“My career has changed me as a person. I look back and wonder who that confused rebel was, but now, I have the most important thing of all, my son, and he too has helped me change. I'm 40 now! I'm not the fun-loving person I used to be, but that doesn't mean I am going to end my career, not just yet...” Liz Phair
Two-time Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and sporadic actress Liz Phair first caught the eye of Matador Records with her “Girly Sound” tapes, which went on to become one of the most sought after bootlegs in alternative rock. She subsequently released “Exile in Guyville” in 1993. The album received a good response from both critics and audiences alike and was named one of VH1's “100 Greatest Albums” (1993) and one of Rolling Stone's “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” (2003). She continued to gain recognition with the Grammy-nominated singles “Supernova” (1994), spawned from the second and gold album “Whip-Smart,” and “Don't Have Time,” which was included in the soundtrack of John Singleton's “Higher Learning” (1995). She has since released “Whitechocolatespaceegg” (1998), “Liz Phair” (2003) and “Somebody's Miracle” (2005), all of which were commercial flops. The latter two albums were released under the Capital Records label. In the music industry for more than a decade, Phair, who once ranked No. 94 on VH1's “100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll,” has also collaborated with other artists like Material Issue, Shudder to Think, Sheryl Crow, Jimmy Eat World and Minnie Driver. On the acting front, the Connecticut-born, Chicago-raised singer/actor has appeared in the movies “Cherish” (2002, with Robin Tunney) and “Seeing Other People” (2004, with Jay Mohr).
A feminist, Phair is considering writing a feminist handbook for young girls with friend, actor and fellow feminist Robin Tunney. Phair is divorced from husband Jim Staskouskas, who fathered her son James Nicholas Staskouskas (born in 1996). She is currently romantically involved with her guitar player, Dino Meneghin.
Childhood and Family:
Born on April 17, 1967, in New Haven, Connecticut, Elizabeth Clark Phair was adopted as an infant by affluent parents, Dr. John and Nancy Phair. Along with her adopted brothers, Philip and Nick, she was raised in the comfortable Chicago suburb of Winnetka, Illinois, in which her father was an employee at Northwestern Hospital. When her dad took some time off to rest, he moved the family to England and spent a year there. At the time, Liz was 7 years old.
A rebellious teen, Liz attended New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, the same school also attended by Lili Taylor, Charlton Heston, Ann-Margret, Rock Hudson, Adam Baldwin, Ralph Bellamy, Hugh O'Brien, Penelope Milford, Bruce Dern and Virginia Madsen. Upon graduating in 1985, she went to Oberlin College in Ohio to study Art History/Studio Art. It was in college that Liz became mesmerized with underground indie rock, which led to her friendship with guitarist Chris Brokaw.
The 5' 2” beauty married Jim Staskouskas, an award-winning film editor who had worked on her videos, in 1995. She gave birth to a son named James Nicholas Staskauskas on December 21, 1996. The couple divorced in 2001 after six years. Phair has since lived in Los Angeles with her son.
Don't Have Time
First attracted to underground indie rock while in college, Liz Phair headed to New York after completing her Art History/Studio Art studies and found work as an intern for political artists Leon Golub and Nancy Spero. She then relocated to San Francisco to become an artist, but decided to return to her childhood hometown of Chicago in 1991.
In Chicago, Phair started writing songs and thanks to the encouragement of guitarist Chris Brokaw, she also began making demo tapes, which was later known as “Girly Sound.” Recorded with a 4-track machine in her bedroom, these tapes consisted of three cassettes including “Yo Yo Buddy Yup Word To Ya Muthuh” and “Girls, Girls, Girls,” with a total of 32 songs. During that period, Phair sold her drawings on the streets of Chicago in order to make ends meet.
A member of the alternative music scene in Chicago, Phair became involved with local upstart bands Material Issue and Urge Overkill, and drummer Brad Wood and John Henderson, the head of the independent label Feel Good All Over. She teamed up with Henderson to re-record “GirlySound” and sent it to Brokaw, who passed the tapes to Gerard Cosley, the head of Matador, a record label that signed Comes. Impressed with Phair's new sound, Cosley subsequently took the singer under his wings.
