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For Lisa Loeb, Life Is 'No Fairy Tale,' And That's OK

Lisa Loeb's newest album is called No Fairy Tale. (Courtesy of the artist)

In the mid-1990s, odds are you turned the radio on one time or another and heard Lisa Loeb's "Stay (I Missed You)," her platinum-selling No. 1 hit song.

The singer-songwriter revisits that same decade on a new track called "The 90's," from her latest album, No Fairy Tale, her first adult album since 2004's The Way It Really Is.

Loeb tells Rachel Martin, host of Weekend Edition Sunday, that being a female singer-songwriter in the '90s was difficult.

"I felt like there were a lot of labels," Loeb says. "I played acoustic guitar, and I still do ... but in the '90s I think people would think you're a folk artist. I didn't feel like I was a folk artist."

Today, she says it's a bit easier, and the music landscape is a bit wider for female singer-songwriters.

"There's so many different ways you can listen to music that you don't have to fit into a genre so that somebody can market you to a handful of stations," she says.

After releasing children's albums, books, stints on two reality shows and releasing her own line of eyewear, Loeb says she was kicked into gear to do another adult album by friend Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory. He called and agreed to produce the album, and Loeb says they got started within weeks of the call.

The title track, "No Fairy Tale," is not as negative as it might sound, Loeb says.

"Actually, this song is about how life is more rich than a fairy tale," she says. "I think in life ... the actual ups and downs of real life are a lot more rich than some that might be perceived to be a perfect fairy tale life."

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

LISA LOEB: (Singing) Talk to the radio, oh, to the radio, I just (unintelligible) singing my song...

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Maybe you turned the radio up in the mid-'90s and maybe you've heard this song. Lisa Loeb's "Stay, I Missed You," was a platinum-selling number one song. It was also on the soundtrack for "Reality Bites," which, believe it or not, was a long time ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE '90S")

LOEB: (Singing) Those were the '90s. Whoa, time flies so fast. Say you love me then, but I don't wanna turn back...

MARTIN: This song, called "The '90s," is a brand new track from the singer-songwriter. It's on her latest album, which is called "No Fairy Tale." Here to bring us up to date on what's happened to her since all that time flew by is Lisa Loeb herself. She joins us from NPR West. Welcome to the program.

LOEB: Thank you so much.

MARTIN: I don't know about for you, but, I mean, it's easy for me to conjure up what the '70s and '80s sounded like and looked like. It's harder for me with the '90s. Maybe it's too close. But when you think about that time, that decade, what images come to mind for you?

LOEB: The '90s, to me, looks like not a lot of hair product. So there's, you know, a little bit fluffier, frizzier hair, mock turtlenecks...

MARTIN: Oh yes, the mock turtlenecks.

LOEB: ...motorcycle boots, some kind of jean shorts, like, long jean shorts.

MARTIN: Oh, jean shorts.

LOEB: Yeah, long ones - and a lot of Betsey Johnson dresses, which that I do not regret.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE '90S")

LOEB: (Singing) Betsey cut my dress a little shorter, get me ready for my video. One take, I'll take it up on MTV. All eyes on me...

The '90s, I felt like, especially being a woman musician in the '90s, I felt like there were a lot of labels. I played acoustic guitar - and I still do - and I sing. I'm a singer-songwriter. But in the '90s, I think people would think you're a folk artist, and I didn't feel like I was a folk artist. I listened to David Bowie and I listened to The Police and Led Zeppelin and Elvis Costello. And, you know, how come Elvis Costello can be a guy with a rock band even though he's a singer-songwriter. But women who played acoustic guitar, you're known as a folk singer. Now, luckily, we're in a time period where I think things are much more open wide. You know, it's not, there's so many different ways you can listen to music that you don't have to fit into a genre so that somebody can market you to, you know, a handful of stations.

MARTIN: Since the '90s, you have actually been pretty busy, rather productive. You had a TV show on the Food Network, "Dweezil & Lisa." You also had a reality show called "Number 1 Single" on the E! Network. You've done albums and books for kids. With all these different projects, what prompted you to say this is the moment when I want to go back into the studio and record another album? This is your seventh album.

