By Colin Devenish
liveDaily, August 4, 2003
Liz Phair is aiming high after her five-year break. Not content with her status atop the indie heap, Phair aspires to join the ranks of the Avrils and Britneys.
After some initial sessions with producer Michael Penn, Phair shifted gears and hired hit-generating production and songwriting team The Matrix (Avril Lavigne, Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin) to push her over the hump.
Her self-titled album generated strong responses–pro and con–and proved that, a decade after “Exile In Guyville”, Liz Phair can still hit a nerve.
Was there a specific moment when you realized you needed to work with someone else on this album?
I like to write in a lot of different styles and moods and then take one from each and compile them. I knew after I worked with Michael that I almost had it, but I needed some more exuberance.
How do you feel The Matrix helped you?
I think it was everything. We really did a good job of melding what they do and what I do. I brought my story, and it’s about my life with this guy. It’s about my emotions, and my words are there and [The Matrix’s] musical ability [is there]. I’m kind of ignorant musically, which a lot of people love. I’m almost visual on the fretboard, and they know what they’re doing. I do these things, but they’re not thought out.
It seemed like you were writing from a pretty unique perspective: A woman who’s dating and has a kid and still has a love for pop culture.
I think you’re probably right. Other than Bjork or Chrissie Hynde, I can’t think of that many people. Courtney Love, she’s in her own little category. But I think you’re right because I’m not necessarily taking one stand either way and saying, “I’m not a mom I’m a rock chick.” But it’s also not from the perspective like, “I’m mom a now and it’s going to be all soft and appropriate.” I think if I did anything new — which I always try to do — [it’s to] be who I am. And I think that sometimes that’s radical in and of itself as a woman.
I’ve read where you’ve said you were a fan of big-rock radio as a kid, and that’s in part what you had in mind for this record. Did you have any specific albums in mind that you were using as a template?
Not really, no. I used to try to find that stuff because I had such success when I did ‘Exile in Guyville’. I’m not against doing that again. Giving that limitation to myself really gets the best out of me creatively. I just haven’t had that for a while. I think that’s something I’d love to do in my career again because it’s good for me. I’m very good at that kind of thing. It’s an old analogy, but if you give me a blank piece of paper I can be sort of crippled by it. Just draw a square on it and tell me to do something around the square, I’m very creative. Once I have one thing to push against, I can explode. I need a limitation, but not a lot. Just a simple limitation.