Sometimes connections get you to the door. But you still need a great song to knock that door down so they can’t shut it in your face.
After growing up in Dallas, Lisa Loeb attended Brown University in the late 80s (with my high school American History teacher, as it happens) where she worked closely with future success stories Duncan Sheik and Elizabeth Mitchell. Moving to New York after graduation, she formed a band called Nine Stories, wrote a few songs, and eventually found herself living across the street from actor Ethan Hawke. They met through mutual acquaintances, developed a friendship, and she gave him a tape of her music.
While working on the classic Gen-X movie Reality Bites, Hawke played “Stay” for director Ben Stiller, who chose to use the song over the end credits. It appeared on the soundtrack and the single shot to the top of the charts in the spring of 1994, becoming one of the defining songs of the decade. Loeb didn’t even have a record label at the time. As a result, she and her band became the first unsigned artists ever to have a #1 on the Billboard chart.
They didn’t remain unsigned for long. Lisa Loeb was shown the door to success, she blew it off its hinges, and—even though she’s only had a couple of subsequent hits—she’s been inside ever since.
Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories – Stay
This takes me back! Imagine being unsigned and having one of your songs end up a #1 Billboard hit. Cool story.
Yeah, it probably wouldn’t be unusual nowadays for an unknown to have such a massive hit because of YouTube, but back then it was kind of crazy. (The song takes me right back, too!)