It's been nearly nine years since Lisa Loeb last released a pop record (2004's "The Way It Really Is") -- not that she intended to take such a long gap.
The singer-songwriter who made cat glasses famous with her 1994 megahit "Stay" returned to music-making this week with "No Fairy Tale," a peppy, pop-punk album produced by New Found Glory's Chad Gilbert that was initially conceived in late 2010 after Gilbert, who'd collaborated with Loeb previously, contacted the singer out of the blue. "He was full of energy, like a squirrel, and he said 'I think we should make a punky, poppy rock record. What do you think?'" Loeb says. "In my mind it meant we'll figure it out, we'll think about it. He meant 'Now. Let's start next week, as soon as possible.'"
Today, Billboard exclusively premieres the lyric video for the album's title track. The video features illustrations from artist TessFowler, who drew the cover of the album's version in Japan. "I knew Tess would bring our vision to life," she says. "I like that it tells a story in the words as well as the illustrations." Watch it here!
Meanwhile, Billboard caught up with Loeb for nine stories (a nod to her backing band) about what she's been up to.
1. Raising a family. What started as one of the fastest projects of Loeb's career soon became one of the most drawn out after the singer became pregnant with her second child shortly after completing the album's sessions, leaving the project sidelined until she could focus on a promotion and touring schedule. "I was literally working on the artwork for the record while I was in the hospital," Loeb says, "And I made the decision to put the record out when the baby was a little older. Seven and a half months is a little bit of a better time to do any kind of traveling."
2. Expanding her sound. The creative change of pace for "No Fairy Tale" led to a set of songs that still brandish Loeb's sweet vocals and clever wordplay, but with crunchier guitars and harder-hitting drums than you might expect from more acoustic-leaning hits like "I Do," "Falling In Love" and "Do You Sleep." There's also a look back at her own heyday on "The 90s," in which Loeb sings from the perspective of a character not unlike herself who became the unwilling, glam-ified face of a movement ("They say I'm folk / But I like Bowie," she sings at one point.) If the new sound sounds surprising on paper, it all works in the hands of Gilbert and mixer Brad Wood. "I think people who know my music well it would make sense to them that I would make this record," she says. "There'd been bits and pieces of other records that relate to this in the past."
3. Teaming up with Tegan & Sara. "No Fairy Tale" features two collaborations with Canadian power-pop twins Tegan & Sara, whose own new album "Heartthrob" was also released Tuesday. The album's highlight is perhaps the infectious sing-along "A Hot Minute," which further solidifies Loeb's quest for newfound (pun intended) relevance among the emopop crowd. "I'm a huge fan of Tegan & Sara, and I'm really glad we got the chance to work together," Loeb says. "Hopefully their listeners will want to hear it, too."
4. Dabbling in voiceover work. Even though Loeb has been largely absent from music for the past decade (save for 2008's children's record "Camp Lisa"), chances are you've heard her voice more than a few times as of late. Loeb has been moonlighting as a voiceover actor, providing pipes for recent campaigns for Bounty, Chili's, Smirnoff and Healthy Choice frozen meals. "It's funny, I grew up studying a lot of acting thought I wanted to be an actor instead of a musician, but that was the thing I kept doing more of," Loeb says. "But it's become its own career, which I really enjoy. It's something that's also a great job for a mom to spend a lot of time in the same city. It's a different form of creative work. I'm not writing my own copy, but it's another creative outlet."
5. Being selective about which brands she works with. "It's important to have products you really use. It's fun when those two things coincide," says Loeb, noting that Smirnoff, Healthy Choice, Bounty were all already a part of her life, particularly Chilli's. "It was a really important restaurant to me growing up before I even knew it would be a part of this alternate career."
6. Shopping for record labels. Loeb has released albums with Geffen, Sheridan Square, Zoe/Rounder and even Barnes & Noble in the past, and wasn't sure where she'd wind up next. "I really had gotten to a place where I like making records and then seeing who's interested in them. Although I like collaborating and I'm very into making music, I'm also interested in the business of music," she says. She decided to Savoy because "they wanted to put lot of heads together to figure out how to reach people. I'm excited to see how the record is going to get out there."
7. Getting back into the promo swing. Loeb will be making stops on the talk-show circuit well into the spring, beginning with a performance Thursday on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," as well as heading out on an East Coast tour this spring. A trek to Japan, where she has a big following (2003's "Hello Lisa" was a partnership with Hello Kitty) is also in the works.
8. Revisiting her back catalog. Loeb will hit the road with old Nine Stories members like bassist Joe Quigley and drummer Ronny Crawford, as well as guitarist Jonny Polonsky and even New Found Glory's Gilbert for select appearances to beef up some of her biggest hits. "It will be fun because I've also played a lot of acoustic shows in the past. All the songs are completely different and also will be fun to play on the road with the band and get the full rock sound." Further touring will be determined as her growing family continues to adjust to life on the road. "It's not every day you put a record out but not every day you have toddlers either. I'm just trying to balance the two."
9. Cameo-ing on "Gossip Girl." Loeb was the surprise guest star on "Gossip Girl"s series finale in December, playing Rufus Humphrey's future wife in the show's flash-forward final moments. She had previously played herself on the show as part of a "Forgotten Bands of the 90s" showcase. The art-imitating-life apparently seems to have created confusion at home, too. My husband asked me this morning, 'Now, does that make me your first husband or your second husband?'" Loeb told the New York Times the day after the episode aired. "It's kind of like the same question I got when I dressed as Sarah Palin, years and years ago, for Halloween. People at the parties were saying, 'Are you Lisa Loeb or are you Sarah Palin?' Very confusing."