Is it difficult to return to the music industry after having kids?
Is it hard to return to. Well, I didn't really leave it, so it was sort of a continuation. And it's hard to say, because when you get pregnant, life changes gradually. I haven't gotten it together yet to do a creative project on my own; you know, most of the creative projects I've done since my kids were born were more about collaborations.
Other than when they're sleeping, you know, there's no beginning or end. I might be home, and I'm with a great nanny who helps take care of the kids a lot. But if I'm home, and the kids are up and getting ready for school or getting ready for bed, or eating, or whatever we're doing when we're not sleeping, it's hard for me to just say, "Alright, great, here's the kids," and then go into another room and start writing.
I think it's so important, though, to figure out how you can do your work so that you feel like yourself. But you know, it's also our responsibility to be a mom and help take care of our kids, which means us personally doing it, or husbands or others help do it. And also, follow your gut about spending as much time as you want. Because I also get advice from people, "Oh, don't worry; they'll be fine. Just do your work." But I don't really get it that way, either. I grew up with a stay-at-home mom.
And you felt like she made the right decision staying at home with you?
Yeah, I mean, I think we gave her a hard time for not working when we were growing up. But there were four kids. So even if she had babysitters along the way, it's still a lot of work - organizing, figuring everything out, getting kids ready for school, picking them up. You know, so many different things - it's amorphous, and it takes a lot of details. So I think we didn't give her enough credit. Now I understand that it's a lot of work being a mom.
Part of the work is making it seem so easy, huh?
Yeah. In fact, I feel much more appreciative, too. You know, you come across a person, and they might be in a bad mood, and now I realize they might be tired; they could have kids; they might be doing it by themselves, having a bad day. Of course they're in a bad mood.
Are you taking your kids on tour with you?
No, I'm not. Yeah, I'm gonna experiment with not taking them, and see how they do with me away. I've done some touring already, but not as long as this [10 days]. I tried a series of weekends in a row, and that didn't quite work out because weekends are big family times for us. So I thought I would try a little bit of a longer stretch.
So other than the anxiety about leaving, are you looking forward to going on tour?
Oh yeah. I love playing. It's really fun to play with my band, and I haven't been playing with them as much lately. Most of the touring I've been doing in the last two to three years has been with an acoustic guitar or a duo or a trio. So, I'm really looking forward to playing with my band. And I love traveling, so I'm looking forward to that, for sure.
Have you noticed much of a difference in your fan base over the years?
They're getting a little older, for sure. That being said, there are younger people coming in, too. You know, maybe their parents listened to me, and now they're listening to me as young grown-ups. But, yeah, a lot of the fans now have families, and are older.
There's not much of a music scene for parents, is there?
I think it's really about the logistics. Going out to a place late at night that might be far away from home doesn't really work for people with kids. A friend of mine does this comedy routine where he says that he wishes there wouldn't be an opening band, and that people would just play at like 7. And, you know, it'd be more convenient if the show was as close to possible to the end of work. The babysitter could be there a little late, and you could go home and go to sleep at a normal time. They would never book it that way, though.
You've been in the music industry for almost 20 years. From my perspective, it seems like a lot of people give up in their 20s and 30s. Is that your perspective, too?
I mean, you can look at it as giving up, or you can see it as moving on to other things. When I was growing up, I thought certain bands had been around forever, and yet, they'd been around for less than 10 years. So I was raised to follow my dreams and to be very persistent, and I keep having more and more music ideas, and other projects I want to do later. But I can understand if you aren't entrepreneurial or persistent, um, there are a lot of obstacles in the music business.
Even now, you are often able to make the music the way you want, but people tend to download music for free instead of purchasing music. And you have to pay the people you work with. You know, if you are not making an income from music, you have to make it in other ways, which you can do.
In the olden days, you would make records, and even if people weren't getting great royalties, they were still making income from records and going on tour. It's hard to do that now with so much stuff for free available on the Internet. But anyway, there are lots of obstacles, and I think people can get discouraged. I think it's been that way in a lot of different fields.
Well, my daughter loves your kid's music. I was curious about how you figured out how to write music that you knew kids would like, since they are so picky.
The real thing was always trying to write music that I like, and the people I work with like. I collaborate with really wonderful songwriters - lately, mostly with Michelle Lewis and Dan Petty. And when I made my first kid's record, it was with Elizabeth Mitchell; I made it with her not only because she was my freshman roommate and we hadn't worked together in forever, but because she had already cracked the code of making wonderful kid's music that appealed to grown-ups that just sounded like good music. From there I collaborated with some other friends of mine here in Los Angeles who are great songwriters who write really melodic, catchy pop songs for grown-ups and kids. We wrote songs that we really liked ... and introduced it in a way that it sounded like a real record, which I think is important to do when you're making kid's music.
Some of the kid's music is really beautiful, and it's played really well; it has a human quality. And there's some other things that sound totally programmed and not well-performed, and I think sometimes that might be an issue of budget as well as people trying to do it all themselves.
Do you feel like there are more challenges being a woman in the music industry than being a man?
Well, I didn't use to, although I did come up against feeling like I had to prove myself as a person with a band even though I had a band. Because I was a woman and had an acoustic guitar, I felt like I had to; I didn't want to be seen as a folk singer. Eventually, I realized that it wasn't really worth making a big deal out of it. I kept moving forward.
I think now, as a mom, that's an interesting thing. But I think that is a thing women in all careers face - being a mom is really strange, you know? I didn't really understand what that meant because you see so many people who want to or have to work to support their family. And it's also strange that it's accepted that probably the mom would stay home more than the dad. But anyway, it's interesting to actually live that life.
I remember reading an article about a high-school classmate of mine. She had gone to Princeton, she was an attorney, and there was an article about her and other high-powered attorneys in New York Magazine. It talked about how they had all decided to stop working so that they could stay at home with their kids. Some of the feminist community was up in arms that people would quit their jobs to stay at home. I guess in a way, it was really very feminist for people to say, "Well, I'm not going to work. I'm going to stay home." But people kind of make those choices for yourself.
It does seem impossible to have it all. And how does that work? Lots of adjusting to decide what is acceptable for our work - what is necessary. And how to juggle it all.
Do you feel like you're juggling it OK?
So far, so good. I'm also really into reflecting and learning. Although I might not always feel like I'm doing it right, I pay attention to it to see how I can make it more right.
Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories play the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival at Variety Playhouse tonight (Saturday, March 16) with Electra and Saul Kaye. $30. 8:30 p.m. 1099 Euclid Ave. 404-524-7354. www.variety-playhouse.com.
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