March 07, 2014

An Interview with Lydia Loveless

“Shit, I don’t want to do this.” 

Such is what Lydia Loveless at times tells herself when faced with the often daunting, anxiety-inducing prospect of writing a new song. 

“Once I have my band involved,” Loveless explains, “it’s more fun when we’re arranging things and trying to figure out, ‘What’s the beat gonna be? Where can we put a weird little break?’ But sitting down by myself and writing or deciding, ‘I should write today,’ that can feel kind of horrible.

“You’re open and raw,” she adds. “It can be scary.”  

Yet as the 23-year-old Ohio native illustrates with her third and latest LP, Somewhere Else (Bloodshot Records), the reward was worth the risk. Searing with unvarnished abandon, the album is a gritty, glorious rock ‘n’ roll salvo of sexual turbulence and boozy indiscretions.

You’re known for being straightforward and unaffectedly honest in your lyrics, but do you ever have moments when you’re torn between writing what you want to say versus something more blunt just because it may be what your audience expects?

No, it’s usually the opposite, if I do have a moment where I’m thinking about an audience. I’ll kind of wonder if anyone will want to hear what I have to say in such a blunt way. [Laughs] I never really started out to be blunt. It’s just sort of my style that I’ve developed. I just don’t see another way of doing things. There’ve been times when I’ve felt so embarrassed, but I think it’s better to go for embarrassing than bad. 

Why would you feel embarrassed, though?

Maybe just giving too much away, but I don’t really feel that way very often.… I’ve just decided to completely let go and not worry about people’s feelings, which I guess can sometimes be awkward, but people generally don’t get mad at me or confront me about my lyrics. Maybe my parents. [Laughs] 

So there’s no reticence on your part, like as a means of self-preservation, about sharing anything—not necessarily about other people but about yourself—with your audience? Is everything fair game for you to write about?

Yeah, it has to be because everything I do… My main thing is to be a songwriter. It’s almost overwhelming. I’ll be doing something and be like, “I’ll write about this later.” Then I’m like, “Well, I don’t want to cheapen this moment by thinking about how I’m going to write about it later.” But I think that’s just a songwriter’s brain, I guess. So it all is kind of like potential songwriting fodder. 

In writing about sex or indirectly about sexual themes—as you do with something like “Head” on the new album—there’s a risk of coming across as gratuitous or as a means to shock an audience. Like with nudity in a film, some people will get turned off if it’s not particularly inherent to the narrative. Is that sort of concern one which you’re ever conscious of while you’re writing? 

I wouldn’t say I was ever being gratuitous or trying to shock. I mean, it’s 2014 so it’s kind of hard to shock people, but I think people are threatened by a woman singing about that sort of thing, which I guess is their loss. [Laughs] I mean, it’s just me writing about my life or things that have occurred or the things that I think. If people are going to get turned off by it they probably shouldn’t listen to it.

Of course, men have been singing about sex in rock ‘n’ roll and blues for decades.

It’s always been that way. There are songs like, [Singing] “I’m gonna wait ‘til the midnight hour,” which basically means, “I’m gonna have sex tonight.” It’s an age-old topic, but I don’t think men like it when women objectify them instead of the age-old concept of them doing otherwise.

What accounts for the creative curiosity that informs your work—be it your appreciation for so many styles of music or pieces of literature that inspire some of your lyrics? 

Well, I was home schooled and my parents were always very adamant about us all learning what we wanted to and always doing what we were interested in and what we cared about. We lived in the middle of the country, and everyone thought we were sort of freaks because we were intellectual and we had a huge stereo set up in our house and lots of books and movies. I was just being told as a kid to like whatever I wanted.... I got that from my parents, like, “If there’s something to be learned then you should go learn it.” They sent me to acting camp in summer when most of my friends were thinking who was going to get them pregnant that year. 

For more information on Lydia Loveless, please visit her official website