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Girly Show: The Oral History of Liz Phair's 'Exile In Guyville'

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It's always a thrill when an artist finds a concept, a groove, and a voice that seems to come out of nowhere and yet encapsulate a moment. Liz Phair did all that in 1993 with her landmark "Exile in Guyville". Learn everything you ever wondered about it and more!

Thanks for this. I miss Liz Phair. 

Exile in Guyville was indie in 1993 but she was mainstream in 1994 with "Supernova"?!

I guess she was hanging out then with Beck, Soul Asylum, and Urge Overkill -- all of whom went mainstream in 1994, too.

In her own words:

Phair: I was dating this guy and I was living in this apartment where I was writing the songs for Guyville. It belonged to some friends who had vacated and they'd left behind these cassette tapes, and one was Exile On Main St. I was listening to it and thinking about how to make a record, and I was fighting with [this guy], and he said, "Well, why don't you do that one? That's a double record" — but he was kind of sarcastic about it and so I was like, "Okay! I will!" I listened to it over and over again and it became like my source of strength — my involvement with Exile was like an imaginary friend; whatever Mick was saying, it was a conversation with him, or I was arguing with him and it was kind of an amalgam of the men in my life. That was why I called it "Guyville" — friends, romantic interests, these teacher types — telling me what I needed to know, what was cool or what wasn't cool. I developed a very private relationship with this record, listening to it again and again and again.


Phair: I made these crazy notes and charts. I took all of [Exile on Main St.'s] songs and studied the arrangements, and I had these symbols, rudimentary symbols, like a swirly line or a wave would represent what I now understand as reverb or a chorus pedal. I would use them to map out my songs with symbols that represented the same thing — like this is a perfect response, or from a similar point of view. Like you are talking about tripping home from being at someone's house sleeping with them and you run into your other girlfriend while you're doing your walk of shame — which is what I thought about "Rocks Off." So I wrote a song like I was the girl he ran into, which was "6'1"." It sounds totally crazy, but that's how deep in it I was. I went to a wedding with my family that summer, that August, and I had my stacks of paper and my Walkman where I was listening to Exile in my headphones.

My favorite Liz Phair song

I remember Phair had quite a bit of stage fright that led to not being able to go out on tours, looks like she overcame that years ago :)  I saw her years ago, I think it was at Lollapalooza in George, WA.

"Phair said she no longer suffers from extreme stage fright, which in the past led to spotty performances and kept her from extensive touring. "I just got over it," she said. "[Now] it's just so much fun. It's hard to get off the stage. I'm gonna tour, that's the raw fact. I'm gonna be out there for a long time. I'm gonna love it. I love performing, truly."" (March 14th, 2003)

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