There aren’t too many admirable female artists out there nowadays who haven’t degraded themselves through their own lyrics. Liz Phair is not only a powerful voice but is a sweet, down-to-Earth rocker woman with talent that has broadened over the past decade. Her music has been influential in the lives of many, and one of those people includes Alex Kurtzman. Phair’s albums had an effect on Kurtzman writing when he first penned the script for People Like Us. As a result, Phair lent her voice to the score and contributed with her original song “Dotted Line.”
People Like Us is the captivating story centering on Sam (Chris Pine), a man whose life is in the middle of a tailspin. When he travels back to his hometown for his father’s funeral, he discovers that he’s had a half-sister for most of his life without even known it. From there we’re brought on a journey through self-discovery, forgiveness and how strong the bond of family is.
We got the opportunity to sit down and talk to Liz Phair about a number of things including her overall reaction to the movie, working with famous composer A.R. Rahman and what exactly she’s up to now with her latest album.
You mentioned that you were quietly breaking down when you were watching People Like Us. What parts of the movie resonated with you the most?
Liz Phair: Some of the stuff when Sam was talking to the little boy. Sam and the little kid are hanging out and he’s kind of giving him fatherliness. That killed me because I’ve had multiple boyfriends but I’ve never had, other than his dad, a father figure that stayed in my son’s life in my world. So that was killing me. I was totally bummed and bawling about that. And then Frankie’s (the half-sister) anger and frustration when she finds out that she’s been tricked kills me as well. I was sobbing. Then the beauty of him coming back to commit to her just in a way she didn’t think he was going to… it was epic. It was just no longer pretty or sweet weeping. It was just like Total Recall. [laughs]
And that’s the new headline for my interview! When did you meet (Alex) Kurtzman? When did your collaboration with him happen?
Liz Phair: Kurtzman, I’m gonna call him that all day. Kurtzman! Kurtzman got in touch with me after he finished the script. He just had me come over and have lunch with him. It was unclear as to what we were going to do together, but he just wanted to meet me either to just read the script or… I don’t even think he knew what he wanted at the time.
You know when you live with someone’s music, and then you’re grateful to that person because, this happens to me all of the time, you’re grateful in a personal way because that gave you something and you wanted to tell the person. Be all like “Your song really helped me do this.” I think he felt that way about my music after he finished writing this thing. And he just wanted to meet me or say that. Maybe we could collaborate…
So your music was basically his soundtrack for the script when he was writing?
Liz Phair: For Frankie, yeah. I hope I’m not overstating that. He’ll be all like “It wasn’t that big of a deal!” [laughs] No, I’m totally kidding. But then in different parts he would just bring me back into the process until we arrived at the night when I wrote that song.
A.R. Rahman and I put the song together the next day. It was a very fast for such a long lead-up. It happened pretty quickly and it happened really well in a surprisingly effortless, all things clicked, which is special. But I’m not surprised because special movies tend to engender special responses and I’ve always noticed this. On a really good project, everybody does their best work and it’s nice that way.
It definitely stands out. But I’m kind of surprised, since you’re so close to the project that you weren’t actually the composer. You’ve done scores for television shows..
Liz Phair: I’m not that level yet. That would be awesome but I mean I wouldn’t want to go into what is it, five rounds in a ring with A.R. Rahman. I hope that will happen someday but I want to be prepared for that, because he’s been doing this a lot longer than I have. I’ve only been doing this for about four years now so I want to find my voice. I don’t just want to …
Leap in and say “Oh I can do everything!”
Liz Phair: I would … We’re pitching to movies right now but the movies are generally like we have to knock this out in three weeks. We’re like okay, we can give you an amazing score for that. It takes time to build up. I want to do my best.
But you’re still doing your album work. How is that going right now? Are you writing right now, have you already recorded or…?
Liz Phair: I am writing right now and I am getting ready to record. It’s pretty exciting. I’m really happy with the material I’ve written. I’ve been waiting a long time to have enough material that I had all these issues. I’d been locked in a major label recording contract for a really long time and it had been very stressful for me because I have never actually intentionally signed into a major. I was sold by an indie to a major, then I got locked in this system that was nothing I’d ever intended to do.
I played ball with it and I tried to get out of it when I possibly could which I don’t regret at all. It was great, my pop phase or whatever. But once I could get out of all my contracts, and that took some doing. That took a lot of fighting and pain to just be free from all that stuff. Then I had to wait even longer to get over all that s–t so it wasn’t even an issue. I’ve been, over the last year and a half to two years, writing songs that really touched me. They’re like it as if I’d leap frogged over all this stuff that I’ve done back to.. I know now what it was I used to write like. I’m writing again like I used to and it’s freaky. It’s like my past is coming into my present which is going into my future. It’s beautiful. I feel kind of emotional about it. I don’t know how.. it works that way but I think it’s very good. Now if I choose the right producer, I think my fans are going to be very happy because they’re never happy. They’re like “Oh, she f–ked it up again!” They are, they’re very cranky. They want like the old stuff.
People Like Us is out in theaters now.