skip navigation
Nancy Brown

Nancy Brown

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Also Known As: Nancy Anna Brown Died:
Born: Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Singer-songwriter Liz Phair was one of the most significant independent talents of the early 1990s. Phair was responsible for one of the most highly-regarded alternative rock releases of the decade, Exile on Guyville (1993), which addressed issues of female identity and sexuality in blunt terms. The album rocketed her to the forefront of the indie music scene, where she stood shoulder to shoulder with such fellow forthright female rockers as Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morrissette. Subsequent albums included Whip-Smart (1994), whitechocolatespaceegg (1998) and Liz Phair (2003). Phair revisited her past with a 2008 reissue of Exile and embarked on a second career as a composer for television. She decided to release her sixth album, Funstyle (2010), through her own website. In doing so, Phair was once again hailed as an icon for independent musicians by steering her career according to her own tastes and instinct rather than the whims of record executives and critics.Born April 17, 1965 in New Haven, CT, Elizabeth Clark Phair was the adopted daughter of upper-middle-class parents who raised her in Winnetka, IL . Her father was an AIDS researcher and head of infectious diseases at Northwestern Memorial...

Singer-songwriter Liz Phair was one of the most significant independent talents of the early 1990s. Phair was responsible for one of the most highly-regarded alternative rock releases of the decade, Exile on Guyville (1993), which addressed issues of female identity and sexuality in blunt terms. The album rocketed her to the forefront of the indie music scene, where she stood shoulder to shoulder with such fellow forthright female rockers as Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morrissette. Subsequent albums included Whip-Smart (1994), whitechocolatespaceegg (1998) and Liz Phair (2003). Phair revisited her past with a 2008 reissue of Exile and embarked on a second career as a composer for television. She decided to release her sixth album, Funstyle (2010), through her own website. In doing so, Phair was once again hailed as an icon for independent musicians by steering her career according to her own tastes and instinct rather than the whims of record executives and critics.

Born April 17, 1965 in New Haven, CT, Elizabeth Clark Phair was the adopted daughter of upper-middle-class parents who raised her in Winnetka, IL . Her father was an AIDS researcher and head of infectious diseases at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and her mother a docent at the Art Institute of Chicago. While studying art history at Oberlin College, she met Chris Brokaw, guitarist for the bands Come and Codeine, who sparked her interest in alternative rock. After a brief attempt at an art career in San Francisco, CA, Phair returned to Illinois, where she began writing songs and recording homemade tapes under the moniker Girly-Sound. Her music soon gained her entry into the Chicago independent music scene, where she befriended the bands Urge Overkill and Material Issue, as well as producer Brad Wood and John Henderson, head of the Feel Good All Over record label. An attempt to record new versions of Girly-Sound material for Feel Good broke down over disagreements between Phair and Henderson, but by this point, Brokaw had passed along some of her tapes to Gerard Cosley, who ran Come's record label, Matador. Cosley offered a $3,000 advance for a single, which led to the recording of Phair's debut album, Exile in Guyville. Released in 1993, the double album, which Phair claimed was a response to the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street (1972), garnered a slew of positive reviews for its blend of lo-fi rock and pop elements, as well as her penchant for confessional lyrics that often flirted with sexually explicit language and themes.

By the end of the year, Exile had topped critics' year-end best albums lists and sold over 200,000 copies, a remarkable feat for an independent release. But with the success also came a backlash from various aspects of the music industry and pop culture scene, especially producer Steve Albini, who dismissed the album for pandering to male listeners with its sexually-charged lyrics. But Phair had already commenced work on a follow-up record, Whip-Smart (1994), which was promoted heavily through Matador's new distribution deal with Atlantic Records. The album, a more polished effort than its predecessor, reached No. 27 on the Billboard 200, while its lead single, "Supernova," was a Top 10 hit on the Modern Rock chart. But industry expectation had been high for the record, which while reaching gold sales status did not become the runaway mainstream hit that Atlantic had envisioned. It was further hampered by Phair's refusal to tour behind the album after suffering terrible stage fright while promoting Exile, though she did perform songs from the album on several major television talk shows and MTV. The efforts did little to boost the album's sales, which had plummeted by the time its second single, the title track, had been released in early 1995.

Phair stepped away from her career that same year, marrying film editor Jim Staskausas, who had worked on several of her music videos. She released an EP of B-sides and Girly-Sound tracks called Juvenilia (1995) while working on her third album, but she soon grew dissatisfied with the material and scrapped the session, which had been recorded with R.E.M./Nirvana producer Scott Litt. The album was further delayed by the first of Phair's first child in 1996 and disagreements over content with Matador, which initially rejected the album for its lack of radio-friendly material. It would be two more years before whitechocolatespaceegg (1998) would find its way to listeners. Response to the record was tepid, while critics alternately praised and panned the new mature tone of her lyrics, which addressed her recent marriage and motherhood. Phair found greater response by performing on the 1998 Lilith Fair tour, as well as opening for Alanis Morrisette's Junkie Tour in 1999. A half-decade would pass before the release of her next album, a self-titled effort that marked her debut on Capitol Records. Again, the album was rejected prior to its issue in 2003 over issues of marketability, with Capitol urging Phair to produce a hit radio single by working with pop producers The Matrix, who were best known for collaborations with Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne. Though only four tracks on the album bore the Matrix's imprint, including the Top 40 hit "Why Can't I?," critics and diehard fans pounced upon these more pop-friendly tracks, labeling Phair as a sellout.

Phair weathered the barrage of negative press and released a fifth album, Somebody's Miracle (2005), which received a tepid response, prompting Capitol to drop her from its roster. In 2008, Phair reissued Exile in Guyville on ATO Records with three previously unreleased songs from its original recording sessions. She then segued into a successful second career as a composer for television, scoring such programs as "90210" (The CW, 2008-2013), which earned her the Top Television Composer Award from ASCAP, and "In Plain Sight" (USA Network, 2008-2012). During this period, she also severed ties with ATO in 2010 after conflicts with new management at the label. Her sixth album, Funstyle, was initially released directly via download through her website that same year, though a CD version was also made available through Rocket Science Records which included a bonus disc of 10 tracks from her Girly-Sound demos. The album was her lowest charting project to date, reaching only No. 181 on the Billboard 200, but she soon followed it with a tour through 2011 and a new single, "Dotted Line," with Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman for the feature "People Like Us" (2012).

By Paul Gaita

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute