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Exile in Mainstream

The girl can’t help it

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Before Avril, there was Liz. FLARE gets the 411 from Ms. Phair

By Sarah Liss
Flare, September 2005

Pop laureate or pop tart? Whatever the case, Liz Phair isn’t afraid of messing with people’s expectations. When her Exile in Guyville debut dropped back in 1993, critics and fans were blown away by the Chicago songstress’s lyrical frankness and they quickly crowned her the indie-rock poster girl of generations X and Y. She followed it up with three diverse records, including 2003’s self-titled effort, which teamed her with super-producers The Matrix for an album that sounded like Avril Lavigne for adults. As she prepares to release her new disc, Somebody’s Miracle, produced by the fellas behind artists such as Dave Matthews Band and Melissa Etheridge, Phair answers a few fast ones.

What songs are you most proud of?
“The more vulnerable ones. On every record, there’s one track that feels like I’ve let people get too far under my skin. On my new disc, it’s the song “Table for One”. I wrote it from the perspective of someone like my brother, who’s a recovered alcholic. The song is about the loneliness you feel when you fall in love with an addiction.”

In regard to your songs with sexually explicit lyrics, how do you feel about critics who call you over the top?
“The only way to help girls grow up healthy is to make huge statements, to kick and scream. I feel like we’re in a coal mine underground; it’s so oppressive and constrictive. I’m so sick of feeling like a victim.”

With your change in musical style, has your clothing style changed as well?
“I like to think of fashion as the weather. One day, I’ll be really preppy and, the next, I’ll be really slutty. Sometimes I dress my age, sometimes I dress too young. I have more than just one muse. I have tons of fun with fashion and I can get really expressive.”

Following in the footsteps of Sarah Jessica Parker, along with Joss Stone, you’ll be in Gap ads this fall. What’s your opinion of the whole celebrity-endorsement craze?
“YOu know how, in the old days, you’d have salons where artists would be sponsored by rich people? I think of the Gap campaign as a place to let artists come and [hang out] with each other: Gap is like the Medicis [the wealthy Florentine family who were Michaelangelo’s patrons] of our generation.”

Latest personal fad?
“I just got some cool shirts from Paris that I really dig from a label called Diab’less. They’re beaded and lined and are a perfect mix of high/low and formal/casual.”

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