Whether you know her from her ‘90s jams, her satellite radio program or her E! reality show, the name Lisa Loeb likely conjures up certain feelings of love lost, alterna-rock crossover tunes, love found or a bevy of other emotions. It doesn’t seem wrong to describe Loeb as legendary—or at least enduring. Time moves ever-forward, however, so we caught up with Loeb to talk solo work, pandemic-spurred collaborative projects, inter-generational fandom and more. Find her in Santa Fe next week (7:30 pm Saturday, Nov. 4. $50. Scottish Rite Center, 463 Paseo de Peralta, (505) 982-4414). This interview has been edited for length and clarity. (Alex De Vore)
I’m always curious if a musician’s most current work is the product of a plan, or if it’s just the direction in which it went?
It’s the organic direction. It’s always where I feel like going next, and what I feel like I want to say and who I want to work with. Sometimes a project will be offered to me, or someone will have something they want to do that I’ll incorporate into what’s next. And there’s a lot of interpretation along the way, too, in trying to figure out what I think should come next.
I should keep a journal, and at times I do; and at times I get too busy to do that. But I’m a big fan of writing and rewriting and creative writing. I learned from [writing guru] Natalie Goldberg, I don’t know how many years ago…I always go back to that as a basic way to find ideas. Sometimes it turns out to be very personal, sometimes functional, sometimes specific, sometimes abstract. It’s kind of like when people don’t want to work out, they say to just do it? I go take a walk, and that’s literally just one foot in front of the other, but it always leads to something. It helps take the overthinking and fear out of writing.
I read somewhere that at some point your lyrics phased from what we traditionally think of as ‘love songs’ to become broader or perhaps more universal. Was that intentional?
I think naturally some of the songs that come out when you’re younger are a little more about love and broken hearts, but ever since I was younger, I did try to write about a variety of things and different perspectives. Since I started writing family-friendly music and collaborating more, both of those things create a situation where whoever is involved in the process has to know what the song is about. Sometimes in early collaboration, I want to write things I decided to say rather than an abstract thought I can mask through poetry and music. Instead, I’m trying to tell a specific story.
Collaborating was hard because I like doing everything myself and I have specific ideas of what I like and don’t like, how I see things. But the pros outweigh the cons. The work gets done and I’m able to organize myself better. I learn from the people I work with and get so much from collaborating. I would like to spend more time at some point writing by myself and making more things alone, but I’ve enjoyed what I’ve made.
But also, as a listener, I don’t really pay that much attention to the behind-the-scenes. As a musician-listener, I do want to know who’s playing the drums, who’s singing the harmonies. But I think I’m in a place where I understand the whole is what people are focused on. Even Elton John, who I love, I realize he didn’t write the lyrics—but I think of him being invested in the meanings of those lyrics. It’s from his heart.
As I get older, there are a lot more things that I experience. [Having kids] didn’t change what I like...and it’s not that [parenthood] changes what you’re writing, but it reminds you that if you’re taking time away from your family, you continue to try to do things as high-quality as possible. If you’re going to be doing something that’s not for your family, it better be something good.
Do you see a lot of multi-generational fans at shows these days?
Oh definitely. It really spans so many generations. I’ve been doing this for so long that there are parents and grandparents and kids and also people have connected with me and I with them through...I had a show on The Food Network; on my life as a single woman for a dating show on E!….my music from the ‘90s—from today—from appearing on TV shows like Fuller House. It’s so many different things.