Singer, songwriter and musician Lisa Loeb had her first hit single before she even recorded her first album.

"It was a mixed blessing," says Loeb, who has just released her second album, "Firecracker." The hit single in question, "Stay," first released on the soundtrack for 1994's "Reality Bites," propelled Loeb into the spotlight. "I had written it without entertainment-industry interference. It was done in a pure way."But with the single's success came tour dates and a slew of marketing responsibilities that did not allow Loeb time to get to work on her first album for nearly a year.

In 1995, she released "Tails," which included "Stay" and other songs that stretched Loeb's image beyond that of the "Reality Bites" girl. And now, "Firecracker's" literate and loosely structured hybrids of folk and pop, delivered in her patented power-waif style, add even more dimension to her musical catalog.

"Tails" and "Firecracker" gave Loeb the opportunity to stay true to and expand on the acoustic guitar and singer-songwriting styles she embraced while at Brown University. The albums also assisted Loeb in overcoming some negative feedback regarding the impact of "Stay" on the pop music scene.

"People associated me completely with that song," Loeb says. "I had to deal with that image and having indie (independent-label) friends looking at me and going, `You're selling out.' "

Loeb says the video accompanying "Stay" may have contributed to the criticism. Conceived and directed by Ethan Hawke, star of "Reality Bites" and Loeb's next-door neighbor at the time, the video for "Stay" showed Loeb manically pacing through a building, waving her hands around and looking generally distressed over an impending breakup.

She liked Hawke's concept but was concerned that she was never shown playing an instrument, and may have struck some viewers as a manipulated pop image.

Through extensive touring, she's cracked that potential stereotype. Thousands of people saw her perform at Sarah McLachlan's ground-breaking Lilith Fair last summer.

Lilith gave Loeb the chance to forge relationships with her female contemporaries. "Falling in Love," from "Firecracker," features Grammy winner Shawn Colvin singing backup, and Loeb is touring with McLachlan, whom she admires for creating the Lilith Fair.