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Review: Lisa Loeb at Billboard Live

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Special To The Japan Times

Everyone has probably heard at least one Lisa Loeb song, and most likely it was her debut single “Stay (I Missed You)” — a worldwide hit exactly 20 years ago. Loeb remains thrilled with the song’s continued success.

“I love when people tell me about their personal relationship to the song,” she tells The Japan Times backstage before a string of performances at the Billboard Live venues in Tokyo and Osaka. “I hear a lot of heartfelt stories about it and it makes me feel good.”

Loeb is delighted that the song has seen a recent resurgence in Japan, being featured in the television drama “Wakamonotachi” and charting on iTunes.

However, while most people know her from “Stay,” the 46-year-old musician has nine studio albums under her belt (two of which are children’s records) and she played songs from many of them at the Billboard gig on Friday.

Taking requests from fans via Twitter, Loeb and her band worked simple acoustic singalongs, such as “Stay” and “It’s Not Goodbye,” into her set along with more intricate arrangements, the highlight of which was “Hurricane.”

In contrast to her softer pieces was the rockier sound of songs from her latest album, “No Fairy Tale,” which she worked on with producer Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory.

“Part of what Chad wanted to do was take me out of my comfort zone and do something a little bit different,” she says. “If you really associate me with the song ‘Stay,’ it’ll sound very different to you.”

Loeb is not just a singer-songwriter, but also a children’s author, actor, voice-over artist and entrepreneur. Even since her last visit to Japan, she has been very busy.

“I released an album, did some touring, some acting, a lot of voice-over work, taking care of my kids, making new music, working on my eyewear line. I have a brand of coffee, too.” The brand of coffee helps support her charity, Camp Lisa, which sends underprivileged children to summer camp.

Having had two children herself, it’s easy to see why Loeb’s musical focus has partially shifted toward a younger audience

“I found with both my daughter and my son, they love listening to music and sometimes it’s just a great way to connect with kids without using the Internet. You know it starts with the book and the CD, but once you learn them you can sing them on your own in the bathtub, in the car, so it’s really fun.”

Having kids has also given Lisa a good reason to keep returning to Japan and expand on an impressive collection of Hello Kitty goods.

“I’ve collected Hello Kitty almost since it came out 40 years ago,” she says. “I’ve always been a huge Hello Kitty fan and collector of things that are cute and kitschy, so (Japan) is the place to be.”

Loeb’s knowledge of all things kawaii (cute) runs deep, with the conversation leading on to the other Japanese characters her and her family love.

“We love Batsu Maru, Chococat, Afro Ken, Rilakkuma, and we just found out about Sanrio’s new salmon filet character (Kirimi-chan). I need to go to Kiddyland and brush up on my new characters!”

Loeb is also a fan of karaoke. Her go-to song is “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers, but she enjoys listening to Arctic Monkeys and Tegan and Sara in her spare time.

With the future of music looking uncertain at the moment, Loeb’s apparent business savvy might come in handy. She plans to change the way she releases her music in the future. Considering social media and the way consumers take in content, she feels that at this point in time releasing another album wouldn’t be the right choice.

“For my next project, what I’ve decided to do is start releasing songs in groups of songs,” she says. “It works better for me creatively, it works better for me in my personal life, being a mom, being able to write with somebody for a day or two days and record a song, rather than buckling down and doing a full album— then an album tour. I’m always touring so it’s always fun to have fresh material out.”

It’s easy to see why Loeb’s fanbase has stuck with her throughout her 20 years in the music business. Her Billboard performance ends with an energetic rendition of her new song “3, 2, 1, Let Go,” which will be included in an upcoming film that she will also star in. She may be known for “Stay,” but she certainly keeps herself moving.