Eventually, in 1993, Phair released her debut album, “Exile In Guyville,” which peaked at No.196 on the Billboard 200. A song-by-song reply to the Rolling Stones' “Exile on Main Street,” the album gained general critical praise and became a favorite among fans of alternative rock. By the spring of 1994, it had sold more than 200,000 pieces and went on to receive gold certification thanks in part to the song “Never Said,” whose video got airplay on MTV.
A highly-anticipated sophomore effort called “Whip-Smart” was launched in 1994. The first single, “Supernova,” became a No. 6 hit on the modern rock chart and went to No. 76 on the Billboard hot 100. It brought Phair her first Grammy nomination in 1995 in the category of Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. Despite the success of its lead single, the album, which debuted at No. 27 on the Billboard 200, earned a mixed response and only achieved gold status. It was also in 1994 that Phair recorded the song “Don't Have Time” for the John Singleton movie “Higher Learning” (1995). The soundtrack earned the singer a second Grammy nomination in 1996.
Phair followed it up the following year with “Juvenilia,” a compilation of several early “Girly Sound” tracks and some B-sides, which included “Turning Japanese,” the 80s classic popularized by The Vapors. However, she spent much of the year away from the public eye and got married. She continued to take a hiatus from music the next year to have a baby and did not resurface until 1998 when she released her third album, “Whitechocolatespaceegg,” which sold only 320.000 copies. To promote the album, she joined the Lilith Fair tour and then hit the road as a main act with such artists as Missy Elliott, Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow and Emmylou Harris. During her long-hiatus, Phair collaborated with Material Issue on the song “The Tra-La-La Song” (1995), a cover of The Banana Splits that was used in the compilation “Saturday Morning,” and with Shudder to Think on the track “Erecting A Movie Star” for the soundtrack of the motion picture “First Love, Last Rites” (1997).
After the release of “Whitechocolatespaceegg,” Phair spent the next four years without releasing a new album. In reaction to her divorce, she recorded the song “Down” in 2001 and it was released on the Internet only. The following year, she provided backup vocals for Sheryl Crow's hit, “Soak Up the Sun.” Her new album, “Liz Phair,” hit the music stores on June 24, 2003, and was released under Capital Records, her new label after she left Matador. She worked with singer/songwriter Michael Penn and songwriting hit makers The Matrix for the album. A Top 30 hit on the Billboard 200, “Liz Phair” only sold about 405,000 copies and gained mixed critical reviews. It produced the Mainstream/Adult hits “Why Can't I?” and “Extraordinary.”
An in-demand-collaborator, Phair sang backup on the Jimmy Eat World track “Work” for their album “Futures” in 2004 and then collaborated with Canadian singer Kyle Riabko on a track called “Chemistry” the next year. She returned to her studio for the fifth album “Somebody's Miracle,” which was released on October 4, 2005. At a calculated 100,000 copies, the album, which spawned the Top 30 Adult hit “Everything to Me,” marks her lowest selling record to date.
2007 found Phair collaborating with Minnie Driver on the track “Sorry Baby” in the actress/singer/songwriter's second album “Seastories.” The same year, she also contributed a song called “Perfect Misfit” to the soundtrack “Nancy Drew,” a crime film starring Emma Roberts that was directed by Andrew Fleming. She also provided the song “Count on My Love” for the motion picture “No Reservations,” which starred Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart. Phair plans to release her new album in 2008.
Apart from music, Phair is an occasional actress. She played the supporting role of Brynn in the Finn Taylor film “Cherish” (2002), opposite Brad Hunt and Robin Tunney, and made a guest appearance as Jackie DeShannon, a 1960s pop singer, in a 2004 episode of the drama/music series “American Dreams.” She also appeared as a yoga teacher in the comedy film “Seeing Other People” (2004).