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News / Life / Entertainment

Loeb wrote ‘Stay’ for Daryl Hall

Singers perform duet 30 years after her breakout hit

By Rodney Ho, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published: March 28, 2024, 6:04am

ATLANTA — The story about how Lisa Loeb’s “Stay (I Missed You)” became a most unlikely hit three decades ago has been well traversed but is still fun to tell.

Loeb was a neighbor and friend of actor Ethan Hawke, who starred in a most Gen X of movies in 1994 called “Reality Bites.” Hawke heard her song “Stay” and passed it on to producer and co-star Ben Stiller, who placed it in the end credits.

Hawke then gave Loeb, a struggling singer-songwriter, another solid by directing her music video, a single camera shot of a fetching Loeb in a largely empty Manhattan apartment also featuring Hawke’s cat. That video helped fuel the song all the way to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, the first time an unsigned artist had ever reached that height in the rock era.

Loeb, always donning her signature cat’s-eye glasses, was able to leverage that song into a sustainable career. The 56-year-old Los Angeles resident is performing Sunday in Atlanta at the free Brookhaven Cherry Blossom Festival. She will also be touring with her friend Lyle Lovett later this year.

Tom Breihan, in his Stereogum essay about “Stay” as part of his journey through all of Billboard Hot 100’s No. 1 songs from 1958 to today, described Loeb’s tune as “a messy, personal romantic-argument song with no chorus and no clear structure.” Yet he lauded the way she sang in a “wounded, vulnerable, intimate quaver,” noting how the “chord changes fit together in weird, jazzy, oblique way, but they’re always reassuring, never jarring.”

In all, he writes, “it’s a pretty song that never seems like it’s trying too hard to be a pretty song.” And “Stay” now remains a fixture on any pop radio station with a focus on the 1990s.

Now married with two children, she has recorded a raft of quality children’s music, winning a Grammy in 2018.

Recently, Loeb was invited to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland with Garbage’s Shirley Manson, the Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin and R&B guitarist Malina Moye to introduce the new exhibit “Revolutionary Women in Music: Left of Center.” It features items from groundbreaking female artists across all genres of music. Some of her own memorabilia is on display, which humbled her.

“That was fun,” Loeb said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I was always a huge fan of music and culture going back to the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. I read books about different bands and sheet music books that had liner notes. That affected me growing up. It was a magical world away from my own real world. To be around all that was really exciting.”

As a young female singer songwriter in the 1990s, Loeb was part of a group that resonated with that decade’s vibe along with the likes of Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman and Sarah McLachlan. She partook in Lilith Fair as well.

“I don’t like separating myself out as a woman musician,” Loeb said, “but there is something about that camaraderie around strong, interesting, powerful, creative women that is really empowering. It’s a supportive feeling that makes you feel connected to others.”

Since 2022, Loeb has been a regular DJ on Sirius XM’s ‘90s channel, resurrecting a gig she had in high school. She created a weekly segment interviewing famous folks from the decade such as LeAnn Rimes, Taylor Dayne and Atlanta-based actress Kim Fields.

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“It’s a fun passion project,” Loeb said. “As someone from the ‘90s, it’s fun to engage with people to find out what they’re doing now.”

Loeb was also a recent guest on the 17-year-old web show “Live from Daryl’s House” hosted by Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates fame. Back in the early 1990s, she had written “Stay” with Hall in mind when she had heard he was seeking tunes for a solo album.

In the end, she kept the song for herself. “I had Daryl Hall in mind with some of the melodies while writing it,” she said. “I was able to tell him that story years ago. He had no idea.”

She was then able to not only perform “Stay” with Hall but also his Hall & Oates classic “Rich Girl.”

“That song kills me every time!” she said. “He had done it with other musicians but I came up with a different approach. It was a thrill to work with one of my heroes. He treated me like a peer.”