Lydia Loveless is the kind of artist you discover thanks to a friend with excellent music taste and excellent drinking habits. That’s how I found out about Loveless. Hopefully you know of the 23-year-old singer-songwriter badass. If you don’t, I hope you’re able to trust me when I saw that I have excellent drinking habits.
The age thing. The age thing is kind of a big deal. She’s released three very good albums on the very good Bloodshot Records label. The newest, 2014’s Somewhere Else, sounds like it was written by someone twenty years her senior. It’s mature. It’s cold. It’s mean. It’s one of the best albums of the year.
So the new record was recorded in two days. Is that true?
Um, I guess that might have gotten out of hand. We did the basic tracking in two days, yeah.
Okay, cause it does not sound like a two day recording in any way. It’s very good.
I mean, I wish I could do something like that in two days! Just rough tracks.
This is your third album and fans of the first two will enjoy it, but it’s a little bit different than the first two. It’s not as Drive-By Truckers, both in terms of sound and look. This is the first record that doesn’t have that cartoony cover, which I quite enjoy. Was that an intentional decision, to change the look of the cover?
I guess it kind of was. Personally I wanted to still continue on with the cartoony thing, but I just guess it was time to show my face. So I don’t know.
Well, you kind of are showing your face. I mean, you’re showing your face in the least amount of way of showing your face.
Yeah, I still kept it pretty discreet. I never – I guess it’s just the bitchy feminist in me that never wanted it to be like, “Here’s a hot picture of me!” But like, in Indestructible Machine we actually had an argument about the fact that it wasn’t my face. And I remember I was eating at a restaurant and I got a call and they were like, “We think this might affect the sales, because it’s not your face.” And I got even madder and I was like, I just want to go with this sort of vague, you-don’t-really-know-what-I-look-like, you have to kind of come to the show, or seek it out because there’s not a lot of mystery in 2014 with Google and everything, so.
I’m horribly mindful of this stuff, I’m sorry! [laughs]
No no, that’s – this is your career. You’re supposed to care about these things. It’s fine. Now, I agree, there is no mystery, blah blah blah. That being said, the more people find out about you, the better it seems. I mean, you don’t sound like your age. You know you don’t sound like your age. How old do you feel?
Really old? [laughs] I don’t know, I guess I feel kind of ageless. I actually often forget that I’m as old as I am. So it’s kind of weird. But also sometimes dull. Because I live in a college town, so.
Yeah, why do you live in Columbus?
Um, because it’s affordable and because my family’s here, mostly.
Not to be a dick, but I’ve been to Columbus. There are affordable cities on par with Columbus that are a little bit better.
Actually, Columbus is really building up. And I just like the Midwest and how friendly everyone is, so I don’t know. It’s mostly a family thing I think, because I travel so much I just like to have something to come back to.
Your father owned a bar. Does he still own a bar?
Do you miss that culture at all? Or, because you’re touring so much, do you ever really get away from it?
Yeah, definitely. I don’t know why I ever go to bars when I’m at home. I get so sick of it. You know, I’ve kind of thought that it would be cool to own a bar, but it just runs your life, so I don’t know if I’d ever do that.
The reason why I ask about the bar is because you have perfect drinking music. You, and actually your tour mates, the Old 97s. To me you have this very contemplative, “I’m going to drink and think about what I’ve done wrong and/or how I can be better.” And the Old 97s, who you’ll be on tour with very soon, have this like very celebratory drinking style of music. Is that an insult, to a songwriter, to consider your music just a soundtrack for someone to imbibe?
No, I think that probably makes total sense. I was actually just thinking about the comparison with me and Rhett and the difference between our drinking albums. Like obviously Most Messed Up and like his drinking album is considered his most vulgar albums. And it’s interesting that you don’t say that in a sexist way that people usually do. People get excited about Rhett’s new drinking album but a lot of people say “Don’t you think a lady should—“ I mean, without saying it so much, “Don’t you think a lady shouldn’t be drinking?”
No that’s absurd. Everyone should drink – if they want to drink. You don’t have to answer this question if it’s uncouth, or it makes you feel uncomfortable, but do you drink alcohol?
Do you worry about that? Both as a touring musician and as a songwriter?
Not as a songwriter. I mean, I think the day I start making crappy music I’ll figure something out. I don’t know if it’ll necessarily be drinking. But for me, it’s like, I’m 23. So I feel like I’m in the phase where I should be drinking. Well, not necessarily should be, but I can get away with it. But definitely as a musician, people worry about it, if I can stop. But it’s, I mean, for now it’s just kind of where I am. I definitely drink to excess and I’m not proud of it and I don’t want to sit around and be like, “Oh, I love drinking” or anything, but I’ve sort of come to terms with the fact that I am young and still figuring things out.
Yeah. But you’re surrounded by – I don’t know how old your bandmates are, or your husband is – but I do know how old the Old 97s are, and they’re roughly double your age. So you’re also hanging out with people who are literally twice your age. So that’s already not like a normal 23-year-old. And they what?
Oh, I said they still drink, so – hopefully I can make it to that age.
I think you’ll make it to that age. I don’t think it’s that hard to do. I think my favorite song on the record is Chris Isaak. I think that that could be a super mainstream hit from an artist you probably don’t enjoy – if you were willing to take out the swears. The reason why I ask is, has that ever come up? Have you ever been approached by like a Nashville hitmaker saying, “Hey you’re great, but you have to do X, Y and Z?”
Um, not yet. Hopefully it’ll happen. And that’ll determine whether or not I’ll do – I mean, I’d love to do anything with Chris Isaak, he’s pretty awesome. That’d be cool.
