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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lydia Loveless Rocks Harder, Still Censors Nothing

Posted By on Tue, Mar 4, 2014 at 3:33 AM

  • Blackletter / Patrick Crawford
When Lydia Loveless came to national attention in 2011 with Indestructible Machine, her second album and first for Chicago's Bloodshot Records, she seemed like every country-punk dude's dream. Hard-drinking, hard-cursing and as influenced by Exene Cervenka as Loretta Lynn, Loveless sang like a fallen honky-tonk angel and wrote country-powered songs with wit and heart like "How Many Women" (as in how many does a man need?) and "Jesus Was a Wino" and satires like "Steve Earle." She could be vicious, funny and heartbreaking, but mostly she was honest. And that's never as easy as it sounds.

For her followup album Somewhere Else, the Columbus, Ohio, native has largely applied the brakes to her wild country streak, though the seductive twang is still in her voice, even when comparing her romantic impulses to the way Verlaine loved (and shot) Rimbaud. Somewhere Else is not quite so simply a devastatingly personal rock & roll album, appreciably more indebted to Patti Smith or the Replacements than alternative country, with songs that somehow dig deeper to find even more emotionally detailed and darkly vulnerable stories than any Loveless has written before.

In advance of her return to St. Louis for a show at Off Broadway on Wednesday, March 5, we reached Loveless at her home in Columbus to find out just how the new record and the new songs came to be.

Roy Kasten: Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?

Lydia Loveless: Are you talking about serious songs or going way back?

Just the first song you remember.

When I was a kid I used to make up stupid songs all the time, and I still do this, in between the good songs. The first one, when I was a kid, was about Don Henley. Writing songs about other singers has turned out to be a good portion of my career. I was probably seven or eight years old, and I wrote about Don Henley waking up in the morning and looking in the mirror and asking, "Who is the ugliest man of all?" Like the queen from Snow White. And it was like, "You are, Mr. Henley." That was the first complete song I ever wrote.

That's impressive. I don't think I could have picked Don Henley out of a lineup when I was a kid.

When I was growing up my dad had Building the Perfect Beast in his truck and pretty much nothing else. He played other albums, but we listened to that all the time.

Do you remember the first song that you were proud of?

That would be "Let Me Leave" off my first album. That was when I realized that I could write a song, that I was ready to do some solo stuff. It took off from there. Teen angst inspired it, but I felt it had a style, a form, and it wasn't just my usual rambling stuff. I called my sister and played it for her over the phone. She said it was good. I usually know something is good when I want to play it for someone, and if I don't, then it probably sucks.

You're very close to your family, and your dad played drums in your band for a while. That doesn't quite follow the punk narrative.

I think it's been important that my parents have been supportive of me. I could say, "I'm going to be a musician. Can I borrow some money?" [Laughs] My family is really close, and we do creative things together. That's given me the drive and the comfort to do this as a career. Growing up, I don't want to say we were radicals, but we were intelligent people, self-educated, me and my siblings were home-schooled, and my parents always said that we should do what makes us happy. So that was sort of a punk mentality growing up. And then when I was teenager, there was that horrible pop-punk explosion, and every song was "No one understands meeeee!!" That was my thing, and then I started realizing that this stuff is total bullshit. I started checking books out from the library about actual punk rock and where it came from. Living in Coshocton [Ohio] with dial-up Internet, I didn't have a lot of access to music, but moving to Columbus when I was fourteen, it got easier to find stuff.

Continue to page two for more of our interview.

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