Country singer Lydia Loveless has come through Kansas City and Lawrence on a very regular basis, hitting the area four or five times in the past couple of years. Her voice, which is strong and powerful yet also quite plaintive, has garnered her a following with each successive performance.
She's playing our neck of the woods twice this week: Friday, April 8, with openers Adam Lee and the Dead Horse Sound Company, and the following night, Saturday, April 9, at the Jackpot. Earlier this year, Loveless signed with Chicago label Bloodshot Records, which is still the name in alternative country. She spoke with us by phone about how she came to be on the label, as well as her future plans.
The Pitch: When you play the area, you tend to play either Davey's in KC or the Replay in Lawrence, which are both country-friendly venues. What sort of places do you play in the rest of the country?
Lydia Loveless: Pretty much the same kind of place. Like, in Columbus, we usually play a nicer sort of club called Rhumba, but for the most part, I like to play - I don't want to say "dives," but more relaxed places? But not necessarily like a scary, grungy dive.
Not the sort of place where they have to have chicken wire in front of the stage?
Yeah, like Great Balls of Fire or something.
What attracts you to that sort of dive or more drinker-friendly sort of place?
I guess because people tend to be more approachable, and it makes performing in front of them easier.
I get the impression from things you've said onstage and reading your bio that you've been playing music for a good long while.
Mm-hmm. I guess I was 13 when I started playing out live. So, like six years.
Has it been your material the entire time, or did you start out with covers?
Sort of half-and-half. I didn't want to start playing out live until I had my own songs, 'cause I didn't want to be a girl with cowboy hat singing Loretta Lynn or whatever, but I did play a lot more covers when I started out, yeah.
The last time I saw you play, you covered the Replacements and Loretta Lynn. That's an interesting swath of music to cover. How did you come by those particular songs?
With the Replacements, I guess I started listening to them a few years ago. Somebody told me about them. But I guess I like that song ["Answering Machine"] because it sounds so desperate and kind of reminded me of someone, so I wanted to do that one. And I was trying to improve my guitar skills, and it seemed like a good place to start. As far as Loretta Lynn, I guess I just watched Coal Miner's Daughter obsessively as a kid, and always liked Loretta Lynn, so I always try and throw one of her songs in.
Have you dropped "You Ain't Woman Enough" out of the set now that Paramore's covering it?
Oh, I didn't even know that. Man, that's depressing.
Evidently, it's a pretty good version. Hayley Williams belts it out, I guess.
I'll have to look that up. I didn't even know that. I guess since I didn't even know that, I can't say that I stopped doing it. But I sort of switch between that one and "Don't Come Home Drinking," so ... yeah. I might just have to not play that song anymore.
What attracts you to those two particular Loretta Lynn songs? I guess most of her material is a kind of "won't take any guff" kind of music.
I guess that we've all dated men where those songs were appropriate - women, anyway. I guess I can relate to both of those songs, so they're fun to sing.
Your music seems to - and correct me if I'm wrong - have a lot of "I'm not taking any shit" kind of songs, and the more sad, depressed ones. What leads to those two extremes?
I guess my moods are kind of extreme all the time. [Laughs.] I don't know. I guess that's just how I feel most of the time. Either I'm on top of the world or like crap, so I guess that's what I like to write about.
How recently did you sign to Bloodshot?
I think I signed with them in January - at the end of January.
Were you seeking out a label contract, or did they approach you?
I wasn't, but my manager's cousin had some sort of connection with Bloodshot. He contacted them - and I didn't even know about it, actually - so, I got an e-mail from Bloodshot, and I was actually pretty excited, because signing to a label has never been my dream or anything, but Bloodshot has always had most of the bands that I listen to on their label, so I was really excited about it. It was a good accident.
Your next album is slated to come out this fall. Have you already written songs for it?
It's actually going to mastering on the 5th, so it's pretty much done.
Was there a difference in the process of recording your album for Bloodshot and the one you self-released, The Only Man?
Yeah, definitely. 'Cause, with the Bloodshot album, I had pretty much just finished my first album a couple months before. It took like two and a half years and was heavily produced, and I didn't have much say in how it was produced. This one, I just went into the studio and said, "I'm recording this in a week and I'm going to be done with it."
It was originally just going to be an EP that we were just going to release ourselves, but Bloodshot contacted us and asked us if we wanted to make a full-length and release it on Bloodshot. So it took a little while longer than I expected, but just so we could do the rest of the tracking and write a few more songs.
When was that first album recorded?
I think I started in late 2007 and released it in 2010. I recorded most of it in 2007 and 2009.
That's a really lengthy gap between recording. What was that due to?
There was this guy who just really wanted to record my album, and maybe just wasn't financially capable of it or was just too busy or something, so it just fell by the wayside for a long time. And I was like, "We've got to get this thing done because I'm no longer 'awesome 16 year-old country singer.' Now I'm '19 year-old country singer,' so let's get the project done."
Speaking as a female country singer, do you get comparisons that you don't care for, simply because you have ovaries and play guitar? Would you prefer to stand on your own merits?
Yeah, definitely, but I don't think anyone gets to stand on their own merits, because people are prone to comparing without using adjectives, just other band names. So, it's like as if men were only allowed to be compared using the Rolling Stones or the Beatles. But, with women, there's not as many known acts, so it's like women are only allowed to be compared to Jewel or Patti Smith, so it gets old after a while.
Like, I frequently get told that I sound like Jewel, if only Jewel drank, or if only Jewel was like this. So, you mean I don't sound like Jewel at all? I think it's more like women are more of a novelty in music, still, for some reason. It's hard to get really accurate comparisons.
Now, about the drinking thing: You are very open about the fact that you like whiskey. Is that a persona, or is that a legitimate thing, "I like beer. I like whiskey"?
Well, not so much beer, but wine is good. No, it's definitely legitimate, sadly, which is weird, considering people like to throw in "the underage singer" or the "20-year-old singer," so it can get kind of weird. But, yeah, I do love whiskey and drinking.
I don't think there's anybody in their late teens or early 20s that doesn't like drinking that isn't open about it. But, if I'm not mistaken, isn't you father in your band?
How does that work out?
[Sighs.] It's weird. [Laughs.] But it can be convenient sometimes, too. Like, being underage, and being on tour, and not being able to get into a bar at first, and then your dad's there, so you can go in the bar. But, yeah, it's the "I'm getting drunk and acting like a dumbass in front of my dad" that is kind of weird sometimes.
What's the new album called?
It's tentatively being called Indestructible Machine. My plans are just basically to tour until it gets released, and after it gets released, I'll have to tour a whole bunch and hopefully write a bunch more songs so I can do the next one.
You're hoping to follow it up rather quickly, then?
Yeah, just because I had already written the songs and recorded them, I'd like to move on to the next phase of songwriting. And just because it took so long to record the first album that it's like, "Wow, time to move on." And just because I'm constantly beating myself up about songwriting, which I think everyone is.