BY TRICIA DESPRES | FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA
It was 20 years ago when Generation X found itself staring into television sets and noticing a twentysomething girl with brown-rimmed glasses staring back at them and singing for the world to hear.
The girl was Lisa Loeb; the song was “Stay (I Missed You),” and before the convenience of the Internet and long before the fascination with YouTube, the unassuming girl with the unassuming tune made musical history, becoming the first artist to reach the top of the charts without the help of a record deal.
with Zachary Scot Johnson
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 3
Where: City Winery Chicago, 1200 W. Randolph
“I really think the video had a lot to do with it,” recalls Loeb, about the song that played during the closing credits of the 1994 movie “Reality Bites.”
“I felt really awkward, because not playing the guitar while I was singing was really strange to me. But as an actor, I also knew how to tap into different parts of myself. There was a part of me at that time that was unsure and shy and not sure what to say, but [director/actor] Ethan Hawke was really able to get me to use the video to connect with those feelings. He helped me let my guard down and get in the moment of the song, and I guess in that process a part of me came through.”
And soon after, the world fell in love with her.
Two decades later, the love affair between the fans and the girl in the short, black dress is stronger than ever. The Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter has continued on with a successful career that has included everything from film to television to voice-over work and children’s recordings. She has also evolved into a mother of two, worrying about everything from what her kids will have for breakfast (“They are so happy to be awake in the morning, you know?” to if she will fly in on time for her Dec. 3 City Winery date (“What do you think the weather is going to be like?”).
And yes, she is still wearing her glasses. Heck, she has made a business out of them.
“I’ve always been a pretty independent person, which surprises some people because I am a small and petite person,” says Loeb, who recently released a new eyewear line called Lisa Loeb Eyewear. “I’m actually very confident and very strong-minded and very detail-oriented.”
These days, Loeb thrives on the interaction she enjoys with her fans, who continue to crave her varied forms of music.
“It’s nice to be able to have an ongoing relationship with the fans now thanks to the Internet,” explains the 46-year-old. “I used to go out on tours for an extended number of weeks and the most interaction I would have with my fans was gathering their names after a show for the mailing list. [Laughs] Now I can create music and put it out the next day. I never imagined days like this back then.”
This relationship with her fans has helped Loeb continue to book dates throughout the year and throughout the country. “I have so many more albums out now, and I draw from all of them during the live show,” she says. “I play requests during the show and do a couple of the kid songs and do the songs that instinctively everyone wants to hear.”
And then there are the songs she hears every morning, which just might give us the best look into the Lisa Loeb of today.
“We have a rather long drive to take the kids to school in the morning, so the kids always want to hear songs like ‘You’re My Best Friend’ from Queen and ‘September’ from Earth, Wind & Fire,” she chuckles. “Those are by far my sweetest times of all.”
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.