It’s been nearly three decades since “Stay (I Missed You),” the Reality Bites anthem that captured the disillusioned love and coming of age in the ’90s rang in the ears of Gen-Xers everywhere. In the end, the track only made it into to the film’s credits, but the debut single solidified newbie singer Lisa Loeb as the first unsigned artist to ever top the U.S. chart in 1994. Based on a real relationship, Loeb has always revealed her own, unfiltered insights into love, friends, and life from the beginning, and she continues the journey in A Simple Trick to Happiness (Furious Rose), out February 7.
Her 15th studio album, and her first adult-driven release since 2013’s No Fairy Tale, Loeb, now a mother, philanthropist, businesswoman, actress—also voiced several animated series, features, and commercials—has been busy.
In 2010, the singer started the Lisa Loeb Collection, a line of eyewear inspired by her iconic cat-eye frames, and launched her own coffee “Wake Up! Brew.” Proceeds from the roast directly support Loeb’s charitable organization, The Camp Lisa Foundation, a non-profit that helps send kids to summer camp.
Laser focused on kid’s music throughout the past 15 years, Loeb released five family-friendly albums, including 2017’s Lullaby Girl, and picked up a 2018 Grammy Best Children’s Album for Feel What U Feel (2016). She also penned several children’s books and helped compose and co-write lyrics for the New York musical production of Camp Kappawanna in 2015.
Moving in waves, A Simple Trick to Happiness, produced by Loeb and co-writer Rich Jacques, is more introspective. Pensive, and at times gloomy, some brighter moments cut in to the 11 tracks as Loeb deciphers happiness with uplifting “Shine” or “Sing Out,” which she wrote to perform at Nashville Pride, to the anthemic pop of “This is My Life.” Michelle Branch offers backing vocals on “Doesn’t It Feel Good,” a not-so-perfect love story, while “Another Day” weaves the singer’s delicate vocals in to the piano-steered track on how things never stay the same. Slightly more melancholy, “I Wanna Go First,” has Loeb singing about loving someone so much that you want to die before them, singing Eaten by zombies or swallowed by sharks / If there’s anything left they can use my good parts.
“Early on in my songwriting, when I was a kid, I liked to write songs that were abstract, probably in order to conceal my own personal experiences and feelings, but as my songwriting has evolved, my goals have shifted,” Loeb tells American Songwriter. “I’ve realized that although I love songs that are mysterious, I aspire to turn very personal experiences into stories and songs that people can understand and relate to when they hear them, without a lot of deciphering.”
Her first single, “Skeleton,” co-written with Jacques and Scott Effman, is a moodier track delving into damaged friendships. The track is an analysis of the filter through which we evaluate our relationships with one another and how we can sometimes feel duped when we have feelings that were uneven with the other person, according to Loeb, who says “When writing ‘Skeleton’ we were able to pinpoint a very specific situation and turn it into song form, which I tried to do while writing most of the songs on my new album.”
Shot mostly in black and white in Osaka, Japan (where Loeb has a deep fanbase), the video, directed by Aaron Walker, evokes the chilliness of a rift backed by lyrics I wish you cared / At least you played it well… Tell your new friends where we’ve been. “In the video you’ll see the sights on the streets of Osaka at night, shrines, and cats of the city, contrasted with a stark black and white Japanese studio setting,” shares Loeb. “I love the street scenes, as they really reflect the nostalgic feel of the song, while the black and white studio setting helps tell the story.”