Lisa Loeb is scheduled to perform at "The Groove" March 27th.


Lisa Loeb brings her nice-girl persona and abounding talent to the islands

By Nadine Kam
Assistant Features Editor

IN the pantheon of women rockers, Lisa Loeb hardly fits the mold.
Not of the raspy-voiced sneer and posturing of Joan Jett. Not mysteriously haunting like Garbage's Shirley Manson. And certainly the wispy-looking creature with the earnest grin, brainiac's tortoise-shell cat's eye glasses and purringly melodic tunes cannot be compared to the brash, bitch goddess Courtney Love. But it doesn't take long to figure out that behind that mousy facade, Loeb may be the toughest of 'em all.

She's known what she's wanted since childhood and no tales of a Svengali-like producer, or her charmed "discovery" by actor Ethan Hawke, can erase the years of determination and hard work it took to become an "overnight sensation."

"This has always been the goal, to play to as many people as possible and progress to bigger clubs, then clubs all over the world," she said by phone from Singapore, one stop on a world tour that will bring her to Hawaii on Wednesday.

Loeb, 27, and her band Nine Stories will be performing songs from "Tails," an album released almost a year after the song "Stay (I Missed You)" was featured on the "Reality Bites" soundtrack.

"Stay" was the first song by an unsigned artist to hit Billboard's No. 1 spot, in August 1994, and offers a hint of Loeb's lilting, sweet vocals, ringing with clarity against a smooth sonic backdrop.

At a time when pain, mud and bloodshed have been equated with talent, many record labels couldn't fathom Loeb's nice-girl act.

"They didn't understand me and my acoustic guitar," she said. "Everybody makes art the way they make art. My lyrics express pain in a more subtle way than other people."

But she wasn't exactly crying about being misunderstood, continuing to play New York coffeehouses both solo and with Nine Stories, and recording. Her tape of "Stay" is what actor Ethan Hawke brought to "Reality Bites" producer Ben Stiller for soundtrack consideration.

Loeb's ambition dates to junior high, when she and some close friends decided they wanted to mimic the Police. One friend adopted Sting as her "person," and so vowed to learn the bass. The other chose Stewart Copeland, and therefore the drums. Loeb wound up with the guitar by default, but already she had given up piano in favor of the guitar "for a lot of reasons," she said.

"I wanted an instrument I could play in my room, carry with me. I wanted to take lessons and learn about music theory, and in addition to that, play current music."

Her friends didn't learn their instruments, but Loeb continued into college, playing clubs around the Brown University campus in Rhode Island with her singing partner Liz Mitchell.

"Music began to look like a viable career from the first shows. They were totally packed. It felt like a real job."

Weirdest thing printed about Lisa Loeb:
"That I'm dating Trent Reznor. Me and my band, we laugh when we read those things."

The duo headed for New York and put a band together. Mitchell left a year later, but Loeb continued.

She says image has never been a factor in her career. The glasses that have become her signature are necessitated by poor vision and an inability to wear contact lenses.

"Maybe I would switch if there was some scientific discovery that enabled me to wear contact lenses, but I wouldn't go out and change something," she said, for publicity's sake.

"But I think its kind of cool that we associate artists like Elvis Costello and Elton John by their glasses, but we remember them because of their music."

Loeb reads her own press and is often frustrated by attempts to characterize her as a musical wimp, or as owing her success to her producer Juan Patino or Hawke.

"Sometimes I'm frustrated when my voice doesn't sound as rough as I feel when I'm singing," Loeb said, "But that's my voice. What can I do? I work to create more dynamics, more range of emotion. But if the audience is as happy as they look like they are, I'll be happy.

"I think some journalists are trying to create an angle that's not true. It's sort of irresponsible. It makes me angry when they misrepresent me after seeming to understand me when I talk to them."

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