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Exile from Indieville

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Singer mixes the Stevie Wonder-esque and the personal on Somebody’s Miracle

By Sandra Barrera
Los Angeles Daily News, November 4, 2005

Has ’90s indie rock darling Liz Phair become a podcaster?

“Yeah,” she says by phone from Dallas. “I’m so into it.”

While she’s been out touring in support of her sunny new album, Somebody’s Miracle, Phair has posted at least three podcasts at her official Web site, The podcasts include live performances, long-distance phone calls to her brother in Germany, random interviews and Phair’s own short fiction set to background music.

“Half of the fun is that it’s not organized at all,” says Phair, the 38-year-old singer-songwriter who will perform Monday at the House of Blues Sunset Strip. “But I’m looking to do more things where I don’t have expectations and I don’t have to worry about it for my job.

“You know how your job can become like … a job?”

Yes, sometimes even being a rocker can get frustrating – especially after the album-making part is over.

Phair knows this all too well.

After the release of 1993’s much-lauded Exile in Guyville, a bitter retort to the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main St., her momentum steadily began to decline as her sound brightened.

With each consecutive album that followed, Phair seemed to receive less attention for her work, which she saw as “personally destructive” anyway.

“I’m not like those performer types that were in high school theater, you know what I mean? I’m really more of an observer than somebody born to be observed,” says the Chicago native now living in L.A. “I never counted on having to play in front of people, or having to take pictures, or having to give interviews. I was into making records, and when it comes to all that other stuff. … I can’t stand thinking about it, because otherwise I would never write another song about anything interesting.”

Ignoring the years of negative criticism for not having created another Exile seems to have paid off for Phair on her latest, which Blender calls “brazenly varied.”

Somebody’s Miracle started off as another song-by-song response – this time, to Stevie Wonder’s 1976 album, Songs in the Key of Life. But because of budgetary constraints, Phair was forced to scrap the idea.

“That’s part of why I’m so disgruntled,” she says. “I needed probably two more years to make my own version of the songs, and that was just not possible. (The record company) was like … ‘OK, you’re done.'”

Some of her responses, however, did make the album, including “Wind and the Mountain” (“Have a Talk With God”), “Why I Lie” (“Love’s in Need of Love Today”), “Table for One” (“Village Ghetto Land”) and “Stars and Planets” (“Sir Duke”).

But her Wonder responses are now mixed in with more autobiographical fare, which Phair says worked out better than she had hoped.

“I think I learned a really valuable lesson while I was making this album: that the more detail and specificity I can bring to my songs from my own life, the more it resonates with other people,” she says.

For an even deeper insight, fans can tune in her occasional podcasts at her Web site.

“The podcasts are fully goofy,” Phair admits. “Sometimes I tell funny stories that are memories, and sometimes I read funny poems. Like, the last podcast I did a poem about the pyramid at the Luxor in Vegas, and I had (boyfriend and accompanist) Dino (Meneghin) slow my voice down so I sound kind of like a transvestite.

“It’s just funny,” she says.

And that’s not all.

“It’s, like, my creative outlet right now.”

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