Parents of a certain age know sing-songwriter Lisa Loeb well. Her song, "Stay (I Missed You)," was featured in the 1994 film "Reality Bites," starring a brooding Ethan Hawke and young Winona Ryder. The song shot to No. 1 and, more than two decades later, she is still the only artist to have topped the charts while not being signed to a recording contract.
Loeb, now a mom of two to Lyla, 5, and Emet, nearly 3, has been busy ever since with music, acting, reality shows, eye wear design, book writing and motherhood. And she's veered into the family entertainment world, coming out with the acclaimed albums, "Catch the Moon" with Elizabeth Mitchell, and "Camp Lisa" to support her Camp Lisa Foundation. She's also published two book-CDs for Sterling Children's Books - "Lisa Loeb's Silly Sing-Along: The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs in 2011" and "Lisa Loeb’s Songs for Movin’ and Shakin’" in 2013.
Loeb will perform her adult music at 8 p.m., May 12, at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. Her latest album, "No Fairy Tale," is a collection of original songs, which Billboard called a “peppy, pop-punk album." Her new song “321 Let Go” is featured in the new motion picture "Helicopter Mom," starring Nia Vardalos.
I chatted with Loeb by email to learn more about how she manages being a rock star, a mom and more.
Go Ask Mom: Many of today's parents of a certain age remember listening to "Stay" a lot, but you've done so much since then, especially for children and family audiences. How did you make the shift?
Lisa Loeb: I’ve always wanted to make a record for kids that could be entertaining and heartwarming at the same time. I feel like my kids music has more variety, humor, and even love than my grownup music has in a really melodic way. The shift was only made in intention, but production-wise and songwriting is the same as grownup music. I’ve found wonderful collaborators in Michelle Lewis and Dan Petty which makes the process magical and fun.
GAM: How has having children changed the way you think about music and write music?
LL: Having children has helped me to understand and appreciate what kids seem to connect with musically. I know all kids are different, but I see some trends that I didn’t know before. Repetition and familiarity are not bad things. I always felt strange singing “twinkle twinkle little star” at kids’ shows, but it’s something that they’re familiar with. It’s one of their top 10 hits. People love to hear the hits, young and old. It gives them something to sing along with.
GAM: You've also written books, starred on reality TV shows, voiced animated characters, designed eye wear, wrote a musical and more. How do you find balance between your work life and your mom life?
LL: I’m always looking for more balance. I prioritize my health and sleep and the family most of all, then my work. I have a great team of people I work with to help me do our best to make things run smoothly. There are ups and downs, but we try to learn from each situation. My husband really is a partner in taking care of the kids and I have a nanny and babysitters who help too, and grandparents who even come to town to help. We’re always working on scheduling and dealing with things constantly changing.
GAM: You started the Camp Lisa Foundation a few years ago to make summer camp possible for kids who don't usually get to go. Tell us about that effort and how you'll be helping kids this summer?
LL: Summer camp was a very important experience for me. I loved the independence, the challenge of trying new things, meeting new kids, playing music for fun and as a performer. I always felt stronger and happy at the end of camp and wanted to share that enriching experience with other kids. We raise money for The Camp Lisa Foundation through the sales of the Camp Lisa album and the Wake Up! Coffee bean blend sold through the Coffeefool.com website.
GAM: What's the difference between playing for adults and playing for kids?
LL: Kids have a shorter attention span, … It’s kind of like playing for adults in fast forward.
It’s important to read the crowd, try to play what I plan, but be open to playing other songs or telling stories or even having conversations with people in the crowd when it feels like the right thing to keep connected. I often have to remind the parents to sing along when it’s time or do the hand motions and participate. Kids follow what their parents do, which sometimes means conversations among themselves or looking at cell phones. Playing for kids is also less subtle, which doesn’t mean playing down to the kids, but just as a performer, things need to be a little bigger, like playing in an arena instead of a club.
GAM: What's the last great show you've seen?
LL: I loved the Atlantic Theater’s production of my musical Camp Kappawanna (music and lyrics co-written with Dan Petty and Michelle Lewis, book by Cusi Cram and Peter Hirsch), which ran during March and April in New York City. It was so exciting seeing the show come to life!
Here's Loeb performing "The Disappointing Pancake," a favorite for kid and adult audiences.