Despite being just 21 years of age, country singer-songwriter Lydia Loveless has the world-weary demeanor of someone twice her age. After leaving home at the age of 14, Loveless found solace in, of all places, Columbus, Ohio, and that city's underground punk scene.
Like a lot of punks, Loveless then found the same kind of spirit in the classic country of Hank Williams Sr.., Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. Next thing you know, Loveless started strumming an acoustic guitar and belting out tortured tales of romance gone wrong.
Many of those sad stories ended up Loveless' recently issued sophomore effort, Indestructible Machine. Songs such as "Bad Way to Go," "Jesus Was a Wino" and "Learn to Say No" show a singer unafraid of tackling some thorny emotional issues.
Speaking from her home in Columbus, and in anticipation of her performance Friday night at the Doublewide, Loveless spoke with DC9 about her punk-inspired attitude and her staunchly honest approach to songwriting.
With the last name of Loveless, are you destined to forever write songs of heartbreak?
I hope not. But I do enjoy writing those kinds of songs the most, so maybe.
Is there something cathartic for you in writing those kinds of songs?
Yes, I think so. I guess I am not the person who enjoys listening to super happy music. I enjoy writing about actual pain that I have experienced. I'm so content writing about that.
I saw one article that said the experiences you sing about sound like those of someone twice your age. Have you had a particularly rough life?
I guess. I've lived a little more advanced life. I obviously became a musician at an early age and have probably experienced different types of things from most people my age.
You're originally from Coshocton, Ohio. What the hell is there to do in that town?
There's not much to do. I grew up on a farm, so that was a little more interesting. The town is basically a ghost town now. There's not much there anymore. People just kind of left that place.
How old were you when you left?
I was 14.
Could you get out of there fast enough?
I kind of felt that way. I kind of miss living in the country, but I miss nothing about the town.
You moved to Columbus and got into punk. Does punk still influence your music?
I think so, but I mean classic punk more than modern punk. Older punk, especially lyrically, is a big influence. I think, nowadays, punk is really polished. There are too many rules now. Green Day would be a modern punk band. The Ramones were groundbreaking, new and fresh. Now, there's too much of a uniform to it. That turns me off about it.
Your song "Can't Change Me" sounds a lot like the Old 97's.
I like them. I discovered them when I was a lot younger. People have told me that I sounded like them. I didn't realize how much of a compliment that was until I got older and started really listening to them.
I think you meant the song "Jesus Was a Wino" to be funny, but can you understand how some people might see it as sacrilegious?
Yes, but I don't know a lot of religious people. I have yet to get a good reaction from anyone. Hopefully, that will happen. At some point, I would like to get a reaction.
I guess you don't mind confrontation.
Not really. I used to be afraid of more confrontational songs. I like to get different reactions from people. I like to get a rise out of them. I think so many on this planet are afraid to make fun of Jesus. I like to make fun of people who are uptight.
What's the story behind your song "Steve Earle"?
In Columbus, I started getting some press and there was an article that really tried to pinpoint my drinking and drug use and how much of a badass I was. Some guy read that article and took it really seriously. He was following me around and asking me to come to his house and jam. He thought I was so mysterious. He referred to himself as Steve Earle. I wrote that about him when I wrote that and I was hoping that, one day, Steve Earle or someone in his tribe would hear it. I thought maybe that would give me a boost. It was kind of a joke.
The real Steve Earle would be a pretty good duet partner for you.
That would be pretty awesome. That was all part of the plan. That wasn't part of an evil agenda, but it was just a way of getting someone's attention. I mean, it's super gimmicky, but I think it's an OK song, too.
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Your new album, Indestructible Machine, has gotten some great reviews in some pretty mainstream publications. Does such praise surprise you?
It's going really well. I was sort of surprised by it. I also sort of expected it.
One reviewer compared you to Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. Is that honest criticism or is the writer being sexist by limiting the comparisons to women?
First of all, the comparisons are unsettling because that's a lot to live up to. And then what do people expect with the next album? I don't really see the comparisons, but it's awesome if someone thinks so. But it's always a big thing with women singers to compare them to each other. A lot of articles seemed to be copied and pasted. It's kind of weird when all of the comparisons are to women.