Liz Phair Discusses Her Guitar-Playing and Legacy in Vulture Interview

Creative Commons, Liz Phair at Treeport Music Fest 2019. Photo by: Steel Brooks CC 2.0

In advance of the release of her memoir, Horror Stories, set to arrive in October, Liz Phair had a career-spanning interview with Vulture, published yesterday.

In the frank conversation with writer Rob Tannenbaum, she discusses everything from her childhood to how she grew passed the slights of music critics in the middle of her career. There's also plenty of insights of her creative process and her guitar-playing.

When discussing how she first started to learn guitar, she says:

"I pursue wrongness if it excites me. In eighth grade, I learned the basic chords from a really wonderful guitar teacher. I was bored playing Dan Fogelberg and James Taylor, so she said, “If you bring me in two songs you’ve written every week, I won’t tell your mom.” As a visual artist, I look at the neck of a guitar as a canvas. I like to add jazzy notes or weird, wrong notes. I like dissonance."

Phair's decision to co-write 2003's Liz Phair with mainstream pop production teams proved to be a widely panned move that, a decade-and-a-half later, has the most vocal critics of the time changing their tune. And by 2010, Phair was experimenting with music software plugins far removed from the plug-and-play indie rock ethos of her youth. However, Phair says:

"The anomaly was Guyville! My manager said, “I want to know why you change styles so much.” True me is me and a guitar. Anything else you put on it is an outfit, whether it’s an indie-rock outfit, a mainstream outfit, a plug-in outfit, a co-write outfit … Maybe I’m a little bit too adventurous for my own branding good."

Scanning the continuing wave of young women picking up guitars—and being asked about those that namecheck her as an influence—Phair doesn't just see it as part of her own legacy, but as a continual inspiration for her own work:

"My 'Liz Phair' now are these young women. They give me motivation, excitement, a sense of safety, and inspiration. Every day I follow a new female artist on Twitter, so I have more of that feeling I was so hungry for back then. Girlville is here."

Head over to Vulture and read the whole interview here.

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