by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Lisa Loeb’s music brings me to my happy place. I’ve felt this way since 1994, when I was an impressionable teen who aspired to be like the cool kids in “Reality Bites,” the movie that featured Loeb’s first hit single “Stay (I Missed You)” and put her on the alt-rock radio airwaves.
Over the years, as Loeb has taken on various acting, musical, and public-service roles, the genesis of who she is — a singer-songwriter who makes uplifting, sweet, and sometimes offbeat music that’s simple yet sophisticated— hasn’t changed a bit.
As such, Loeb’s sunny energy is unmistakable in her latest children’s record “Feel What U Feel.”
The first two tracks, “Moon Pie Star” and “Say Hello” set the mood for a fun and delightful listening experience. My other favorite songs include the tambourine-and-disco-charged title track “Feel What U Feel” and the folksy “You Can Count on Me,” which I enjoyed hearing while racing Hot Wheels cars with my kids.
Overall, the record offers a mix of tunes. Songs like “Wiggle” are meant to be listened to when you’re in an equally silly mood, hanging with a toddler. Other tracks, like the thoughtful ballad “It’s All Right to Cry,” are relatable to kids and adults, and best to listen to when not playing Hot Wheels.
More than anything, Loeb’s latest album shows that great pop music isn’t necessarily bound by age and lifestyle. Since Lisa and I share even more in common these days, as moms of 4-year-olds (she also has a 6-year-old) who want to stay creative, “Feel What U Feel” is a timely addition to my music library (and makes me grateful for my Amazon Prime membership, which allows me to stream the record for free!).
Recently, Rockmommy sat down with to chat with Loeb about her musical endeavors, creative projects, and motherhood. I’m thrilled to share that as warm and sunny on the phone as she is in her music:
Rockmommy: Lisa, I’m so excited to talk to you! What inspired your latest album?
Lisa Loeb: I’ve been making kids’ records since 2003, way before I had my own children. It started when I asked my friend (Elizabeth Mitchell, a well-known, Grammy nominated children’s artist, to help me out. It’s not that I was super into kids’ music but because I connected to records like Carole King’s “Really Rosie” when I was a kid. That album was produced in a way that was really for grown-ups, and I remember thinking the lyrics were really interesting; the songs were more like books and stories put to music. I loved how the stories went to different places than normal songs would go, I always felt so cool listening to it as a kid. So, Elizabeth and I collaborated and recorded “Catch the Moon.”
After making my first few children’s albums and storybooks, I started playing kids’ shows regularly. I would play classic songs like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ and the kids would rush the stage. It was the equivalent of when I sing ‘Stay’ for grown-ups. The more I toured, I realized that there’s a lot of value to these classic songs. And as I became a mom later on, I realized that one of the things that connects with kids was these nursery rhymes and songs. When I later recorded an album of classic songs (‘Nursery Rhyme Parade!’ for Amazon), I decided didn’t want my kids to hear a reggae version or heavy metal version. I decided to record the most simple and classic version of these songs you can sing along with anytime, whether it’s nap time or diaper changing time, or even dinnertime.
For my new record, “Feel What U Feel,” I decided to return to writing originals. I love that this album will also be coming out on Amazon. When you’re a busy person in general, the convenience of going to Amazon Prime is mind boggling. And in this world where people don’t go to record stores, I thought, ‘it would be really great to see if more people heard about the record by going somewhere where they’re shopping for kids’ stuff anyway.’
For ‘Feel What U Feel,’ I wrote a handful of songs, songs, like ‘Wiggle,’ where kids can dance along, and ‘You Can Count on Me’ which was really about all the milestones. If you listen to the message it emphasizes individuality. I’m telling the listener, ‘you can do things alone, but you can always rely on me.’ I see this as an all-ages album. There are some songs I wasn’t sure if I was going to put it on a grown up record or a kid’s record.
Rockmommy: Who is the listener you had in mind? The tween girl? A first grader? A mom with kids who wants something to sing along with in the car?
Lisa Loeb: Part of me has this idea that everyone will want to listen to it… like kids my son’s age, who are 4, and 5-year-olds who understand language and can take in some of the details. I hope grown-ups and grandparents listen to it too. At my live shows, I play my song, ‘The Disappointing Pancake’ (from the book-CD Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing Along) sometimes. Grown-ups enjoy that song a lot. Kids’ music has informed my writing as a grown-up, and when I’m playing songs live, people of all ages like listening to them.
Rockmommy: How do you differentiate between audiences, and what your grown-up fans and kids what to hear?
Lisa Loeb: For some shows, I have had to write two set lists. You have grown-ups and kids… and you don’t know beforehand who’s going to be there. Sometimes I ask people if they have a request. If it’s more little kids in the audience, I play the classics, and more songs about monsters and that sort of stuff. As I perform I start to feel what’s right for my audience, based on their response.
Rockmommy: Everyone love the song “Stay (I Missed You).” Is it a blessing or a curse to have that one iconic song?
Lisa Loeb: A blessing! I’ve been around a lot of other successful artists, and so I’ve been able to watch their relationship with their hit songs. The people I know who can appreciate the good things and not be so connected to their ego and what people think of them tend to be happier, more creative people. There’s one famous duet I know, with one guy who not as famous as the other — he is the more the secondary guy. Recently when I saw the duet and got to hang out with them backstage, the ‘secondary guy’ was surrounded by friends and family, enjoying the show and what he did. But the more famous guy was standing by himself, kind of grumpy, and angry he didn’t have new songs to play.
So, for me to have a song where people come running to the stage because they know it, that’s great. Yeah — it would be awesome if they knew every other song I’ve written that’s a good song, but I know a lot of people who don’t have any hit songs who are great musicians. I always hope I can pull people in with a song like ‘Stay.’ The thing I’ve heard more than anything after shows is, ‘Lisa I only knew that one song … I didn’t know you had other good songs!’
Rockmommy: Any advice to other rocker moms on how to balance doing what you love with being a full-time parent?
Lisa Loeb: I think it’s a team sport. The only way to do something is to prioritize it — whether it’s working out, sleeping — anything you want to do you have to prioritize it. Schedule it, and let others know it’s a priority. It’s not always easy. Sometimes I’ll think, ‘I should be reading to my kids … I shouldn’t play my guitar,’ but then I step back and say, ‘You know what? This is important to me, and I read to my kids a lot.’ Sometimes I look back and say, ‘Ugh, I shouldn’t have gone to that concert.’ Sometimes you don’t know what’s most important. So, you just do your best.
Lisa Loeb’s album “Feel What U Feel” is available on Amazon on October 7.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.