Lisa Loeb calls me from Tillsonburg, Ontario on February 16th, where she is starting her three-stop Ontario tour.
She has had a long night traveling, but doesn’t complain once, and is sharing her excitement on her discovery of amazing body lotion and chocolate bar deals on her visit to the local drugstore just moments earlier. I’m just completely blown away by her down to earth, friendly attitude, even when having a casual conversation with a total stranger.
Loeb became an overnight star in 1994 when her first hit song ‘Stay’ featured in a romantic comedy-drama ‘Reality Bites’, and was the first independent artist without record label with a number one single in the US.
She went on to release multiple, high selling albums, including the Grammy nominated ‘Firecracker’, and to many people, became one of the strongest, independent female icons of the time with the likes of Juliana Hatfield, Alanis Morrisette, and PJ Harvey.
She has since also released five children’s albums, done cameos and voice overs in multiple TV shows and movies, most memorably in a ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’, and worked tirelessly to promote important causes, including her own Camp Lisa Foundation to help less fortunate families to send their children to summer camps.
Loeb was raised in Dallas, Texas, where she also attended an all-girl school. She admits the conservative Texan environment affected her attitude.
“I was raised there through the 70’s and 80’s and it was a very conservative place. I think that brought out the rebel in me, and I was very interested in new age music as well as punk and rock music, and I was pulled into the alternative music community rather than listening to what was very mainstream at the time.” , she said. “On the other hand when I got older, I realize in retrospect some of the Texan musicians had a great influence on me; Stevie Ray Vaughan, and his guitar playing for example. There are some great storytellers with dry wit like Lyle Lovett and Willie Nelson. There’s also a lot of recklessness that I look to when I’m writing.”
The children’s albums, or the ‘family friendly’ albums as Loeb likes to call them, have a very special place in her heart.
“I have a really sentimental connection to my childhood, and I loved listening to all different kinds of things when I was a kid. There was a lot of silliness like Steve Martin, Old Sesame Street and Fernwood Tonight, as well as some other shows like Carol Burnett Show. “, she said. “I just felt like there was a certain storytelling and creativity that happens in that kind of entertainment and I wanted to do something like that. It’s almost like musical theatre where you end up blending different genres and writing about subjects you might not normally write about. And not just so much about love or relationships.”
Loeb’s 2015 Nursery Rhyme Parade was born when she realized how much her own children love the classic songs. Her son wanted to hear nursery rhymes from the books they had at home, and when Loeb realized she didn’t know some of them very well, she decided to explore them further.
“It has really taken me to a different place. Some of my records are more kid-oriented, some of them are more family friendly and one of my more recent records is really for young kids, although I write also to their caregivers or older people who might have issues with their memory or Alzheimer’s. They hear these classic songs and it means a lot to them and it brings them out a little bit.”, she said.
Loeb says the influences from the old classics are evident on the records.
“It’s more of a sentimental attachment to a time when everything’s not exactly perfect in the recording but still high quality.”, she said. “Like when you listen to the Beatles you know it’s not exactly right, but there’s realness and imagination that leaves room for audience’s ears to take it all in.”
When asked about being an icon and a role model, Loeb quickly brushes it off.
“I don’t consider myself as anything really, but I know some consider me a role model. It’s funny when I was a kid I was a president of the class council, and even if I was a little bit shy and quiet I found myself also in a leadership position here and there. And I do think it’s important for the people in the public eye, if it suits them.”, she said. “I know kids are looking up to me. I looked up to people when I was a kid too, so I appreciate that. I like to help the kids to be focused, figure out what they want to do in life, figure out how to live their own life, and try to be successful in that.”
On top of working on a two kids’ records and one grown up record coming out within the next year and a half, Loeb has also been keeping busy writing songs to an animated kids’ show ‘Give a mouse a Cookie’ produced by Ottawa based Mercury Filmworks.
“I think that’s the life of a musician and a creative person in general, and for somebody who worked so hard for so long to get it really going professionally, I’ve been taking advantage of a lot of opportunities to perform and to collaborate to tell my stories and other people’s’ stories.”, she said. “It’s all mainly set around your passion, and when we’re all starting out and in your late teens and wondering how I’m going to relate with people, how can I make this a living, what do I enjoy doing, what are my strengths, and things just fall into place. Eventually. “
For more information on Lisa and where you can catch her on tour or hear her music visit www.lisaloeb.com
By Laura Collins.