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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND

Looks Like Lisa Loeb May Be Here to Stay

The singer with the trademark glasses was a hit before she had an album. But she's no beginner and is now on her first major tour.

February 01, 1996|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Lisa Loeb, the little woman with the big glasses and the bigger hit will be prowling the stage at the Ventura Theatre tonight. "Stay," no relation to the Maurice Williams biggie from 1960, was a surprise hit from the "Reality Bites" soundtrack in 1994, quickly ejecting Loeb from the coffeehouse circuit and plopping her into a tour bus cruising from sea to shining sea. Opening will be the band Once Blue, featuring another talented female singer, Rebecca Martin.

Loeb began playing piano as a kid in New York, then switched to guitar in junior high school and by high school was playing locally. While a freshman literature major at Brown, Loeb began performing with her roommate. After she graduated in 1990, they began the coffeehouse tour around New York and beyond. That ended in 1994 when "Stay" landed atop the Billboard charts, a first for an unsigned artist.

The unsigned part didn't last long. Geffen snapped up the songwriter, who had a hit and with it a 1994 Grammy nomination, but no album. The result was "Tails," a baker's dozen of Loeb originals in which love usually ends up considerably worse for wear than it ever did on "The Donna Reed Show." Loeb discussed what's what during a recent phone interview.

*

This is your first big-time tour. What's been the most surprising thing about life on the road?

I'm surprised that I like the road as much as I do, and the idea of being away from my apartment with just a couple of suitcases. It's really a simple way of life, and I find I'm in a lot more control of things. I've been to a lot of places I've never been, and I enjoy just looking out the window when we're driving. This leg of the tour will go through the end of February, then we're going to Australia, Japan and Southeast Asia. The tour should go on until next Christmas.

So when will you have time for another record?

After that sometime. I'm learning to write on the road little by little.

When did you decide you wanted to be a musician?

I never thought about being a musician; I always was a musician. For awhile, I wanted to be an actress, but I felt like I already had a job in music. Plus I went to a lot of concerts. Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Police on "The Ghost in the Machine" tour were amazing.

How many years did it take you to become an overnight sensation?

I started writing songs when I was in high school, then about 10 years ago, I got into it even more. I played in bands when I was at Brown.

What advice would you give to other overnight sensations in waiting? Send those tapes?

No, actually, that doesn't work. Keep playing, start a mailing list and do the work yourself. Don't wait to become an overnight sensation. Also, learn all you can about the business, then don't let it get in your way.

What can you afford now that you couldn't afford two years ago?

I can afford to, let's see, take a vacation for a week, I went to an island in the Caribbean and stayed for a week.

What are Lisa Loeb songs about?

They're real good, just lyrics and chords. They're about different things except as seen through my eyes, but not necessarily about me. Sometimes, they explain the different ways we feel in different situations, and sometimes, we feel more than one way--maybe love, hate, fear, confusion or whatever.

Harry Nilsson once wrote that "if everyone was happy, there wouldn't be any love songs." Was he kidding?

That's probably true. But all situations are not similar, and something makes each situation different for each person.

There's a cat on the cover of your album. Do writers need cats?

I don't know about that because I can't have a cat while I'm on tour. I had an image of a cat chasing its tail for the cover of the album, then called it "Tails." But I couldn't find the right artist, so I ended up with just the cat's face.

Was Dorothy Parker wrong when she said, "Men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses"?

Yeah, she's wrong. Sometimes people assume that I'm vulnerable in the way that artists tend to be vulnerable, and vulnerable means that people take advantage of you, and I don't allow that.

DETAILS

* WHAT: Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories; Once Blue.

* WHEN: 8 p.m. tonight.

* WHERE: Ventura Theatre, 26 Chestnut St.

* HOW MUCH: $13.50.

* CALL: 648-1888.

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