Growing up, Lisa Loeb was obsessed with vinyl. But when her career took off in the ’90s, cassettes and CDs were the most popular formats.
Before her upcoming Spring performances, Lisa took the time to talk with TVD about finally getting to release on vinyl and the perks of having an audiophile husband.
With a lot of your upcoming tour dates you’re doing two shows a day, one for kids and one for grownups. Is it fun to play for two different audiences in one day?
I’m just getting into doing it. We finally realized I should try doing more combinations where we do both, kids and grownup shows, in the same place, or at least the same city, same day. Sometimes clubs and venues don’t want you playing more than one show in the area because they feel like it competes with itself, but I do get a lot of crossover audiences. A lot of adults, who are fans, will come to the grownup show and also come to the kids show. But I have a very full life, so it’s nice to be able to do double duty and play two different shows in a day and hit two different groups of my audience. So, I’m trying that out. I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be fun.
Are your performances for kids a lot different from those for grownups?
Yeah. Well, they’re really similar in the way that I have a setlist of songs I think I want to play, but there’s always space for requests. And each show is different depending on what the audience is like. They’re similar in that way, but they’re totally different in the songs that I play. For grownup shows I play songs from my albums or new songs I’ve written. I’ll usually throw in a couple of kids songs in those shows because there are a lot of parents who know my kids music now and they want to hear it. Or even just to get the word out for those who do have children and don’t know I make music geared towards kids, but songs adults will also enjoy. So, I throw in a song here and there. And the word play is really fun, so grownups have fun listening to it. It’s a nice relief from hearing a lot of songs about love and breakups.
And at my kids shows I usually stick to all my kids music. I play a lot of nursery rhymes now, because I have a new nursery rhymes record out. Even before that I played a lot of classic kids songs, but also a lot of my original music. Or summer camp songs that I like to share with kids, where they can participate and we can all sing together. Every once in a while I’ll throw in a grownup song. I try to remind adults that if they want to hear something during the kids show they need to let me know or else I’m just going to do kids songs. Sometimes I’ll play a school and the teachers will want to hear a grownup song. They’re not totally inappropriate for kids just a little bit of a different feeling. But it all seems to work out.
Do you have any favorite record stores that you like to visit?
We live in Los Angeles and there’s a lot of vinyl here. It’s funny, I don’t go to stores as much any more because my husband (Roey Hershkovitz, Music Supervisor for Conan) is completely obsessed with vinyl and he works in music with all the new bands. So, he regularly gets vinyl from Purity Ring to Foo Fighters to Dawes. Everybody. He gets every vinyl.
His dad was a big vinyl collector and he started to bring in all his dad’s jazz and blues. We have a lot of blues and jazz playing in the house as well as classic vinyl from the ’50s through the ’80s. He goes to every Record Store Day. We go to vinyl festivals. He spends a lot of time at Amoeba. If we go to the store, we go to Amoeba. Or in Dallas, we go to Bill’s Records and I’m really looking forward to visiting Good Records.
Do you remember the first record you bought?
It’s hard for me to remember because I’ve had vinyl earlier than my memories go back. I remember a couple of records that made a big impact on me. In 6th grade my friend gave out singles as party favors and I think I got “Tragedy” by the Bee Gees or maybe I traded for it. It might’ve been “This is It” by Kenny Loggins. My parents always had so many records in our house and I collected so many records. I have hundreds of records. I would get so obsessed, I would usually stick to one side of the album and every morning I would listen to Hot Rocks by the Rolling Stones. Or all the Bowie records or I listened to The Police constantly and The Cure. For my birthday, my husband just bought me my two favorite Bowie records, which I own so many copies of, Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust.
When I was growing up I was completely obsessed with vinyl because that’s what we listened to music on. I was a DJ in high school on the radio station and I played vinyl on the air. I was still playing vinyl, not CDs. I was always the one in charge of the music and I would bring my records to the school dances in the 8th grade. And then after years and years of doing that my husband has taken over where I left off. It’s like some people say there’s no room in the kitchen. He’s a such serious audiophile. He’s got three different kinds of speakers. Audiostatic speakers that are taller than I am. And all these different turntables. So, I don’t ever really choose the music, because he always chooses music.
What records do you play with your kids at home?
My daughter, who’s 6, is into vinyl and she has her own little Crosley record player and she has her own records she listens to. We play Michael Jackson, Purity Ring, really a variety. Sometimes we listen to nostalgic kid’s music. My husband just got my daughter “Mah-Na Mah-Na”. And we have Free to Be… You and Me, which is one of my favorites. But she listens to a lot of real grown up music, like Foo Fighters and a lot of other bands.
You released your last album, No Fairy Tale on vinyl. Do you hope to release more of your future records on vinyl?
I did! I was really excited about the album and even more excited about the artwork for the album because I missed having that large image. When I aspired to be a professional musician I was always so excited about having that big artwork to play with. But by the time I became a professional musician it was all about cassettes and CDs and I didn’t get to do that. So it’s fun to be able to play with the big artwork.
