Interview: Liz Phair

on October 28, 2010, 8:52am
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“I’m very connected to my internal, deepest subconscious,” says Phair. “I’ve been listening to it for many, many years. That’s how I write songs, that’s how I’m creative. So I have a relationship and a responsibility to my subconscious and it really was pissed. “

Not unheard of in the American music industry, the label executives were adamant that Phair not release the songs, something she touches on in the song “Smoke” where it’s called “career suicide.”

“They were absolutely shocked and horrified and they just said no way, it’ll ruin your career,” she points out adamantly. “So I was put away for thirteen months and I was in talks with other labels to produce something very mature, sorta Guyville circa 2010. You know, ‘Good Liz.’ And right as I got up there towards it, this thing, my subconscious, just started screaming at me and I was like, ‘No, no, no, no.’ I waited 13 months, I’m not kidding about this. This is the most bizarre and interesting thing I’ve done lately, like, I’m sorry but I’m putting it out.”

Phair didn’t have much time. She wanted to release it by July 4th and had decided to take the risk at the end of June. But they had interest from Rocket Science, an indie label, and it was off and running, released online in an almost secret manner.

“I walked in there (to Rocket Science) and was like, here’s what I want to do… everyone thinks I’m crazy and by the way you’re going to be hated. You’re going to get all this hate press for the first few two or three months. So they were like, go for it. And I’m glad, I’m really glad.”

Glad because she’s proud of the work she’s done on Funstyle, regardless of what any critic thinks (after all, that’s just one person’s opinion) and because she stuck to her guns and took the artistic leap no matter what the outcome.

liz Interview: Liz Phair

“Artistic stuff is weird,” she admits. “Sometimes it isn’t received well but it’s still legitimate for being a rung on a ladder. If you miss one, you have a hole in your ladder. It needs to be done. I really believe you have a responsibility to whatever this force is that helps you create. “

This force that drives Liz is a powerful one. It’s seen her through many career highs and lows. I had to mention that I found it ironic that her self-titled release in 2003, which saw more “pop” songs like “Why Can’t I?”,  drew  a lot of backlash from critics and fans for selling out and yet Funstyle, which has her doing the exact opposite of selling out, is also drawing a lot of heat. A can’t win scenario?

“Oh yeah,” she laughs. “I’ve given up the win thing. Nobody like to be walking into a headwind you know, it’s never ideal but I have never…honestly, when Guyville came out there was a huge backlash, even then. And now it’s like the holy holy. You know, people say it’s so great and everyone loved it , but  it was not so. There was a huge amount of backlash in that. She’s blonde, she’s from the suburbs, she doesn’t deserve this, she used her body to get this, she’s half naked on the cover and that’s why she got this. So they were there, even then. It was controversial and uncomfortable for a long time. Now, no one remembers that. All they remember is “oh, it’s the greatest.”

Regardless, she doesn’t let the backlash, no matter what it’s about or where it comes from, hold her back.

“As long as you’re true to your artistic self, posterity will show the growth of an artist. If I hadn’t put out Funstyle, well what’s coming next? Maybe I wouldn’t get to that next thing, I might have locked myself in a dead end and never climbed out of it. So those risks are essential.”

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