We’re really hoping Liz Phair gives us something more to celebrate this year than her actually-pretty-good music book reviewing. Liz’s putting out a new record in June — her first since the face plant that was her Capitol Records tenure — on the very same, Dave Matthews co-founded ATO label that put In Rainbows in stores and will do the same for MMJ’s anticipated Evil Urges.
Billboard’s chat with Phair — in which she speaks about going from critically beloved indie princess to plastic-y corporate pop pariah, and the 15th anniversary re-release of 1993’s classic Exile In Guyville — certainly reads like smoke signals to folks hoping they can like a Liz Phair album again. And if that’s you, a few of these quotes might just give you hope.
BILLBOARD: Why did you decide to sign with ATO for the re-release of “Guyville” and your new record?
LIZ PHAIR: I missed being on an indie. I never wanted to go to a major in the first place, but Matador basically sold me to Capitol, and when they divested, I was left there. It has been a long time since I could do what I wanted. When I was on Capitol, I tried to adapt and make the best of it, but I can honestly say, for the first time in 15 years, I feel creative. I don’t have to start with a mindset that thinks about how to sell the record and works backward.
BB:Why did you decide to kick off the deal by re-releasing “Exile in Guyville” as opposed to releasing a new album?
LP:The re-release was actually ATO’s idea initially, but I did realize that we’d never done the 10th anniversary edition, and it seemed like a good thing to do. I jumped on the idea because I wanted to work on the DVD and revisit the scene that happened around “Guyville” in 1993. I wanted to bring that moment back to life, and it was also a good way for me to establish my independence.
BB: Does it ever drive you nuts that even after four more records and 15 years, people keep coming back to “Guyville?”
LP: There was a period where I was frustrated, but much of that came from the fact that I was stuck in the major system and felt like my fans hated me and I was cranky. And now I’m not cranky anymore [laughs]. When I did the first pop record, I have to say it was fun for me. [Then-Capitol president] Andy Slater came in and we just decided to give it a shot. I felt like I had fun and learned a lot, although I certainly would not have made that record had I not been on a major.
She certainly seems to be courting you back to the fold, fand of the old. Which is a different tune than she sang to the NY Times back in ’05 on the eve of the release of Somebody’s Miracle:
If you are an old fan and it doesn’t fit what you need, don’t buy the disc. People hang their hopes on you fitting into their CD collection in way that they have made a space for, but I’m playing a longer game than that.
So maybe it wasn’t all due to Slater’s vision? Well, we know the endorphin rush/conditioned optimism artists wear when promoting a new record, so we won’t hold the conflicting paper trail against you, Liz. We are definitely interested, and hopeful, about the new album. Liz also tells Billboard that the forthcoming ATO-released repackaging of Exile In Guyville will come with three bonus tracks, some Alan Light-penned liner notes, and mercifully, no “Fuck and Run ’08” remixes.