You know her as the cute alternative folk singer in the cat-eye glasses that sang "Stay (I Missed You)," but your kids might know her as the funny lady that sings about rock-hard pancakes mistaken for UFOs.
Over the past 10 years, the eclectic, good-natured singer has done a fantastic job reinventing her sound to appeal to a whole new generation of music fans. Long past her angsty days as a lovelorn musician on the Reality Bites soundtrack or the short-lived VH1 reality TV show #1 Single, Loeb is now happily married with a daughter and a stake in the children's music arena.
After releasing 2003's Catch the Moon with music partner Elizabeth Mitchell, Loeb became a singing staple on the Noggin TV channel for children. Then in 2008, she released Camp Lisa, a critically-acclaimed compilation of new and favorite camp songs inspired by her cherished times at summer camp in Texas.
Loeb was kind enough to join us for a quick phone interview before her whirlwind schedule brings her to Austin for the 2011 Texas Book Festival.
CultureMap: Hi, Lisa! Congrats on your new book of songs and children's activities. You're an author and a songwriter now.
Lisa Loeb: Thank you. It's very exciting. There are so many wonderful things happening right now. I'm definitely staying busy these days.
CM: You're the mother of a nearly-two year old. Will your daughter be joining you on this trip to Austin?
LL: No, she'll be staying back at home with her dad. I would love to have her with me, but I know that I would be busy the whole weekend. It's hard sometimes taking these trips, but it's great to know at the end of the day that there's always dinner and a family waiting back at home.
CM: You were raised in Dallas, so you know Texas pretty well. What are you most excited about doing while you're here?
LL: Besides the Book Festival, I'm excited to get good Mexican food. And I'll be visiting some friends from camp that live there. Camp Champions (outside of Austin) was a big part of my childhood, and it's part of what inspired me to do my CD, Camp Lisa, and create my [Camp Lisa] Foundation.
CM: Lisa Loeb's Silly Sing-Along is your first book, though. How did you choose the songs to include in this collection?
LL: These songs are mostly songs about engaging the senses and the imagination. They all have fun scenarios and stories to go along with them that bring inanimate objects to life in a fun way. The title song, "The Disappointing Pancake," resembles that song "On Top of Spaghetti," which kids love to sing along with and has great imagery. I have another songbook coming out in April next year that's all movement-based songs. So we divided them up that way.
CM: After years singing love ballads, you have a lot of adults who still love your music. Do parents or kids get more excited to see you perform?
LL: It's about 50/50 between grown-ups and kids at most of the shows so I tend to gauge the audience on what songs I'll end up singing. Sometimes I throw in some kids songs when it's mostly grown-ups, and there will be some total surprises that will get everybody singing along. Recognizable songs like the A-B-C's will get everyone singing along if it's the right crowd.
CM: Speaking of your grown-up fans, you'll be joining Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club) and Adam Mansbach (Go the F**k to Sleep) on the judging panel for the Literary Death Match on Saturday at the Book Festival. How are you preparing for that?
LL: I don't know what to expect, but I'm very excited about it! I read a lot and I have a comparative literature degree, which is all about comparing different works of literature, so I'm up for the challenge.
CM: Do you see yourself becoming more of a writer in the years ahead?
LL: Oh, I'd like to one day, I think. I'm very busy on the editing side with my music and with the TV shows I've done. It's all very hands on. I've also got the new eyewear line, which is going well, and we're sound mixing some new grown-up tracks for future albums. I'm already so busy, but sitting down to write a grown-up novel? We'll see what's in the cards.
CM: You've influenced two generations now as a musician, a fashion icon and now a children's book author. Any advice for aspiring songwriters?
LL: Just write. Start now and keep writing. Start forming your own opinions about music so you can judge what's good for yourself. Become friends with musicians who will help you, and collaborate as much as you can. Professionally speaking, start learning the business side of the music industry. Make your contacts at places like SXSW where you can meet so many great people. If you're going to make a living at it, you should understand what goes on behind the scenes.
CM: We look forward to seeing you at the Music Tent and at the Death Match. Will there be time to visit with your fans afterward?
LL: I believe I have two signing sessions in addition to the two panels, so stop by. I tend to chat a lot with people that come by.
CM: Thank you so much for joining us, Lisa. Safe travels.
LL: See you soon, Austin!
Have a question for Lisa Loeb? We're partnering with the Texas Book Festival and Lisa Loeb for a Twitter contest. Tweet your question for Lisa to CultureMap (@culturemapatx) and we'll pick five to ask her! If chosen, you'll win Lisa Loeb's new book and a CD featuring four original silly songs plus six all-time kids' favorites. Winners will be announced on Wednesday, October 19.