LOEB: You know, it was like a tidal wave. And while I was working on a lot of different songs, other projects kept coming up - whether it was kids' records, kids' books, eyewear line. And then personal things like getting married, making television shows, having a child and then having another child. All these things kept taking me away from the hardest project of all, which was trying to write songs for a grownup album and making a grownup album. And then Chad Gilbert came along. He's a friend of mine from a band called New Found Glory, and he came along and he called me up and said I want to produce a record for you. His enthusiasm and his energy, it kicked me into gear. And we literally started within weeks of that phone call.

MARTIN: Let's get back into the album. I'd love to play a little bit of the title track from the CD. Let's listen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO FAIRY TALE")

LOEB: (Singing) A (unintelligible) summer, with a dragon screen, how could you know that he took up (unintelligible)...

MARTIN: What's the story behind this song?

LOEB: This is a song I wrote with Maia Sharp. And we wrote a song about...it's called "No Fairy Tale" and some people, I think, hear that and think that it sounds kind of negative - like, oh, this is no fairy tale, things are bad. But actually, this song is about how life is actually more rich than a fairy tale. I think in life, whether it's in school, you're trying to make good grades - whether, you know, it's your body, you have to be skinny, and that's the perfect thing, or, you know, in love you have to find your prince and everything will be wonderful. But the ups and downs of real life are actually a lot more rich than something that might be perceived to be a perfect fairy tale life.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO FAIRY TALE")

LOEB: (Singing) (unintelligible) story (unintelligible), that's the better one to tell, that's the better one to tell...

MARTIN: Obviously, in the '90s, you were in a different place in your life and you wrote a lot of songs about dating and love and what it's like to kind of be single. Where are you now? I mean, clearly, your life has taken a dramatic turn. You're a wife and a mom. What's the musical landscape that you look to these days for songwriting?

LOEB: Oh gosh, that's a good question. You know, the songs I wrote for "No Fairy Tale," some of them I looked back to the past, like there's a song called "Walls" and I looked back to the past. With the more I think about it, it feels like a song that would be in a Molly Ringwald movie. You know, it's very angst-ridden and it's about not being able to express yourself, which I think a lot of us go through in relationships where you just - this wall just comes up and you just can't spit it out. You can't say what you want to say and your life feels like it's going to be ruined if you don't actually get to tell somebody how you feel, and yet you can't say it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WALLS")

LOEB: (Singing) I can't tell you how I feel, but listening to the radio playing, my heart sings the word I can't say to you, the way I've always wanted to.

I was thinking about this the other day when I was in Japan doing interviews, and I thought, wow, you know, the collection of songs I put on "No Fairy Tale," some of them are from the past and some of them are about - there's a couple of songs that kind of deal with depression, like the song "Weak Day." It's just about having hard times and being overwhelmed, which I think a lot of parents can relate to. So, I was trying to figure out, like, wow, what am I going to write about now? I'm married and I've got kids. And I've got tools to deal with depression. You know, I know how to, like, look at situations from different angles and they all make sense to me and I'm not depressed for very long periods of time. I don't know. It's a whole other world. And I'm interested, once I have a moment to sit down and start writing for my next album, I'll be interested to see where it takes me next.

MARTIN: Lisa Loeb. Her newest album is called "No Fairy Tale." She joined us from NPR West. Lisa, thanks so much.

LOEB: Thank you so much for having on the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WEAK DAY")

MARTIN: Lisa Loeb kindly brought her guitar with her to our studio, and recorded this acoustic version of "Weak Day."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WEAK DAY")

LOEB: (Singing) Got a house on my back, pushing me over, making me weak on my feet. And a head on my shoulders, make me uneasy, making me dizzy, so weak. But you got me on a weak day. You got me at a bad time to talk. A screw loose and rolling to a pile in the corner, I thought I should warn you, got a shark at my ankles, hung by a tightrope, I'm scrappy and happy again. And they all never lasts like this. It makes me too tired. I'm loaded on vodka, two straws and soda. But you got me on a weak day...

MARTIN: That's Lisa Loeb playing "Weak Day." You can hear the full version on our website, nprmusic.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

LOEB: You got me at the worse time of all... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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