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She’s been on the radio and TV, in the movies, and even in your glasses prescription if you sport her eyewear collection, but you still might not have known that Lisa Loeb has earned a whole new generation of fans with her growing collection of clever, catchy children’s music.
The singer and songwriter, who began her entertainment career with her 1994 Reality Bites soundtrack hit “Stay (I Missed You),” is a 2018 Grammy nominee for Best Children’s Album with the charming CD Feel What U Feel (featuring collaborations with pals like Craig Robinson and Ed Helms). She also released Lullaby Girl, a compilation of beautifully arranged covers of classics like “Dream a Little Dream” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love” earlier this year. And she writes and performs the music from Amazon Prime Video’s If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series, including the Christmas special If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie.
Loeb, now a mama of two (daughter Lyla and son Emet), talked to Yahoo Entertainment about her new music, what inspired her to start making tunes for the whole family, the TV show that paid the best homage to “Stay,” and whether she thinks TV Lisa Loeb is still dating Gossip Girl dad Rufus Humphrey (and if a GG reunion might be in order soon).
Yahoo Entertainment: “Christmas Cookie Song,” your original song from Amazon’s If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie, is adorable and infectious and captures the spirit of those classic Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond books. How did you get involved with that particular project?
Lisa Loeb: Well, they were looking for a songwriter to write songs for the [Amazon] series If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, which is based on the book. I’m a huge fan of that book, the whole series. When I heard they were going to do a project like that, and they needed songs, I jumped at the chance. The TV show follows the same structure. It’s all about, if something happens, then what’s going to happen next? It’s all about exploration, and creativity, looking through your own eyes every day at what’s out there, and what are you going to do? It’s very active. The show is very active, but at the same time, it’s not hyper. It’s very centered. Even the way it looks, there’s a lot of earth tones, and trees, and flowers, and grass. But then kids might have bright outfits on. It’s got a really good sense of humor as well. The head writer is Ken Scarborough. He also wrote most of the lyrics for the songs that we worked on together. He came from Saturday Night Live, and he’s at Sesame Street as well. It exists in different levels, and it doesn’t talk down to anyone. It’s innocent, but in the know. The animated series lives in a world, and in a neighborhood, that you would want to live in.
What do your kids think? Do they know that mom is the one who is writing these great songs that are part of the shows they watch?
They really love it. It’s one of those things we could connect on. Sometimes I make music, and it still feels very abstract, even though they hear my songs in the car, because when I’m working on them, I listen to them sometimes. But it still seems a little bit abstract to them. Then when they got to see something on TV, that’s when it really exists.
Everything is real when it happens on TV, right?
I know, exactly.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie isn’t your first children’s music project, of course. You are among the nominees for the Best Children’s Album Grammy for your delightful Feel What U Feel album. What attracts you to the genre?
I feel like, coming from the sort of pop singer/songwriter genre of the ’90s, which is just where I happened to fall, and what I happened to do, I’m lucky. I am able to experiment in a lot of different ways, naturally, in that genre. I love playing songs that are a little bit more rock, and songs that are more acoustic, and sometimes have a little bit of a country feel. There is a lot of variation within that music. But with the kids’ music, I’ve found that I get to go even further into different areas. I think it’s going to affect my next grown-up record as well, because I’ve always had a connection to songs like “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” or “Sing a Song” by the Carpenters. Songs that, I don’t know, there’s just something that’s universal about them. I feel like through the kids’ music, I’ve learned to write even more specifically. “Wanna Do Day” is very, very specific, but at the same time it becomes very universal. That’s the kind of music that just feels timeless. It speaks to me, and it really tells a story. It tells my story, which I think other people can really relate to.
“Wanna Do Day” maybe resonates even more with adults, because we all have those days where we just want to be able to do only things we want to do, not the things we have to do.
Exactly, and sometimes we forget to take a step back and do that at all. It’s funny, one of the songs on the record [is] called “Let’s Keep the Band Together” — that was a song I was just kind of writing. Again, it reminded me of that early ’70s radio pop, where they might use a harpsichord, kind of this universal feeling, something you might hear on TV, on a variety show you watched with your parents, but not necessarily for kids. I love getting into that crossover where it really is suited for all ages. In some ways, maybe it’s the production, and the sound of the songs, and the instrumentation that might appeal to kids, but I think sometimes the lyrics appeal to grown-ups.
You have done so many different things in your career: music of various genres, TV, movies, your eyewear line. You have a 20-plus-year career in pretty much every aspect of Hollywood. What propels you through your career now, in terms of being creative in so many areas? Do you have a philosophy about your creative pursuits and how you choose your projects?
In general, my goal is to hear people’s stories, and to tell people my stories. That can come through all of those different outlets you just mentioned, even the summer camp musical I made that opened in New York City a couple of years ago. All these projects connect me to people, whether it’s in a really mundane, everyday way, where I get to talk to people on airplanes, and interviews, and grocery stores, or actually telling stories through creative work. That’s really what propels me. I always feel like there’s one more thing to do or say.
We are not too far away from the 25th anniversary of “Stay (I Missed You).” What do fans say to you about the song or the equally memorable video?
They tell me everything. They tell me that they know every word. They tell me that was the song that they heard when they met their husband, the song that they heard when they divorced their husband. It’s the song that they played at their wedding. It’s a song that they learned through their mom, or their best friends, that they all used to sing it together in a dorm room. Just so many stories about how it brings people together. There’s always a sentimental quality, a nostalgic quality, which has a little bit of melancholy, but also usually a lot of joy, and sometimes a little bit of laughter as well.
They captured it so well in Orange Is the New Black, when all the inmates sing “Stay” together [in Season 2’s “It Was the Change”]. They’re stuck in the cafeteria, and it’s sort of like, there’s a tongue-in-cheek quality about a bunch of women in prison singing “Stay,” just all ages, and you see this meaningful look in their eyes. Part of it is their characters, and part of it, you can see, is the actors connecting with it. It really resonates with people in a lot of different ways.
Speaking of TV shows, you, or rather the TV version of Lisa Loeb, were in a relationship with Rufus Humphrey at the end of Gossip Girl. Five years later, do you think TV Lisa and Rufus would still be together?
Probably so. I think TV Lisa is committed in a relationship.
So many shows are rebooting or reuniting right now. Has anyone brought up the possibility of bringing Gossip Girl back for a reunion or even a new season?
I haven’t heard it yet, but I am friendly with some of the people, one of the writers in particular, from Gossip Girl, and I’ll have to ask her next time I see her.
Are you personally curious about what all the characters are up to now?
Yeah. It’s so crazy, because you start watching these shows and you get totally connected with them like they’re real people in your life. Then when you have to stop, you don’t get to follow their lives anymore. It’s very frustrating.
What shows do you watch?
Well, right now I’m watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. Just finished Transparent. And Ozark. I like to try to watch a little TV every day. Lately the schedule’s been too full to do that, but those are the shows that are some of my favorites. I also just finished watching Veep maybe a month ago. I’m a little behind on some of them.
If You Give a Mouse a Christmas Cookie is available now on Amazon Prime Video.
Amazon Prime Video Kids holiday specials also include Click Clack Moo: Christmas at the Farm, The Snowy Day, and Pete the Cat: A Groovy New Year, as well as holiday episodes from Wishenpoof, The Stinky & Dirty Show, Bookaboo, Creative Galaxy, and Tumble Leaf.
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