-Hi, Seth. How are you? -I’m so happy to have you here. You — I was
in Chicago in the ’90s. You were in Chicago in the ’90s. You were a way bigger deal
than I was. -And look at how
fortunes have changed. -Oh, no. Not at all. They finally have matched. Was Chicago a very important
place for you to be in those years? Do you feel like
that city had a lot to do with you getting started
as an artist? -Yeah, I think
I paid my dues there. I think I got my chops there,
which is a very Chicago thing. “I got my chops.”
-Yeah, exactly. -Yeah.
-It’s a chops town. -It’s a chops town.
-Famously known for chops. But I guess it was college,
right? You went to school in Ohio. And that’s where music started, I guess, becoming
a career for you. -Yes, Oberlin College had a Conservatory of Music
associated with it. It was part
of the college itself. So, those of us
in the liberal arts would, like, play music
every weekend all the time. People just got up on stage
at every party and played music, whether they were good or not.
You know? -So at what point
are you doing that? ‘Cause obviously,
you have something to compare yourself against. Was that the first time
you thought to yourself, “Oh, I might be good,
’cause I’m a little bit better than maybe some of these
other people at this party”? -No, I — What it was — [ Laughter ]
Sorry. What it was was the man-splaining
from all of my boyfriends about what good music was. -Oh, that’s so great. Yeah. -That was the era
of the mixtape. And I thought, you know,
like, I love the mixtape. -It was the era
of the mixtape. Sure. -It was the era. That’s how
you expressed yourself. -Yes.
-You gave someone a mixtape. But, you know, after hearing that my taste in music
was terrible and I didn’t know, like, Green
River turned into whatever band. You know, they had this whole — -Yeah.
-It was, it was — So, I kind of felt like, “Yeah,
I do know what good music is, and I will show you.” -Oh, and that was — [ Cheers and applause ] And it was really — And it was also a very — I mean, I guess now music
is also very DIY, because the Internet has
sort of made it that way. But you were very DIY
in the beginning, as well. You were just sort of recording
onto — onto tapes and just getting them
out there to people. -Yeah.
-Is that just crazy to think back at how so much
you were doing it by yourself? -Well, what’s crazy about that
is what happened — my record —
my first record came out before I’d ever performed
onstage ever. -That’s so crazy. -So there was a terrible
catch-up period where — I think Ira Glass once told me that he came to a show of mine
early on. And he said it was like watching
those skating routines where people fall,
and they get back up. And he was like,
“I just can’t look.” -Oh, wow.
-“I can’t watch.” -Because I guess
you were doing it — -Because if you do it at home
in a bedroom with a guitar, and then suddenly you’re onstage
in front of an audience, it’s an entirely
different thing. -You — Writing a memoir,
I would assume, is hard for a lot of people
because it’s so personal. But then I was
thinking about it. Your music has always
been really personal. So this probably —
Was this a huge leap for you, or was this
a natural transition? -It was scary.
It was a lot to put out there. The memoir is very revealing
in certain ways, in certain — I expose a lot
of my personal life on the page. And I was challenged
by a couple people to kind of — in my life, to do something like what I did when I first
started making music, to be as honest
and be as vulnerable as that. -I don’t know if “rush”
is the right word, but did it feel the same way putting those
personal stories down? -[ Laughs ]
My mom called me and said — I’ve counted on my parents
not ever listening to my music. -Yeah, yeah, yeah.
-‘Cause they’re like — And that’s been
this wonderful, unspoken thing that we’ve done over the years. -You don’t feel like
they’ve ever engaged with it? -Not really.
-Okay. -Nor does to my son, exactly. So I live in this
kind of illusion that they’re not really
going to see it. -Yeah.
-And my mom called up. And she’s like,
“I was in the grocery store, and Robert from the bookstall
came running in. ‘Mrs. Phair, Mrs. Phair.
Have you read her book?'” And she said, “Why, no, Elizabeth has not
given us the book yet.” He said, “Here’s my copy.” -Oh, my God.
-And I was like — [ Laughter ] -So you wrote a book
not thinking to the next step that people like your mom
would read it? -Now you understand
my entire life. -Yes, now I understand.
You’re very much in the moment. You’re not one step ahead.