Liz Phair

Celebrated as one of the most influential female singer-songwriters of the 1990s, Liz Phair's landmark debut album Exile in Guyville became a cult indie classic which railed against rock's macho swagger and later inspired the likes of Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Waxahatchee and Courtney Barnett. Born April 17, 1967 in New Haven, Connecticut, Phair started writing songs while studying art history at college in Oberland, Ohio before heading to San Francisco to play the coffee house circuit, making homemade cassette recordings under the moniker Girly Sound. She ended up back in Chicago playing alternative clubs and working with Chris Brokaw from Come and Urge Overkill but, unbeknown to Phair, a close friend took it upon himself to send her tapes to every fanzine in the country and by 1992 she had landed a deal with Matador Records. Designed as a riposte to the cocksure male gaze of albums like The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. and small-town, alternative rock poseurs, Exile in Guysville was adored by critics who saw Phair as leading a new generation of sharp-tongued, sexually confident, feminist songwriters. Her lo-fi, DIY sound was polished into a spiky pop record on Grammy-nominated follow-up Whip-Smart in 1994 with Phair tracking the course of a relationship from its first flirtation to its tearful break-up, and appearing in a typically playful, frank and unapologetic mood on tracks like “Supanova” and “Jealousy”. Though not a natural major label artist, Phair released three albums for Capitol Records, on which she confronted marriage, motherhood and her divorce and collaborated with artists including R.E.M. and Sheryl Crow. Her work with glossy, hit-making production team The Matrix and the pursuit of shiny, radio-friendly pop anthems divided critics and fans, but she returned more to her indie roots when she joined Dave Matthews' ATO Records label. She also dabbled in composing for various television shows. She released 2010’s Funstyle independently after her relationship with ATO ended. The next decade included opening for The Smashing Pumpkins, a tour commemorating the 25th anniversary of Exile in Guyville, and a failed attempt to record a double album produced by Ryan Adams, but she would not release a new album until 2021’s Soberish.

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