We grew up in the 1980s drinking Ecto Cooler and playing with our G.I. Joes, but we came into maturity in the 1990s, trading in our He-Man T-shirts for oversized sweaters that we held together using safety pins. Lisa Loeb shot to stardom right around that time with “Stay (I Missed You)” and we’re pretty sure she was our first legitimate celebrity crush, so when we heard the song was turning 25-years-old, naturally we couldn’t help but feel a little old ourselves. Thanks to Walk Off the Earth’s re-imagining of the Gen X classic, however, we’re celebrating with nostalgic streamers and sentimental birthday hats.
When not writing and recording their own material, the Juno-award winning, multi-platinum selling group is bringing fresh takes to old tracks, including Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” and Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You.” But for those of us who lived and breathed MTV in the ‘90s, “Stay (I Missed You)” is far and away their best creative collaboration yet.
We recently sat down with members Gianni Luminati and Joel Cassady to discuss pimple-faced astonishment, triggering memories, and the advice they would give to any band that tries to cover one of their own songs one day.
TrunkSpace: It’s hard to believe that “Stay (I Missed You)” is 25 years old. Like wine, great songs tend to get better over time. That being said, are some songs easier to re-imagine than others, and how did the past influence the present on this particular track?
Luminati: Yes, some songs are definitely easier to cover than others. Usually the better the song the easier it is for us to reimagine it. That’s why we love to cover good songs because they inspire us so much. Lisa’s song is such an anomaly and we thought of covering it for years so when the opportunity came up we knew exactly how to do it.
TrunkSpace: Lisa Loeb catapulted to fame when the single and video were originally released in 1994. Would the you from 1994 be surprised to hear that someday you’d be covering the classic track in such an eclectic way?
Luminati: Of course. Pimply faced 13-year-old me would be shocked if you told me 25 years later I would be in a room with Lisa re-imagining this timeless song!
TrunkSpace: Songs like “Stay (I Missed You)” mean so much to people. They become a part of our youth, tied to our memories. Is that something you consider when working with an iconic track like this, knowing that it has the potential to trigger memories and jump start glory days?
Luminati: Yes, we always keep this in mind while messing with iconic tracks. You don’t want to change it so much that you lose the familiarity of the arrangement to a point where it won’t trigger those memories for people. But still change it enough to make it your own.
TrunkSpace: Does working with the original artist – in this case Lisa – give you a different creative POV than if you went into the studio without the collaboration?
Luminati: Yes, of course! We had the opportunity to ask her so many questions about her writing process and collaboration process. She told us some really cool things about the creation of the song that we didn’t know about prior. You can’t pay for that kind of experience.
TrunkSpace: Are there great songs that should be left alone? Is anything off limits that the group won’t sink their collective teeth into?
Cassady: Nothing is off limits, but there’s definitely a special category of songs out there that needs to be treated more carefully than others based on how well-known and beloved they are. We’re very fortunate to be at a point where the original band or artist often winds up seeing/hearing our version of their song, but this also means that there’s an added pressure on us to really nail it! We do our best to not overthink anything and let arrangements come together naturally, but if we’re talking about something like a “Bohemian Rhapsody” or the idea of putting together a Beatles medley, it’s important to take the extra time and really make sure we feel we’re doing such legendary compositions justice.
TrunkSpace: If another group was sitting down to re-imagine one of Walk Off the Earth’s originals, what advice you give them about making it their own, while still staying true to the original?
Cassady: One of the most magical things about music is that it’s entirely subjective to a given creator or listener. The sound that one person might love more than anything in the world is the same sound that someone else might feel is comparable to nails on a chalkboard! I think it’s very important for creators to do things in a way that’s faithful to their musical voice, because fans tend to gravitate to what feels most genuine to them. This is the advice that I think we’d give to another band or artist wanting to cover a WOTE song: what’s true to the original is whatever’s most true to you!
TrunkSpace: What are the perfect conditions for you to tap into your creative space? Where are you at your best with new ideas?
Cassady: The creative process and the act of being inspired is an interesting beast in that you never quite know when, where, how or why it’s going to strike. Depending on the given day, this can be either frustrating or wonderful… sometimes both! Some days you want to be in a familiar surrounding with people that you know and trust, and that’s what lets you best tap into a great creative space. Other days, you’ll find yourself wanting to be totally out of your element in a new place or with a new collaborator so you can embrace the unknown and let that inform your process. Not knowing what it’s going to look and feel like until you’re actually in it is one of the most exciting parts of being an artist/creator.
TrunkSpace: What do you get being in Walk Off the Earth that you couldn’t achieve as a solo artist? What is it about the group atmosphere that continues to inspire you?
Cassady: The communal element of WOTE is something that definitely wouldn’t be the same in a solo sense. To have the ability to bounce opinions and ideas off of your bandmates and come from a place of true collaboration virtually every time we put a project together is something that certainly contributes to the eclectic sound that we’ve become known for. Rock to reggae, metal to EDM… WOTE is a safe space for all genres and influences and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Cassady: I think for many artists (ourselves included), one of the biggest goals is to inspire others in the same way that your favorite artists have inspired you. It’s a true full-circle moment, and it’s one that we’ve been fortunate enough to experience multiple times in multiple forms. Hearing that we’ve been able to inspire a younger person to get into music for the first time, hearing that we’ve been able to reintroduce or reinvigorate an older person’s love for music, and hearing “I don’t usually like stuff like this, but for some reason I like you guys” are all stand-out moments that are very special to us.
TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Cassady: Absolutely! Even just thinking about how far we’ve come and how much we’ve changed over the 10 years that we’ve been doing our thing at this level, the idea of seeing what the next 10 might bring would be far too tempting to turn down. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, and those events can often bring about the best forms of inspiration. We’ve always talked about wanting to be the first band to play a show in space…maybe a decade from now we’ll have done it!