Getty Images After we recently premiered a new song from Susanna Hoffs, a few…
- Posted on Apr 29th 2011 4:00PM by Nicole Pajer
Lyle A. Waisman, Getty Images
Given her rebellious nature, Phair's recent endeavor, 'Funstyle,' shouldn't come as a shock to the music world. After shaking off criticism from reviewers and fans, the Connecticut native is ready for some positive 'Funstyle' press. And she'd like to reiterate that people shouldn't take the album so seriously -- it's called 'Funstyle,' for Pete's sake.
Phair tells Spinner she wouldn't do a thing differently, with the latest disc or her career, if given the chance. She discusses the liberation of not being tied to a record label, how she's fought to gain respect as a woman in the music industry, and why she'd love advice from the late Tupac on her recent rapping effort.
Now that 'Funstyle' has been out for some time, what has the reaction been from fans?
All the hyperbole and freak out has died down, and I think people are enjoying it more. It was a departure, stylistically. I enjoy doing stuff like that and I tried to name it in such a way that would kind of explain it -- 'Funstyle' should, theoretically, clue people into the fact that it's experimental and that it was really organically born. It wasn't some kind of stunt for press. It was basically me reacting to one of my new jobs, which is scoring for TV, and long hours in the studio where we got slap-happy.
Everything on 'Funstyle' is on the fly. It is like first/second take only on every instrument. It's sort of me saying, "You, too, can make music. Here's what you can do with like three hours and an engineer. Try it."
You've changed your musical style many times. Are you the happiest where you are right now?
I'm very happy right now but I've been really happy at other points, too. I love the process of making art, and that's sort of where I get my highest happiness. This is definitely a good period for me. I like being a little out of my depth. I love to jump in the deep end, so I'm always happiest when I'm allowed to do that.
How does it feel to be a successful female musician in such a competitive and often male-dominated industry?
I think it's awesome. It has not been an easy road by any stretch, no matter what people think. I think it takes a lot of strength for woman sometimes because we're breaking ground all the time rather than going down these tried and true paths. We don't get places as fast as the guys do, and it means that it doesn't look as impressive even though sometimes it's even more impressive. I'm so proud of us for continuing on. And every one of us that takes any choice to be the person she wants to be is helping raise us all up.
So you think it's harder to gain respect as an artist when you're a woman?
I do. If you saw a bunch of women sitting around in a room talking and a guy came in and sat on the chair, he could join the conversation but he might say something that we're all like, "Uh, yeah, whatever," and then we all get back to what we're doing. That's what it's like to be female in the music business.
How does being a mom influence your music career?
I'm touring in short bursts where I'll go out for one or two weeks then I'll come home for awhile -- and that's definitely because I'm a mother. I learned early on that a long time away from my son was bad for him and bad for me. His grades may start slipping; he might get in trouble at school.
What can fans expect from a live Liz Phair show?
I like to rock and we play stuff from all my records, a lot of 'Guyville' stuff. We kind of designed the set around fan favorites and some new material that isn't released. For me, playing live now has nothing to do with selling my new record or fulfilling my career obligations. It's really about seeing people that have followed my career and being able to feed off that energy and play the songs that we all know very well and watch people singing the lyrics back to me.
Does it feel liberating to not be dealing with a record label right now?
Yeah, it really does. And it's scary as s--- because there's no safety net, and there's definitely stuff that goes wrong without all that money and power. You never know if you're gonna get people to come to the show or what the hell's gonna happen next. I'm sort of uniquely designed to be able to thrive in that kind of environment. I miss the glamour; I miss the photo shoots; I miss the security of having people that will put the ducks in a row. But I sort of take to this [now].
What inspires you to take such musical risks? Have you always been a risk-taker?
No. It's weird. I was kind of shy when I was young. I'm not sure why; I don't know where it started. I seem to need that adrenaline rush in one way or another, whether it's learning how to surf or taking risks musically; it's sort of a joy of my life.
Have you received any feedback on 'Bollywood' from established rappers in the industry?
Tupac contacted me from the other side [laughs]. No, but that would be great. That would be frickin' awesome.
If you had to choose any other job, what would it be?
I feel like I've got a multiple career life ahead of me if I get to live that long. I wanna be a writer, maybe a photographer for when I'm an old lady. I'd also like to get out more in the world. I don't really want to depart the planet without really having known it.
Has scoring for TV shows been a fun direction for you to take your career in?
Scoring is really satisfying because it sort of marries the visual with the musical and it allows me to kind of create. The way I do my records is like an expression of who I am and whatever I'm into at that point. When you're looking at characters onscreen and you're working on a show, your job is to sort of do that for them.
What's the worst job that you had trying to establish your career as an artist?
I did an internship one year at my dad's hospital and I worked in the psych wards as an art therapist apprentice for a few months. The people were great but that environment, the ascetics in the middle of summer after suffering through a year indoors in Chicago, locked in, was like death to the artist in me.
What made you cover 'Wild Thing' on 'Girlysound'?
I started my music career when I was very young by not wanting to practice my piano pieces that I was supposed to practice for my teacher, or not wanting to practice the songs I was supposed to practice for my guitar teacher. What I would do is kind of pretend to be practicing while my mom was cooking dinner and my dad was in the other room so they knew I was playing. But I would start to sort of diverge from the piece and write it into my own. I think 'Wild Thing' is sort of an extension into that impulse, where I take something and sort of rewrite it for myself.
It was about a suburban girl that was a man-eater and spent too much and figured out how to get her way all the time -- which was something that I strove for but didn't quite achieve. I thought that would be a pretty bitchin' life.