Lisa Loeb – the American indie musician known as much for her trademark cat-eye glasses as for her talent as a songwriter and storyteller – embodied the music of the ‘90s.
Her platinum hit song Stay (I Missed You), from the 1994 film Reality Bites, became the anthem for a generation of young people trying to figure out what – or who – they wanted out of life.
Now, the same Gen-Yers who loved her for the songs Do You Sleep, I Do, and Let’s Forget About It, now grown with children of their own, have the chance to experience Loeb’s music all over again.
A mother of two – daughter Lyla, six, and son Emet, three – Loeb, 48, is well known to parents and kids for her children’s books and albums. And she’s bringing her family sing-along and music shows to Ottawa’s Centrepointe Theatre on Feb. 18, 2017.
“We have family in Ottawa, and I can’t wait to come back,” Loeb recently told Parenting Times.
She made her foray into children’s music four or five years before her first child was born, when she “was given an opportunity to make a record that was different from my usual music.”
She released Catch the Moon, Songs for Movin’ and Shakin’, and Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing-Along: The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs, which scooped up a Parents’ Choice Award.
For Camp Lisa, an album that supports the Camp Lisa Foundation – which the singer launched in 2008 as a fundraiser to send kids to summer camp – she enlisted musician pals Jill Sobule, Nina Gordon, and actor (and banjo player) Steve Martin.
“It was a great outlet to use my sense of humour and imagination that I hadn’t been able to use before,” she said.
“I think the thing that makes (my music) stand out is that the songs are smart but welcoming and thoughtful, silly, but also clever and sweet but also knowing, so they aren’t totally innocent.
“They’re very imaginative and draw from things that are mundane.”
And after her children were born, she was inspired by nursery rhymes.
Loeb sang to her children the same way her parents sang to her when she was growing up, but in many cases, she couldn’t remember the exact melodies.
“When I started looking for modern (children’s) recordings that were intimate and on the simpler side, I couldn’t find them. So I decided to make my own nursery rhymes record, inspired by my kids.
“I wanted to make a record that sounded like a mom singing to her child in their room.”
The result was her fourth children’s album, Nursery Rhyme Parade! which features classic nursery rhymes and songs including ABC, The Muffin Man, This Old Man, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Sing a Song of Sixpence, The Farmer in the Dell and Yankee Doodle, all performed in Loeb’s fresh way.
Her fans are often surprised – and happy – to learn that Loeb is recording works for children.
“They like it, because it doesn’t talk down to their kids,” she said. “It’s music that they can appreciate on their own.”
While she has always connected with fans through music and meeting people after shows, “being a mom connected me with a whole mom and dad community I didn’t see before I had kids.
“It’s a new way of looking at the world, and connecting with different families.”
Like many other celebrities, Loeb tries to keep her kids out of the limelight, but speaks lovingly and enthusiastically about them.
“My daughter loves to read and draw. She loves music and has her own turntable,” she said.
“My son loves playing the drums. Music is a form of expression in our house.”
And the kids are just becoming old enough to recognize the impact their mother has made.
“I’ve started playing a little more around town and have had some of their friends’ parents react to me,” said Loeb. “They might have been big fans growing up.
“My daughter sees people stop me at the drugstore or grocery store so she understands that I have a special, different kind of job.”
She calls herself “the new version of a very hands-on parent.”
“I like to know what’s going on in my kids’ classrooms, but I give them freedom. I try not to hover,” she said.
“I’m trying to have a good combination of discipline and rules so they’re holding hands in the parking lot and eating vegetables, and freedom, so they learn when they’re hungry and when they’re full.”
As far as how her career intersects with her family life, Loeb said she doesn’t tour as much as if she were single or without kids. “I try to be there for school and hanging out.”
Still, her work has branched out to include movies and television. She’s appeared in About a Boy, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, House On Haunted Hill and Fright Night, as well as The Nanny, The Drew Carey Show, The Chris Isaak Show and Gossip Girl.
Fame aside, Loeb insists she’s a regular mom facing the same challenges as other parents – namely, struggling to balance a career with being a wife and a mother.
She doesn’t tour with the children “unless it makes sense,” preferring they stay with their grandparents or her husband Roey, also a musician.
“I respect my career, but I’m always trying to err on the side of family being the priority,” she said. “I’m always asking working moms how they balance it and trying to get some ideas.”
And like other mothers, she finds the hard work all worth it.
“Just the amount of love is amazing,” said Loeb. “I love my children so much. It’s like Christmastime all the time. I love talking to them – it reminds me of my own childhood.
“It’s a way for me to start over again.”
When: Feb. 18, 2017, 2 p.m. (sing-along performance) and 8 p.m.
Where: Centrepointe Theatres, 101 Centrepointe Dr.