Q&A with Lisa Loeb

Lisa Loeb occupies an interesting place in pop culture: though she’s known mainly for “Stay,” her ubiquitous 1994 hit, the song’s incredible staying power and ability to touch hearts more than 20 years since it first hit the radio has made her an icon of the music and fashion worlds. Albums, world tours, an eyewear line, and two children’s books later, Lisa is hardly a one-hit wonder. Though she still dearly loves “Stay” and the 90s, she’s eager to keep working. When she found a few minutes to chat with us, we talked the staying power of “Stay,” the songs that mean to her what “Stay” means to millions, books, movies, TV, and more!

GGM: What are you up to right now?

LL: I’m getting ready to head out to tour Japan with my band Nine Stories. We’re going on our second visit to tour my album No Fairy Tale that I made with Chad Gilbert from New Found Glory. We’ll be playing songs from my entire catalog. I also am excited, on the non-music side, about my eyewear line, Lisa Loeb Eyewear. Some of my frames are going into Costco in the middle of August. It’ll be great to have my frames open to a ton of new faces.

GGM: I have to ask you about “Stay.” It’s the 20 year anniversary of that song, which is crazy! That song means a lot to me and my friends. I guess my question is what’s it like to have a classic song like that, that’s been proven to stand the test of time and means so much to so many people? 

LL: It really is amazing. It connects me to everyone for one reason or another. On the one hand, people have an emotional connection to it. I hear a lot of personal stories related to it because there are so many lyrics and the video was so intimate, all done in one take. People love to learn all the lyrics. It’s sort of like a fun game for them, almost like a summer camp song. Also, it’s wild, because over the past year especially, it’s become apparent to me how iconic it is. It’s also been used in a lot of humorous situations, which is always the best way to tell if it’s connecting with people. Over the past year it’s been in everything from Workaholics to The New Girl, to a huge sing-along in Orange is the New Black. Even the new Hot Tub Time Machine! They just posted their redline trailer yesterday, and Craig Robinson recreated the “Stay” video, with his own lyrics. It’s wild to be a part of the common culture, and at the same time, when I play concerts, I realize there’s still a serious emotional connection with the song. I know there are a lot of songs like that that still mean a lot to me from when I was growing up, so I really do appreciate what that can mean to a person.

GGM: What were some of those songs?

LL: Everything from “Don’t Bring Me Down” by ELO, to any of the songs from the movie Grease, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Elton John’s “Someone Save My Life Tonight,” Hall & Oates, “Rich Girl,” the list goes on and on. It’s what makes listening to music on a little device amazing, the fact you can get all these songs on a mix tape really easily.

GGM: I was going to ask you if you had any nostalgia for the mid-90s when “Stay” was really huge, but then I listened to the song “The 90s” off your last album, which kind of seems to have an attitude about the 90s—

LL: I love the 90s. The attitude is that I really did love the 90s, but we don’t need to go back. I like to move forward. It’s not that I’m not sentimental—I’m very sentimental about the 90s, and every era of my life. I relive the 90s all the time when I play all my songs from that era, and also my friends and I remember everything! Chad Gilbert wanted me to write a song about the 90s, so I ended up writing about my experience making the video for “Stay,” and the record industry at the time, and my clothes, and what was going on, but we also wanted to move forward, hence the lyric “You say you didn’t love me then, but I don’t want to go back.”

GGM: Makes sense! So who are you listening to nowadays?

LL: I love Tegan and Sara, who put some songs on No Fairy Tale. I like Sufjan Stevens, though he hasn’t made a lot of new music lately. I like Spoon. I like—gosh there’s so many bands!—I went to see Jack White recently. We just have hundreds and hundreds of records!

GGM: How about one that you’ve been jamming a lot in particular?

LL: I’ve been working on live mixes of my concerts in Japan, so sometimes when I get deep into working, my listening gets pushed aside. But that Cage the Elephant record I love. It is very Black Keys, but there’s something about it that’s so robotic and emotional at the same time. It’s sort of like ELO in a way, very synthesized but also very dark and relatable.

GGM: You also have written a couple children’s books that come with children’s CDs. What drew you to making material for kids?

LL: Somebody gave me a business opportunity, actually. They said, “Hey, we want you to make a record that’s different from your regular records.” Ever since I was a kid, there were a couple kids’ records I loved. Even as an adult, I loved them. It was something sentimental, kitschy, and awesome. The record Free to Be… You and Me by Marlo Thomas, which was more like a variety show, sort of like The Muppet Show but with more heart. That record inspired my Camp Lisa record, my second kids’ record. Also, the Really Rosie album by Carole King. I didn’t listen to her music that much except her kids’ records. I wanted to make something that sounded like grown-up records, that just appealed to people, but had a little bit more age-appropriate material for children.

GGM: What is your favorite kids’ book to read with your children? Or I guess, what are their favorites?

LL: Harold and the Purple Crayon is one of my favorites. It’s such a great book, with very simple line drawings that leave a lot to your imagination, but it also has some fantastic wordplay. Every time I read it, each page in the story connects to the next page. It’s all linked together. Some kids books are a little here-and-there, but this one is all connected, telling a great adventure.

GGM: How about non-children’s books? What are you reading nowadays?

LL: Oh gosh, I read a lot! It keeps me up all night. I recently read The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a really interesting book. Something that drew me in and I couldn’t put down was Just Kids by Patti Smith. She’s an amazing writer. It really captured that era and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. I also read a book I heard the Band of Horses guys talking about called The Free by Willy Vlautin. It was a great novel.

GGM: Are there any specific designers you particularly admire?

LL: I love Trina Turk. She’s been around a little while now, but she’s got a great eye for bringing retro things to the present. She takes the best things from what has already happen and makes them modern. Her stores are great places to hang out. She’s perfect in Palm Springs. She also creates clothes for women who’ve actually got a butt, which I appreciate.

GGM: Favorite movies?

LL: One of my favorite movies of all time is Ordinary People. That, and Airplane! I also love All About Eve, Spinal Tap.

GGM: Are you an avid TV watcher?

LL: I am! Not compared to my husband, but definitely compared to my half-life, between sitcom era and watching Bewitched and things like that. When I moved to LA I picked up a lot more TV. And now TV’s great! I just finished the new 24 series. We’re now watching that show based on a book I read, The Leftovers. The book was amazing. I don’t know if the show is good yet. We also just finished Nurse Jackie, which I loved. All the big ones, Breaking Bad. I just met Aaron Paul! I saw him at the Jack White show! We walked past each other and he was like “Hey,” then I realized what had happened, turned around and was like “Wait a minute. I don’t actually know you, but I think I know you.”

GGM: You’re on the road all the time. What’s a specific destination you like to hit up when you’re out on tour?

LL: When I’m in Seattle, I like to buy a cherry doughnut at Ike’s Place, one of the more Mom and Pop doughnut places. In Japan, I usually get Okonomiyaki there if I have time. In Austin, I always go to Magnolia and get gingerbread pancakes and a soft taco.

GGM: Got any good road stories?

LL: Well, one of my favorite stories my friend just reminded me of was when my band was up in Canada. We were in a huge tour bus, and we drove by a 24-hour Tim Horton’s doughnuts, but only the drive-through was open because it was really late. I couldn’t get a look at the doughnuts they still had in stock, so something snapped inside of me, and I crawled through the driver’s window, into the drive-through window, into the Tim Horton’s, so I could personally pick out which box of doughnuts I wanted.

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