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Fame & Fortune: Rock singer Liz Phair
Million-dollar ideas versus financial realities

Liz PhairLiz Phair has spent the last few years as one of rock music's ultimate enigmas.

She roared out of the gate in 1993 with "Exile in Guyville," a blunt, raw, sexual, lo-fi recording that was a song-by-song answer to the Rolling Stones' "Exile on Main Street." It attracted a die-hard following for her candid take on female sexual power, but her status as an indie goddess turned into both a blessing and a curse.

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Subsequent records carried her legend to varying degrees of success, depending on whom you asked, and then she shocked her fan base with a 180-degree change of course. Her self-titled 2003 Capitol Records release was as slick as Exile had been untamed. It bore the stamp of Avril Lavigne's producers, and the cover photo featured Liz naked, covered by only a guitar. The radio-friendly CD was a blatant attempt at commercializing her appeal and sent the indie music world into an uproar of condemnation.

Now, Phair has a new CD, "Somebody's Miracle," which scales back the production and takes a step back toward stripped-down songwriting.

Bankrate spoke to Phair, now 38 years old and the mother of an 8-year-old son, about the twists and turns of her career, and how the die-hards refuse to let go of the past.

Bankrate: You've taken flack, from people who loved Exile, for how your music has changed as you've grown older. But you'd think that they've aged, too.

Liz Phair: The indie zeitgeist for that time is gone; it doesn't exist anymore. What frightens me is that people can't see the value in the indie scene as it exists today. They still want it to seem like the indie scene of yesteryear.

Bankrate: Death Cab for Cutie's album just came out on Atlantic. If you needed proof that indie was dead ...

Liz Phair: (laughs) It's dead now. I remember talking to them. I stopped by the set of "The O.C.," and Death Cab for Cutie was on, and they were talking to me about being on a major label. I asked why would you guys wanna be on a major? I'm stuck in a contract, but you're not even in a contract. But they really wanted to be on a major. And you have to give it to them, they're just going after what they want. People who don't expect human beings to go after what they want are bad people.

Bankrate: You mention being stuck in a contract. Do you wish you were on another label?

Liz Phair: No. My label works really well with me. I think I have a better deal than they do. They're gambling that I'm ever going to pay them back what I owe them. So I think I'm benefiting from being on a major label right now, but it comes with a price tag. They need singles. It's not an option for me not to deliver that. I really look at my label as a business partner. Look, I'm old enough. I'm the same age as they are. I'm not looking at them as these big authorities who are making me do stuff. Sometimes I make them do stuff. So I think I've really been lucky. They can drop me at any time, and they wouldn't be financially wrong to do so. It's a tough world out there.

 
 
Next: "... I wasn't so great at saving my money ..."
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