No less love for new Loveless 

click to enlarge Lydia Loveless - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Lydia Loveless
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Lydia Loveless' Somewhere Else is an invigorating musical statement that fuses revelatory personal songwriting anchored by Loveless' unapologetic tongue and yearning heart, uncorked Replacements-edged rock and roll energy, doses of steel guitar loveliness and a nonstop avalanche of emotion. It's an album that has garnered Loveless acclaim from the likes of NPR, Rolling Stone and Spin (and currently sits as one of my favorite albums of the past few years) and earned her and her band slots on high profile SXSW showcases in March, which resulted in gushing praise for the electric live sets Loveless and her band put forth.

Loveless will open up for the Old 97's at their show at the Vogue on June 7.

NUVO: With all the rave reviews, SXSW and the upcoming tour with the Old 97's, what has been the highlight of the year for you so far?

Loveless: I'm really stoked about the Old 97's. That's been a longtime goal to open for them. That's cool, but I think the best thing is just having a set band now, being able to bring out my steel player who played on the record. He just got to do a really long tour with us, and I feel like we had a great bonding experience with the band, and I feel we're getting a lot tighter. I'm really excited about that, because it's not easy to find people you get along with. {Laughs} Musically and personally.

NUVO: What's it like playing songs with such personal lyrics and brutal honesty when you're sharing the stage with your husband and, in the past, your dad?

Loveless: My dad hasn't been in the band for over a year now, so I really don't even think about it. {Laughs} Now, I mean, obviously, my husband (Ben Lamb) is the bass player and, you know, I don't think that's really easy on anyone's relationship, but for the most part everyone gets along and I'm really good friends with Todd, the guitar player, Jay, the steel player, is super easy to get along with and quiet, and Nick is kind of the punching bag of the band - we all just kind of make fun of him constantly. {Laughs} I think it's good. I think everyone has separate relationships and everyone gets along really well and can go off with anyone else and have a good time.

NUVO: What I love most about your music is the fearlessness of your writing and all the passion in your voice. Have there been any subjects that you've balked at and have been afraid to air out because they've just been too personal?

Loveless: Yeah, I think that's something that's happened before and I set it aside, but mostly it's so cathartic that I go ahead and do it anyway. The only time it's really bothersome is when someone is like, "So what is that about?" It's like, "Eh. Just listen to it." I want to leave things open to interpretation for people. I know if a song means a lot to me it kind of ruins it for me when you hear someone is like, "Oh, I just heard about this book I really like." I think part of being so personal and delving through things is that I know I'm probably not going to say much about it much later anyway, so {laughing}people just have to deal with it.

NUVO: I wanted to ask you about the choice to use the passage from Paul Verlaine's "Aspiration" on the back cover of the album. Did you go into writing the album with that passage as inspiration, or was it something that you serendipitously came across while writing and recording?

Loveless: When I was originally writing the album and just sort of hating everything I was writing, I started reading Verlaine just to sort of inspire myself. At the time, I was reading more poetry than I normally do, and I think that was the first poem in a book that I got of his, and it really hit me. Reading that was a jumping off point for a lot the songs, but they aren't necessarily about that. It's just where I was at the time - thinking about the music business in general and any kind of art. It just really struck a chord with me. I ended up sending it to the people who were doing the artwork, and they ended up putting it on the album, which is awesome. For me, I think it really ties the album together.

NUVO: With your music, do you ever worry about the biases that sometimes seem to arise from different camps, like being "too country" for certain rock fans or "not being the right kind of country" for more of the mainstream country fans and Music Row classicist types?

Loveless: I mean it used to, but I guess mostly what I'm concerned about are the people in charge of me, especially, where one day they're going to be like, "You need to pick," and I'm going to be like, "No!" and have a meltdown. {Laughs}Yeah, it's interesting when I play more indie-rock crowds and they'll describe me in a review as something like "honky-tonk," and I'm like, "No. That was definitely a rock show." I guess, except for my drummer who is from Detroit, we are all from country and rural areas. (Loveless hails from Columbus, OH.) So I think there are different attitudes, but I think coming from the Midwest, the Replacements attitude comes through, too. I feel like I hope people are catching on that it's sort of bridging the gap between those two genres and two attitudes, and it won't really be a problem in the future. But I think I feel safer going more towards the rock and roll than I do going more towards country, because there are a lot of country music journalists who are very snobby and picky about what you can and cannot do in a country song. I definitely feel safer relying more on my rock and roll influences than I do on my country ones, but that's always going to be a part of me, too. As an artist, I'd prefer to just make the music that I'm going to make and be true to myself not to be cheesy.

NUVO: I love every song on the album, but one favorite that tears me apart is "Everything's Gone," which doesn't necessarily strike me as country or rock; to me, it's actually a fantastic heart-on-sleeve folk song. Can you talk about where you were when you wrote that song and why you chose to keep it pretty stripped-down?

Loveless: I tried to get a full band on that for a long time, but it was getting really frustrating. It just never seemed to be the right mood for it and I didn't want to trample on it, because it was so personal. And without going too much into that, it was about losing my farm that I grew up on. I hadn't been out in the country in a really long time, and one day went hiking in the woods and had all these memories and ended up writing that song when I got home. I think I was in a completely different place as a person when I wrote that and was completely alone, and I didn't play it for the band for a really long time, because I guess that one would be one of the most personal songs I'd ever written and was afraid to bring it out. I guess that's why it sort of sits separately from the rest of the album; I felt so alone when I wrote it and when I brought it to the band, it didn't necessarily have a place along the rock and roll side of everything. But I think it still fits on the album, just from a little different of a place personally, if that makes any sense.

NUVO: That makes perfect sense, and I think it fits in thematically and in breathtaking fashion. I read you had an entire album's worth of material that you scrapped before Somewhere Else came to life. What led to that decision?

Loveless: I just wasn't feeling the songs. Everyone was like, "Was it because they were too country?" No, I just wasn't into them. They weren't exciting for me to play, and I didn't really care about playing them for anyone else. The number one thing for me is that when I write a song and I need to feel really excited to show someone - not like "I want attention," but like "This is so good I want someone to hear it" - almost like when you hear a song you like and you want to share it with people. I don't know what it was. I think being really depressed was part of it. I didn't even feel like doing anything. Working so extensively on the same album you get kind of burned out, and I didn't really have a lot of downtime to think about where I wanted to go next. So I think I was just kind of stuck. Once I had written all of the songs I didn't like, I felt like I had sort of cleaned out my brain to make room for better stuff. I had a hard time letting go of songs, too. I tend to cling to everything I write. So I think, ultimately, I had to write an album and throw it in the trash in order to write stuff that I like.

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