Singer-songwriter Lisa Loeb captured the attention of music fans when her song “Stay (I Missed You)” became a No. 1 in 1994. Since then, Loeb has branched out into children’s music, books and appearances on television and films.
On Friday, Dec. 11, she will perform at the Copa in Palm Springs.
During a recent phone interview, Loeb discussed her evolution as a singer-songwriter.
“Lately, I’ve been collaborating with a lot of different people,” Loeb said. “A lot of the songs I write are inspired by things that have happened to me, but a lot come from a group of people coming together and thinking about what’s important to us and writing from that standpoint. Then we’re able to write songs that mean something, which is important to the people who are listening.”
Loeb, who has a degree in comparative literature from Brown University, credits her literary knowledge for helping her in the songwriting process.
“I think that can help broaden your vocabulary, and it can give you a sense of there being so many different things you can write about,” she said. “… Sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to be able to write, and I think it’s important to write about what you know, too.”
During the ’90s, music videos were still an essential part of promoting music and grabbing the attention of those who watched MTV and VH1. Today, the music video has become obsolete in many ways, and many artists are choosing not to make them anymore.
“I think back then, we thought about music videos like we think about social media now,” Loeb said. “Back then, you couldn’t believe you had to make videos, because it was a fun, artistic way to express yourself—but the most important thing was the music. Now it feels the same. A lot of us still feel like we should be focusing on the music, and we have to do social media and tweet. It’s now part of an artist’s expression of themselves to the world that you need to have to be a musician. I think it can sometimes take away from the music.”
During the ‘90s, many touring festivals also started to appear. Metal had OzzFest; alternative and indie music had Lollapalooza; hip-hop had the Smokin’ Grooves; and women in music had the Lilith Fair, from 1997 to 1999, which was founded by Sarah McLachlan; Loeb appeared all three years. McLachlan attempted to revive Lilith Fair in 2010, but poor ticket sales plagued the festival.
“I think they just decided to stop doing it. It was a great festival,” Loeb said. “I think a lot of women just became part of the mainstream music scene, so that it just wasn’t a big deal to be a woman and a musician for a time there. There was a need to highlight women musicians, and as time went on, maybe there was less of a need to do that.”
Loeb has branched out into children’s music. After success with Catch the Moon in 2003, she released Camp Lisa in 2008, which was inspired by her summer camp experiences growing up.
“A lot of it was based on my nostalgia for the entertainment when I was growing up in the ’70s and early ’80s. There was a lot of entertainment that was geared toward children, and there were also things that weren’t just for kids or grown-ups, and were for everybody,” she said. “I wanted to make something like that. Steve Martin did a lot of comedy like that when I was growing up—or Bill Cosby, which might not be a great example anymore—but there were people who did variety shows like Donny and Marie and Dolly Parton and Carol Burnett. There was a lot of silliness, humor, smart humor and a lot of music and entertainment. I always wanted to do something like that.
“Between that and my summer camp experiences, I think there was a lot of nostalgia for what music meant to me growing up, and I think children’s music gave me the ability to express myself in that way. It’s fun to step away from some of the topics I write about as a grown-up and step into more imagination. When I first started making children’s music, I started to collaborate a lot more.”
Loeb has also done acting, voiceover work and writing. Not many musicians are able to handle so many different types of projects, and Loeb said the variety can feel a little scary at first.
“I think when you do something new for the first time, you always feel that fear, and then you get used to it and feel at home with whatever it is,” she said. “Doing voiceover work is kind of like doing music; acting is something completely different than what I’ve done. It’s like the first time I played golf: I wasn’t sure what to wear, what you’re supposed to do, or what the rules were. But they were easy things to get used to, and it’s a natural fit for me.”
Loeb is married with two children. Juggling a career with family life is a challenge, she said.
“I’m always reaching out to other moms and dads who work and ask them how they do that,” she said. “I’m always trying to figure out how to get the balance right. I do like my work, and it’s important to be able to support my family, but the reason I’m supporting my family is because my family is the most important thing. It’s always the classic issue of finding the right balance, and I’m always learning.”
What can you expect from her show at the Copa?
“I’m really excited about that show,” she said. “The show is going to include several of my songs requested the most—of course songs like “Stay (I Missed You)” for sure—and other songs from my most recent record, called No Fairy Tale. I’ll probably play a couple of kids’ songs and take requests for anything in my catalog.
“I kind of play a show for people who know my music well and know all my songs, and some people who don’t know my music at all. I think I’m able to play a show and explain things between songs so (audience members) feel engaged and comfortable learning my music.”
I asked Loeb if there’s anything she hasn’t done in her career that she’d like to do. She answered quickly.
“I would love to do a Broadway show and be on Broadway,” she said.
Lisa Loeb will performs at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 11, at the Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $25 to $45. For more information, call 760-866-0021, or visit www.coparoomps.com.