Lisa Loeb Reflects on Move Into Children's Music Following Grammy Nomination

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for NARAS
Lisa Loeb attends MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac at Radio City Music Hall on Jan. 26, 2018 in New York City.  

For parents old enough to have bought a ticket to see the 1994 film Reality Bites, whose soundtrack starred Lisa Loeb’s breakthrough Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit "Stay (I Missed You),” Loeb's vocals on an old standby like "The Farmer in the Dell" offer transport back to a time when goatees and flannel were cool, even as children pelt the cover of their iPhones with scrambled eggs.

After moving into children’s music in 2003 with Catch the Moon, Loeb is now gunning for a Grammy win in the Best Children's Album category, for her late-2016 release Feel What U Feel. Only the second Grammy nod of her career, and over two decades removed from she and Nine Stories being up for 1995's Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Stay," the singer owes her children’s-world success in part to savvy streaming-era moves that have helped her become one of the most recognizable voices for kids on Amazon’s music ecosystem.

Before releasing Feel, for example, she provided her voice talents to the Amazon Originals animated show Creative Galaxy, as well as music for Amazon Original's If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series and specials. Those appearances helped to familiarize kids and parents with her as a kids artist.

"I've started working with [Amazon] more over the years due to having had relationships with both major and boutique record labels over the years. I felt that Amazon would be a good combination of the two: they have a lot of people working there who have been in the music business for a long time; they are very involved -- yet still hands-off -- with the creative end of making music; and they are able to help facilitate the collaborative process of working with other great artists,” says Loeb. “I always felt that if they could make Amazon Prime members aware that they have all of this great music available to them for free that it would be an incredible deal for an independent artist to have."

Amazon Music says it’s seen a threefold increase in streams of kid's music in the past three years -- perhaps in part because kids can ask Amazon’s voice activated robot Alexa to play it themselves -- leading mainstream acts such of Loeb and lead singer Amy Lee of the rock band Evanescence to sign exclusive deals with the e-retailing giant. Children's music that leans more pop than "Pop Goes the Weasel" is always in demand for parents with children starting to age out of nursery rhymes, and that's where Loeb has become invaluable for Amazon Music's profile amongst families.

Feel What U Feel features 12 tracks of mostly original songs, a welcome departure for families burnt out on the Kidz Bop series of high-pitched covers, but still in need of music for car rides with their grade school aged kids. The album was Loeb's nod toward both the children's albums that were produced during her childhood that didn't underestimate a kid's intelligence, and the heartfelt songs that ruled the radio airwaves in the '60s and '70s, but would cynically be viewed as kiddie fare if written today.

"There were a few records that I thought were grownup records, because I didn't think they felt like kiddie records when I was younger: Free to Be... You and Me by Marlo Thomas & Friends, and Carole King's record Really Rosie, where she put Maurice Sendak's words and stories to music. Both of them were different from each other, but what they both had in common were that they were produced like regular records, and I just felt so grown up and cool listening to them as a kid," Loeb says.

"I still do 'real' music," the singer explains, noting the condescension she has received from peers. "Even my most recent adult-oriented record (2013's No Fairy Tale), there were two songs on it that were written during sessions that were supposed to be specifically for kids material. The longer I'm doing this, the more that the lines blur, and it just becomes the chance to fill the need that I've found for universally themed songs. That's been a goal of mine for years, and those songs tend to land within the children's genre of music now.

“If someone were to write the song "I Want to Teach the World to Sing" today, that would most likely end up being labeled a kids song, but it’s really just a song that universally connects with audiences of all ages. And yeah, I do get some pushback sometimes for playing something that is identified as a kids song at a grownup show, but it tends to be some serious artsy type upset that they heard something silly. Simple songs may be designed for kids to enjoy them, but there is an importance to performing something that everyone can enjoy."

2018 Grammy Awards


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.