Q&A: Lisa Loeb Talks Musicals, AC/DC, and Hello Kitty Guitars

Categories: Q&A
5-Lisa Loeb photo by Justine Ungaro.jpg
Photo by Justine Ungaro
Lisa Loeb goes camp.
For thritysomthings, the pop culture trifecta is Janeane Garofalo for laughs, Winona Ryder for drama, and Lisa Loeb for tunes. All three came together for the 1994 film Reality Bites -- Loeb penning the hit single of the soundtrack, which included tracks from Juliana Hatfield, The Knack, and Dinosaur Jr. When Loeb wrote "Stay (I Missed You)" she was unknown singer-songwriter. But her neighbor Ethan Hawke caught wind of "Stay" and suggested it for his friend Ben Stiller's new movie. Hawke went on to direct its music video, and the bespectacled Loeb became the only unsigned artist to have a number hit single.
Almost as famous for her cat-eye glasses, Loeb's starred in two reality shows and written two children's music albums in the years since. She also scored a musical, Camp Kappawanna, which has its world premiere tomorrow at Miami's Arsht Center. We chatted with Loeb about why she wrote the musical, AC/DC, Hello Kitty guitars, and how she feels about playing "Stay" after 16 years.
New Times: You had a gig last night at City Winery in New York. Did you play any songs from Camp Lisa?

Lisa Loeb: Yes, I did. It's fun to play those for grownups because they don't necessarily sound like kids songs. There's the fun sing-along songs like "Peanut Butter and Jelly" and "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" And there are some original songs people know just because they have the record.

How do you feel about performing your iconic hit "Stay"?

Oh, I love it! I'm always excited to play it. People always sing along and it makes me appreciate everything I have as musician, and how rare that is. Because of its success, I've been able to travel all over the world, to continue to make records, and have a lot of creative freedom to do all the different things I want to do.
Like musicals?

Exactly, I always wanted to make a musical.  And I always wanted to make kids' music. I made Catch the Moon and then Camp Lisa, which was some of my favorite summer camp songs and songs inspired by summer camp. Summer camp had a big impact on me as a person and musically. It encompasses everything from silly songs to gross out songs to heartfelt songs.
Then this theater company in Florida, City Theatre, asked to use one of my songs, "Best Friend" in their Summer Shorts series. It went well and it inspired them to ask if they could do an entire musical on Camp Lisa. And that was another dream of mine - to do a musical.
One of your songs is "Jenny Jenkins" and Camp Kappawanna's main character is named Jennifer Jenkins.  How did the creative process go?

A lot of music was off Camp Lisa. That inspired the book, written by Marco (Ramirez), and he wanted to use the main title character Jenny Jenkins because of my song. At first, I was like I don't know - cause I didn't even write that song. That's a classic song that Jerry Garcia made famous. But it fit the character really well.

Once the story started developing, we discussed what kind of songs we need to flush out and carry the story along. It was a back and forth collaborative effort. When the rehearsals started in Miami, we worked with the actors and musical director over Skype.

Is any of the story based on you own camp experiences?

It is about a girl that plays guitar at summer camp and I was a girl that played guitar at summer camp. But she's a little more shy about her guitar playing. I was excited and proud.

Speaking of guitars, I heard that two Japanese fans gave you guitars as gifts. Do you actually play them?

One of them is a miniature 12-string guitar that we have in the living room. That one gets played a little bit less because 12 strings takes a lot of effort to keep in tune. And then there's the little Hello Kitty guitar, which is fun to look at and fun to play. Oh, and there's also the travel guitar that we got as an engagement present from a journalist in Japan.
I read in your New York Times marriage announcement that after your husband proposed to you, you guys went to an AC/DC concert. What's your favorite band to see play live?
I love David Bowie. I saw Tegan & Sara recently - they were really great. I also love Travis. The first time I saw them was about ten years ago at a huge music festival in Paris. They were playing where Bowie would also play later that night. They had great harmonies. It was really fun.
Camp Kappawanna runs June 17 through June 27 at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater, located at 1300 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami. Tickets cost $25. Call or visit www.arshtcenter.org.

And now for some mid-90s nostalgia:

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