“There was a girl in the muffin shop when I was buying a muffin,” indie-queen Liz Phair recalled. “I left, and came back the next day when the guy behind the counter said, ‘Hey, you’re Liz Phair, right?’ ‘Yeah,’ I said. He said, ‘There was this girl in here yesterday that was shaking real badly,’ and I’m thinking, ‘What happened? Was the muffin tainted?'”
The muffin wasn’t tainted. The guy behind the counter said the girl sat shaking for 10 minutes because she was in Phair’s presence. “The girl didn’t say anything, but that was just fine with me because it’s really awkward for me to talk to people like that,” Phair said.
Phair’s debut, Exile in Guyville on Matador, has inspired similar fits of awe among fans and critics alike. Phair sorted out the phenomenon from the birthplace of Guyville, Idful Studios in Chicago’s trendy Wicker Park.
“I think I’ve said things (on Guyville) that people have felt for a long time but haven’t said quite that way,” she explained. “It must be my tone and the words I use that gets them.”
“Plus, I’m really open on the album. It’s the kind of music that allows people to feel personally involved with me.”
To feel personally involved with Liz Phair is to love her. The album has topped college charts, sending the major labels after her.
“I’m totally considering (signing to a major label),” she said without reservation. “I didn’t want to at first, but things just started moving faster.” Look for Phair to land a six-figure deal with Matador/Atlantic or Geffen by the end of the year.
Phair has a fresh attitude to combat the perils of her newly-acquired fortunes.
“I’ve found an amazing way to deal with it, and that’s not to think about it,” she said. “I’ve returned to my normal personality. I don’t take things too seriously. I’ve adapted to the pace, which is pretty hectic. It’s sort of bad, but it’s absolutely necessary.”
“You develop this kind of blankness. I tell friends that are going to see me backstage, ‘Don’t expect to see me back there.’ I mean I’m there, but I’m not there. I’m looking at people and I’m smiling and trying to hear what they say, but it’s just no good to hear what people think of you every day. It’s just becoming professional about that part of your life.”
Phair the professional brings her act to Champaign tonight for a sold-out show at the Blind Pig. Her backup is Brad Wood, with whom Phair co-produced Guyville, on drums, Casey Rice on guitar and Leroy Bach on bass. The band will play songs from Phair’s halfway-completed Matador follow-up.
“It’s going to be our fun show because it’s a place I feel comfortable,” Phair said. “And because I love (opening act) Corndolly.”
By Chris Varias
The Daily Illini, September 17, 1993