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Lisa Loeb - Thumb

These days many artists ‘try out’ their songs via social media sites and Youtube etc to get public opinion, but back in the good old days artists had to try their new tunes out on a live audience and would gain a proper reaction and that’s what Lisa Loeb did for her 1994 hit Stay (I Missed you).

Loeb grew up in Dallas listening to the music her parents played her and particularly fell in love with Elton John and Olivia Newton-John (I know the feeling!). Her first foray into music was when she formed a duo with her roommate Liz Mitchell and began performing at the Speakeasy and the Bitter End clubs in New York. After she graduated she went it alone but was looking for a percussionist when, at her first solo acoustic show, a friend introduced her to Juan Patifio who not only played percussion but also had his own studio and within a week they began recording together.

Her debut single was Stay (I Missed You), but how did it come about, Lisa explained, “At the time I was having arguments with my boyfriend, who was actually my co-producer. I remember somebody close to me was going through severe depression. A lot of times in my songs, I get into some phase where I describe some other situation, and there’s a whole verse in there about somebody who is very depressed. But yeah, it was a story about a breakup I was going through, and that situation where it’s gotten into your head too much. Partially because somebody else is telling you that you’re only hearing what you want to, and that puts you in a little bit of a tailspin because you can’t figure out what’s actually real, are you only seeing things through your own eyes? Are you actually seeing things the way that they really are, or are you making things up? And at what point do you know whether you’re seeing things the way that they really are?”

She embellished the lyrics to make the song sound more dramatic. After she had finished it, Patifio had heard that Daryl Hall was looking for new songs. She recalled, “I was a big fan of Hall & Oates especially their older R&B and Motown-influenced songs and I thought they needed a new Sara Smile, but the opportunity fell through and so Lisa decided to do it herself.

She began performing it at her shows where the response was astounding, “I usually write songs that are more fictional, and for some reason when I sat down to write that song”, she remembered, “I let myself write more about how I was feeling at that moment. And that’s something I think about a lot as I continue to write music, that the songs that I write that are more personal and without as much editing, are the ones that people connect to more.”

In the song, she sings ‘I turned the radio on, I turned the radio up, and this woman was singing my song’, “That was when you hear somebody telling your exact story, she explained, “It’s funny, because it wasn’t until later, after a couple of major breakups, that I realised when you’re depressed and you’re going through these breakups, the breakup was supposed to happen. If you’re going through difficult times, it’s hilarious how you turn on the radio and even the most cliché things perfectly capture how you’re feeling. And then you realise why people wrote those songs. Hopefully, as a listener, you get a feeling like when you just can’t get away from your problems. You leave your house, you’re driving down the road, you’re going to do something different, and all of a sudden you hear, oh, here’s my story on the radio. It’s like the last thing I need to hear right now.”

She formed her band, Nine Stories, which was named for a collection by the author J.D. Sallinger, which comprised; Tim Bright on guitar, Joe Quigley – bass and Jonathan Feinberg on drums.  While she was recording in a studio in Greenwich Village she became friendly with the actor Eathan Hawke who was in the middle of making the film Reality Bites. Hawke lived across the road from the studio and once she’d recorded Stay she gave it to Hawke who passed it on to the film’s director Ben Stiller who decided to use it in the film’s ending credits.

RCA records signed the soundtrack and one day Lisa, who had taken a temping job, got a phone call from Ron Fair from the label asking Lisa if he can use the song on the soundtrack. She said, “I told my lawyer to call this guy and there and then I quit my job.” Because of its impact, the song shot to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and in doing so, she became the only artist in history to hit the top without actually being signed to a label. All of a sudden everyone was interested and she eventually signed to Geffen records. Fair asked the band to go to Los Angeles to re-record one line of the song and add a tambourine part. When it was finished RCA decided to service the radio stations with the whole album rather than just the single and they all started playing Stay, so it was that version that became the single.

She made a video which was directed by Hawke and he suggested that she alter the title slightly so as not to get confused with the many other songs called Stay, so, against Lisa’s initial wishes, the parenthesis (I Missed You) was added. The album Tails was released the following year and it also contained the follow up single Do You Sleep which fell short of the UK top 40.

In 2010, Lisa launched Lisa Loeb Eyewear Collection, which features her own eyewear designs for which she is most recognised. Each type of frame is named after one of her song titles. In between time she still continues to write songs and in 2009 she got married and gave birth to her first child, a baby girl called Lyla Rose. In June 2012 she gave birth to her second child, a son called Emet Kuli.