If she didn’t have her songwriting, Lydia Loveless is convinced she’d be one roiling ball of pent-up negative energy. “It’s kind of all I got to rely on to get the anger and self-pity out,” says the 25-year-old singer-songwriter, who traffics in hardscrabble country-tinged meditations on getting beat down by life and spit out lines on her roughneck 2014 breakout album, Somewhere Else, like “When I was seventeen I’d follow you around with my head jammed way up your ass.”
“It’s definitely a cathartic thing for me,” she adds. “I don’t have a lot of other outlets and I don’t really have any other interests or activities and I’m not very expressive in conversation. I just try to make it relatable.”
For her latest album, Real, out tomorrow, August 19th, via Bloodshot Records, the Columbus, Ohio-born musician didn’t have to look far for inspiration. The previous few years on the road following Somewhere Else have been mentally exhausting, if not often emotionally scarring, for the tell-it-like-it-is singer. Touring, Loveless says, is what she’s always wanted to do, “but when you’re actually doing it it’s very strange. Not that it’s bad to have really supportive loyal fans, but you have the people in your life that know what’s going on and then you have people who are Internet-stalking you and figuring out what’s going on in your life and then asking you about it.”
She’s referring to fans pestering her about bouts with depression and drug abuse and even going so far as to comment on her physical appearance. These are topics she’s not shied away from in public discourse but, Loveless says, “then [fans] are saying shit like, ‘Oh well, it’ll make a great song!’ It’s like, ‘Oh my god, I’m gonna cry!'”
A home-schooled, self-declared bookworm as a child, Loveless still finds the greatest comfort in writing personal missives on her acoustic guitar. She enjoyed penning more self-reflective, tender songs for her latest LP – even if she admits that songs like the title track, on which she sings, “Now I’m in my room but I want to jump off the roof / I’m just waiting for a boy who’s gonna beg me not to do it,” were inspired by her often feeling terribly alone.
“Lyrically, I was just going with the flow,” she offers of the narrative inspiration for Real.
“That’s just where I was. I was pretty lonely. I’d been around the world a long time. I wasn’t really speaking to anyone because no one could really relate to where I was in my life. Especially as a woman. There aren’t a lot of people that can relate to that. Maybe I was just more in my head.”
“‘My truth’? I hate that bullshit expression”
Ask Loveless and she’ll tell you it’s amusing that in the wake of her debut album, many painted her as something of a badass troubadour. “I’ve never felt that way in my life,” she says. “I was the shyest of four kids, home-schooled on a farm. Super nerd. I didn’t really have any friends when I was a kid. I just wanted to play music.”
She cops to dyeing her hair “weird colors” and to having “kind of a mannish voice.” But Loveless says any “badass” vibe might have more to do with her unfiltered persona in song than anything else.
“Even if I do write a soft song or something where I’m really exposing myself and being vulnerable, I guess I’m still just being brutally honest,” she says. “I just don’t see any point in writing songs that aren’t honest. People are like, ‘Do you ever think you’re going too far?’ Well, what else would I say? If that’s my truth.” She pauses before correcting herself. “‘My truth’? Ugh. I hate that bullshit expression!”
A loud-and-proud Kesha fan, Loveless imbued Real with a larger dose of pop-music influence than ever before. “I wanted it to be slick and definitely poppier and show off my other influences so I could get off of the ‘honky-tonk’ picture that’s been painted about me,” she says of the 10-track LP, recorded at Sonic Lounge Studios in her home state of Ohio and produced by longtime collaborator Joe Viers.
To that end, “Heaven” arrives armed with a shout-along chorus, while “Out on Love” might be her sweetest, most straightforward ballad yet. “It really does combat the whole ‘Billy Badass’ persona as my friend calls me,” Loveless says of the song with a laugh. “I really did just want to write a few sweet songs.”
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Loveless is set to hit the road for a fall tour that kicks off August 20th in Cincinnati. Seeing her onstage – all grit and fervor – one might conclude the singer is supremely confident in her onstage ability. Not quite. “My confidence onstage is a bit of a joke,” Loveless admits. “It’s weird for someone who does not like to be the center of attention to do something that’s so narcissistic and exhibitionist. I have to go this place in me that is flailing and raw.”