It’s been more than a quarter century since Liz Phair released her landmark debut, “Exile in Guyville,” a sexually frank stab at the musical patriarchy that many rank among the greatest albums of the 1990s.
All these years later, Phair told “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason that the record is “much easier to embrace.”
“Back in the day it made me feel so self-conscious. I felt inadequate like when I felt people heard the record they would hear my awkward voice, my poor warbly voice,” Phair said. “It mystified me. I’d walk around going like, ‘what is this magic trick?'”
She’d perform it again with hits like “Why Can’t I?” But Phair has had long periods when she’s slipped in and out of rock stardom. Surprisingly though, Phair said she’s long been uncomfortable being the star.
“A little bit. I ham it up. You know how you overcompensate when you’re uncomfortable about something … but I am like a bookish nerdish introvert who just doesn’t want to be invisible or irrelevant,” she said.
The bookish singer has now written her own book, “Horror Stories,” a magically lyrical memoir that is also searingly honest. “My conscience,” she writes, “is a fantastic prosecutor.”
“What was the hardest part to write about?” Mason asked.
“Probably the affair I had at the end of my marriage. Or the #MeToo chapter about the sexual harassment that I’ve experienced in my life,” she said.
In “Horror Stories,” Phair writes that the president of a record label showed her pornographic picture books in his office. In another story, a different label head tells her “to let radio programmers feel me up a little, because it would be good for my career.” She writes that a third label exec offered her $5,000 a month “to be his live-in mistress.”
“I had never added all that [up]. I had never even in therapy. I had never even talked about it to anyone,” she said. “I hated that chapter … I don’t like to see myself as a victim. I mean I’m almost kind of tearing up right now, because I don’t like to feel like a victim … I feel sorry for that girl. That I was. I wish I could go back and help her out or hold her hand or yell at someone for her.”
Phair said writing the memoir as a sort of “magic trick”: “If you write it all down. It goes into that page and some part of it leaves you. Not all of it. But like it’s a relief.”
Phair also describes a painful breakup about a decade ago, with a longtime boyfriend who has a baby with another woman.
“It changed the trajectory of my life. That breakup destroyed my ability to trust myself,” she said. “And so I pulled out of dating and I just kind of became paralyzed I guess.”
In the aftermath, Phair focused on raising her son, Nick.
“Then when I wanted to get back into music after he went to college, I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know who this Liz Phair was … she seemed way cooler than I was. And way tougher,” she said.
Phair said she found herself again by playing live music: “If you pull it off, you feel like a living god. You’re just like invincible. It’s fabulous.”
Phair’s new album is expected to come out early next year.
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