’s pop radio – The Eagles, Elton John, that was a lot of what we listened to. And a lot of classical music as well. As I got older though, I listened to more like Jimi Hendrix, The Police and Led Zeppelin. Then I listened to a lot of new wave music like Thomas Jolby. A lot of Bowie, a lot of variety.
Richie: Is there an up and coming artist right now that you think we should all be listening to?
LL: Um, that’s a good question. I get CDs all the time. I wish I could remember the one that I got the other day in San Francisco, that my waitress gave to me. I think the best way is to go on the internet and see what people are talking about.
Richie: Being on the road now, what is road life like for you?
LL: I think being on the road is more like a vacation where we have to work. Like, I asked you earlier about restaurants, we try to make it as easy as possible and visit interesting places. The last tour I did in January, I figured out which cities I wanted to go to – I have friends that have restaurants, or certain things, like I love to go to Washington DC and walk around the Mall. I am going to Seattle, to the Market and walking along the water. I try to go where there is a lot of family and friends. I mean, we work, there is a lot of work but I feel lucky to be able to go on the road and be a musician.
Richie: Your glasses have become an iconic image of you. Did you ever think that the glasses would become such a symbol for you when you first bought them?
LL: You know, I never thought of it like that. I have been wearing glasses since I was 13 or 14 and maybe because it was the 80s and new wave was around, and it was the rebellion against the preppy era… I would always find glasses that were “interesting”. Put that in quotations, “interesting” (laughs). Along the way, I just gravitated towards different glasses and I ended up with the cat-eye glasses. I try on glasses all the time and they were just the ones that looked right on my face, or I think. Ever since I was a kid, people would recognize me for my glasses and it’s just funny that became something for me as a professional musician.
Richie: What’s something we’d be surprised to hear about Lisa Loeb?
LL: Um, I don’t know… I was playing Boggle last night until 12:30 AM… 12:30 AM! I am obsessed with nutrition and fitness, I don’t know if that’s surprising or not. I like playing “Rock Band”, especially bass.
Richie: I wanted to ask you about the reality show you did on E!, “#1 Single”. I caught many episodes but never found out, if you did in fact find someone from the show?
LL: I did, and then we didn’t date very much. But I am dating someone now. It was a great way to meet a lot of interesting people both on camera and on the crew. It definitely got the word out there that I was a single person at the time. It also started a lot of conversations about dating, both men and women. People began to realize they were not alone and there were more people going through what they were going through.
Richie: I think it took a lot of courage to put yourself out there. I mean you went on some very interesting dates-
LL: Yeah, yeah…
Richie: The guy that did the karaoke… that was just awkward for me to watch!
(NOTE: For those that didn’t watch this show, Lisa went on a blind date. While on the date, at a friend’s apartment, her date decided to break out the karaoke machine and do his rendition of her classic hit, “Stay”. Ok, I get it, you are trying to be funny, but this guy sang the whole entire song! And he sang it like he was going to impress her with it. I can’t speak for her, but it was one of those moments where you couldn’t help but feel bad for him. Lisa did her best to act like it wasn’t that weird.)
LL: It’s also kind of hilarious. I mean, people don’t know how to act.
Richie: Did you end up with that guy? I don’t want to offend you.
LL: No (laughs).
Richie: So, what’s a Lazy Sunday like for you?
LL: I wake up and make breakfast. Then a few hours later, we go somewhere for lunch. Then we’ll just look around stores in the East and West Village. Maybe go see a movie. I like to do the New York Times Crossword throughout the day.
Richie: When you sit down write music, is there a certain atmosphere you have to be in?
LL: No, not really. I just need a guitar, usually. And paper, a recorder and coffee. But there is not particular place.
Richie: I read that when you wrote “Stay”, it was just after an argument with a boyfriend.
LL: Yeah, yeah but it was also for Darrell Hall, from Hall & Oats. I heard he was looking for songs and I wanted to write one for him. Then I found out he wasn’t looking for music anymore and I just finished up the song.
Richie: So, what’s next for Lisa Loeb?
LL: To work on more music that’s not for kids, that’s the main project. But, I continue to do other entertainment projects, that you don’t even want to know about. More music, more touring, and things you may not read in the paper because they are happening in my own personal life.
Richie: Well, thanks for taking the time with me today.
LL: Oh, thank you. Take care.
For more information on Lisa Loeb, check out www.LisaLoeb.com.