But isn’t that song (there’s a song on the new album titled “Chris Isaak”) about an ex-boyfriend?
How old were you when you were dating the gentleman who was singing you Chris Isaak songs?
Oh, I was young. I was about 19.
Has Chris Isaak heard this song?
I don’t think so.
Has Steve Earl (there’s a song on the 2011 album titled “Steve Earle”) heard the song from the last record?
Oh, no, I guess he doesn’t listen to anything about himself or read any of his press. I guess he’s consciously avoided that song, from what I’ve heard.
That’s complete bullshit. He’s had to have heard the song.
Maybe, yeah. His wife said she said she hated it.
Really!? [laughs] What do you read? What are you reading right now?
I just finished Valley of the Dolls, because I guess I thought I should read that, and that was really depressing. Um, but now I’m actually doing a lot of spirit animal research. I’m kind of a flake, that’s mostly what I’ve been reading lately.
What have you learned about your spirit animal?
I am a brown bear, so I’m getting a lot of meditation with my animal totem. Like I went out into the woods a couple of weeks ago and did some meditation with a brown bear, so. I got the band to do it too, and they’ve actually all encountered their spirit animal since they’ve been researching this, but I don’t want to encounter mine, because I’m terrified of it.
You’re terrified of actually seeing a brown bear?
A bear, yeah.
That makes sense. That’s a very normal fear. How often are you meditating?
I try to do it every day.
How long, each session?
Like 20 minutes.
That’s very good.
I think that’s standard for starting.
It’s very standard for starting. David Lynch does two 20 minute sessions per day. Do you – are you doing any specific type of meditation? Is it T M? Or is it just like your most basic starter meditation?
Actually, what I learned about meditation was when I was, like, 15 I read this book called Hardcore Zen. And it told me to just literally stare at the wall and to not try to do anything, so that’s mostly what I do. But when I’m doing the spirit animal meditation that sort of is more like asking my spirit animal to lead me to certain decisions or a higher strength level. [laughs] This all sounds horrible.
It doesn’t! I mean, everything could sound horrible or not. I try to meditate as much as possible. I’m currently not doing it and I’m feeling like a garbage person for not even trying. I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
Well, it’s pretty hard.
Are you afraid to talk about this kind of stuff, or do you just not give a shit?
I just don’t give a shit.
What do you give a shit about? Like, what are you worried about people – well, obviously that’s a loaded question because you’re not going to tell me. What are the things you’re a little more cautious about?
I would definitely say the drinking thing is weird, because it’s not necessarily something I’m proud of, but it’s not necessarily something I’m worried about either. It’s hard to balance that in public situations, just explaining that I’m not writing drinking anthems necessarily.
I never said that, nor do I think you are.
No, not you, but a lot of people are like, “Lydia Loveless is really proud of her ability to drink!” And I wouldn’t necessarily say that.
Let me butt in here, I know that it’s your interview, but that’s fucking wrong. If you’re good at something, you should be proud – I’m not joking. I used to be a bartender, I would perform in bars. If you drink like an adult, you should be proud of that fact and not hide it. No, I’m serious. You’re not – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with imbibing at a reasonable and responsible level. And if you can do that, who gives a shit what they think?
And I know right now I’m just projecting my own insecurities onto this interview. But okay. What are you listening to right now, I know you like Ke$ha?
I do. But like, what new music am I listening to?
Yeah, what’s something that’s Ke$ha-ish that you’re enjoying right now?
It’s not necessarily Ke$ha-ish, but I actually have the whole band hooked on this Phantogram album that just came out in February.
I really like the band Poliça That’s something I’ve been listening to a lot again, lately. I’ve just been going through a huge Paul Westerberg phase again. That’s not anything new, or even new to me, but that’s kind of where my head’s at right now.
Did you see The Replacements reunion? Or the 2/4 Replacements reunion?
I have tickets for Minneapolis, so, hopefully I’ll get to do that.
Why isn’t Lydia Loveless a band instead of just you?
I guess I just – I mostly write all the songs. Well, I shouldn’t say mostly, all of the arrangements are done with the band so I guess they help in some way, but I don’t know. It just made more sense, because then I can switch out if anyone goes crazy or fucks up.
Has that happened yet?
Not yet. Well, it’s happened in the past, but right now it’s good.
Here’s the thing: you write drinking music for people to, hopefully, think. You know what I mean? Your drinking music to me is like the same thing as like a Wilco or eels or The Replacements. You’re not writing party anthems – which I also enjoy – but –
Yeah, that was what I was trying to say earlier. I don’t know. I don’t care, but it’s also like, I’m not writing this [sung in a ‘party’ country style] “All I do is go out drinkin’” sort of shit, so.
Yeah but if you had just one of those songs you’d have so much more money.
[laughs] Yeah, exactly. I should be Eric Church.
Are you calling on enemies right now? Is there anyone you have a beef with?
I do have a beef with Eric Church.
It’s not like a – I don’t know him, so. I find him to be like horrible mainstream pop country, and at the same time he gets like 10 stars in Rolling Stone, so.
Why are you reading Rolling Stone?
Cause I’m in there occasionally.
You say that with a mixture of pride and shame.
Yeah it’s fucking horrible. I’m calling out Rolling Stone I guess, as an enemy. I’m going to get in trouble for this. Sorry, I’m a bit wired this morning.
Is there anything you’d like me to add?
I’m not an asshole.
Lydia Loveless plays 9:30 Club on May 31 and Webster Hall on June 3. Her new album is available now via Bloodshot Records.