If you happened to catch Lisa Loeb’s memorable appearance on Conan last week, you might have been asking yourself, “Where has she been all these years?” A fair question considering the singer catapulted to fame in the mid-’90s with the endearing “Stay (I Missed You)” and went on to record a series of critically acclaimed albums, only to seem to disappear about a decade ago.
With her signature glasses and acoustic sound, Loeb was an artist who defined the coffeehouse generation and was a favorite at music festivals around the nation.
Truth is, Loeb didn’t really disappear, she’s just been busy doing other things, such as voice-over work, television appearances (“Gossip Girl” and the Food Channel’s “Dweezil and Lisa”), creating an eyewear line, recording children’s CDs and writing children’s books.
“I enjoy doing children’s music and books and one of my albums — ‘Camp Lisa’ — inspired a musical which was performed twice in a Miami theatre festival and that’s in the process of being retooled,” Loeb said. “I never gave up on my music, I have just been busy with other projects.”
This year, Loeb has returned to the pop/rock world with the recent release of “No Fairy Tale,” produced by Chad Gilbert, guitarist and founding member of rockers New Found Glory.
“Chad really instigated the whole sound of the record. The album is more punky, poppy rock with high energy vocals that cut through more and that makes it very different from my past work,” Loeb said. “It is similar in that it’s lyric based and songwriting based music — all the songs could be played without the band.”
For the first time in her career, Loeb also included songs fully penned by an outside writer, something she called “a big deal” because of her insistence of always doing her own work.
Many of these new songs will be heard when Loeb takes the stage of Jammin’ Java on March 19.
“I played there a long time ago and what’s going to be interesting is that we are playing with a rock band,” Loeb says. “I’ll mix in old and new and take some requests. It will hopefully be what people want to hear.”
Born in nearby Bethesda, Md., Loeb was always interested in music, taking up piano and guitar at a young age and hosting her own radio show in high school. She attended Brown and received a degree in comparative literature (thus explaining her lyrical prowess) and teamed with classmates Elizabeth Mitchell and Duncan Shiek in her first band.
Loeb soon found fame with her band, “Nine Stories” and became a regular on the New York City coffeehouse scene. Although her songs had a rock edge to them, often the label on her was one of a different musical color.
“When you’re starting out in the public eye, people like to label you. So, you’re always looking for the label that best suits you,” she said. “In the ’90s, alternative was cooler than pop, and being a singer-songwriter and a girl, I wasn’t considered a rock musician, but more of a folk musician. Now, I think people are less affected by labeling and with the independent style promotion many people are doing these days, it’s not important to fit in, but rather to share your music, no matter what it is.”
It’s always been important for her to do things her way and not let a record company guide her path. In fact, Loeb is the only artist ever to have the No. 1 song on the Billboard charts without being signed to a recording contract.
“I’ve always been an independent artist and ever since the beginning, I have made music the way I want, the way I feel sounds really cool,” she said. “These days, I collaborate with people who make the project strong and I take advantage of all the modern ways to get in touch with fans. I do a lot of cross marketing with brands I believe in and who believe in me and I always try to keep it really natural.”
For her part, when Loeb’s on stage, it’s as if time isn’t a constant and who she is as a performer takes on different parts of her timeline.
“When I’m up there it could be from when I started playing in high school or in college or when I had big hit songs, it all flows together,” she said. “It’s very comfortable playing music with my band and it compresses time in a strange way. I’m always excited to be up there.”