I would love to put some of my kids music on vinyl. I feel like it works well for vinyl because it’s very tactile and kids can actually work a record player by themselves. The way that I produce the music and the type of songs that I like to write for kids are sort of for a slower paced world and I feel like vinyl is like that. You’re in real time, you’re not pushing a button and fast forwarding to the next song. If you want to change the song you have to move the needle.
Also there’s a lot of space in the arrangement on the records that I feel sounds really good on vinyl especially. The experience of vinyl and the sonic components of vinyl lend themselves well to a lot of the different kinds of music I make. I’m going to be making more of an acoustic album coming up and that always sounds great on vinyl. Also people listen to vinyl on better speakers, so they get the sounds better. A lot of audiophiles listen on big speakers with great amplifiers.
How did the artwork for No Fairy Tale come about? Were you involved in the process?
Yeah, I was sort of obsessed with it. This artist I met, Tess Fowler, I found her on Twitter, she’s one of my followers. I really liked her profile photo. It was really cool, so I looked at her website and it turns out she’s this amazing visual artist, cartoonist, illustrator. There were a lot of really strong women with really interesting color palettes. So, I asked her to help me to an album cover.
I actually had an issue with my record company because they wanted a photograph on the cover of my album and I really wanted an illustration. For most of my album covers I have illustrations, not photographs. But they thought it would be more recognizable to have my face instead of an illustration. But Tess and I worked together closely, I think I drove her crazy, to get the color palette exactly right. She was so great at capturing the essence of the portrait, the attitude is perfect. And we ended up making that the cover for the Japanese release of the record.
Then I had an opportunity to do vinyl and I was so excited, because the vinyl ended up being an alternate cover. So many people buy the vinyl at my shows even just to get that image. One funny thing that happened when I made the record, I was about to have my second child and we went back and forth so many times about the album cover and the font for the album title. At the very end we finally approved it and when I got the first box of records at my house we opened it and my husband says, “It’s missing!” And I look and we actually forgot the title on the book I’m holding. So now when I play shows I write the title on the book.
You mentioned working on an acoustic album. Is that going to be new work?
Yes, completely new work. It’s a bunch of songs I’ve been writing over the last few years. My last album was much more rock, but this one will probably be more back to my roots. I’m in the middle of making two records at the same time, so it’s a little crazy.
I’m working on one for grownups and one for kids. And the kids one, for the first time, is all originals. I usually do a lot of my favorite sing-a-long songs and then a bunch of originals, but this record is all originals. And the grownups is all originals. I’m excited to share it. I don’t play a lot of new songs when I play live, which has been kind of a cool thing with this new music, I’ve been trying it out live. Sometimes you get in the habit once you start making records, you record the songs and then go out and play them. But I’m trying to get myself to play some of the songs that I write along the way to see how they work.
Do you find yourself fine tuning them as you go?
Exactly. Sometimes you start playing and you realize there’s certain patches of lyrics and you don’t really feel like that’s exactly what you want to say. Or a melody you realize sounds like something else. Or it doesn’t have the dramatic turn or twist that it needs. Another thing is with the familiarity of a song it makes is sound more easy when you go back in the studio. I like being able to play songs live. There’s a certain energy with a song when it’s brand new, so it’s fun being able to play it live.
You’re involved with so many different projects. You have your music, an eyewear line, voiceover work, and you even have your own coffee. How do you manage to balance it all?
It’s definitely a big part of the job, taking the time to balance it. I keep honing in on how I use my calendar and my computer, how I coordinate with my husband and my manager. Figuring out what my priorities are. My top priorities are always my health and my family. And after that I can make decisions on which tour dates I’m going to do, which projects I’m working on. Sometimes it gets a little crazy and stressful, but I just keep trying to do my best.
Today I woke up and I have two voiceover auditions, there’s family stuff I have to do, I have to get ready to travel to Chicago, I have to prepare for a school visit tomorrow. I’m going to be playing for a bunch of kids in different grades. There’s a thousand different things and I want to go on a date with my husband tonight…but you just figure it out.
Lisa Loeb’s LP, No Fairy Tale is currently available on vinyl. Her latest children’s record Nursery Rhyme Parade! is available exclusively through Amazon Music.
LISA LOEB TOUR:
5/1 – Copious, Columbus, OH
5/2 – City Winery, Nashville, TN
5/14 – The Fifth, Anaheim, CA
5/18 – Tastemaker Live, Sacramento, CA
5/22 – The Great Big Family Play Day , Los Angeles, CA
5/21 – Wolf Trap Theater-in-the-Woods, Washington, DC
6/21 – Bethesda Blues & Jazz Club, Bethesda, MD
6/22 – Sundown Music Series, Haddon Heights, NJ
7/10 – Oakville Children’s Festival, Ontario, Canada
7/17 – Stanford Live, Stanford, CA
9/10 – Haverford Music Festival, Havertown, PA