Lydia Loveless was born into country music. But she wasn’t content to just join the family business; she had to put her own personal stamp on it. Or, more likely, she had to stomp all over it!
Loveless grew up with a dad who owned a country music bar, and she frequently woke up in a house full of touring musicians. When she got older, she blazed her own path and immersed herself in the punk scene, soaking up the musical and attitudinal influences of everyone from Charles Bukowski to Richard Hell to Hank III. With a balls-to-the-wall voice and a presence to match, 21-year-old Loveless is the personification of all that we love about rock and roll.
Her latest release, Indestructible Machine, is a rollicking romp of ferociously ballsy vocals, starkly cynical lyrics and pure heart-felt musicianship. And her live show? Let me just say it’ll leave you panting for more.
Here Loveless gives us some insight into her attitude, influences and more.
GUITAR WORLD: What made you pick up a guitar for the first time?
I guess I always wanted to play guitar, but I really wasn’t very good at it until I started actually getting ideas for songs. I started out with piano, but that didn’t really interest me. It was learning a lot of classical, which now I wish I could play, but at the time it was really boring for me. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I started actually being able to play and sing at the same time, and play steadily and actually be able to write songs.
Did you take guitar lessons?
No, I’m actually taking my first guitar lesson tomorrow.
Who are you studying with?
He plays in a band called Locusta, a metal band. I’m really excited about it because, I don’t know, just getting a different background. A lot of people suggest country players. But I’ve always been really inspired by listening to metal. I just have no talent for it, so I’m really looking forward to picking up some tips.
So are we going to hear some shredding on your new songs?
Haha, hopefully! I’ve just been getting kinda bored with the whole chords thing, so I want to expand a little bit.
Your dad had a country music bar, and there were always musicians around your house. What was that like for you, growing up?
It was cool. I mean, I was so young that it didn’t really register in my brain. A lot of people will ask, “Did that make you want to play music?” I’m like, “No!” But I guess it did sort of instill the whole show-off thing. Like when bands would come to the house and everyone was playing an instrument, then they said, “Now you play!” So it sort of influenced me in that way. But just being so young, I was probably too busy with dance lessons and stuff. But it was still interesting.
Your style is more, sort of, gutsy and down-and-dirty. Did that grow from you wanting to go in your own direction, pushing outside of what you were around all the time?
Yeah. The edgier stuff came when I was older, a teenager hanging out with dirty punk rockers. And I guess I always kind of wanted to be a little bit different from everyone in my family, but it’s kind of impossible with my family. They’re so naturally rebellious. But yeah, I definitely wanted to do something a little different.
I was thinking a lot of young women in your position might go for a more sweet sounding, acoustic style. And you just said, “Forget that!”
Yeah, I definitely don’t want to play music that puts people to sleep or is considered soothing or relaxing. I usually get really bored with that. Not that there’s anything wrong with writing a pretty song. I guess I don’t want to do just exclusively that sort of thing.
You seem to look a little bit more at the darker side of life there. Are you kind of a pessimistic person?
I think anyone who has ever lived with me would say that, yeah. But I’ve been a little more cheerful lately, but I still have my rants and raves. That’s mostly what inspires me. I just read something yesterday that said something like, “If you look at the world as a hostile place, that’s all it will be.” So, I’ve been trying to work on that.
You released Indestructible Machine last fall. Are you touring now?
Yeah, in April I have a few shows here and there but it’s mostly stuff that I can come home from, weekend jaunts. May we’re doing Europe so that’ll be a big thing.
Do you have a favorite song or two from the album that you like to play live?
I would say, probably “More Like Them” and “Born to Say No” are my favorites.
Do you have a regular band that you record and tour with?
Yeah. Parker Chandler is the drummer. Ben Lamb is the bass player. Todd May is the guitar player.
I love that big upright bass. It’s not convenient for touring but it’s very cool.
Oh, no it’s not. But yeah, it looks cool on the stage. The rest of the time everyone’s annoyed with you. And they’re so high-maintenance, too. It’s like, “Argh!”
Tell me about your guitar setup.
For my acoustic I play a Simon & Patrick. It’s really, great. I’ve had it for about six years. It’s pretty much never given me any problems. And then, my electric setup is ... I play sort of a "parts" Telecaster. It doesn’t really have a name. It’s not really a Telecaster. And then my amp is a little Kalamazoo with like three knobs, and it’s really old and pretty much irreplaceable so I hope nothing happens to it.
I like the sound. It’s got this sort of gritty, jangly tone.
It’s hard to find something that breaks up in that way, where it’s not like Kurt Cobain but still kinda grungy.
I saw you have a cover of Elvis Costello’s “Alison” coming out. It seemed like that was just sort of a random thing that happened. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Yeah. I always have to talk about the country influences and stuff, but it’s funny, because actually my influences are more stuff like Elvis Costello and sort of poppy-rock stuff. My mom listened to that song over and over again when I was a kid. We were playing in Chicago and I decided to play that. The record label was there. Rob from Bloodshot was like, “You have to record that! We’ll do a 7-inch.” So, I went into the studio a couple of weeks later, and I had a cold so I had to like put it off for a while. I was still semi-sick and feeling kind of crazy when I recorded it, so it’s very like, raw and rough, which is I guess what he wanted to do with it. He was like, “Don’t let that get too polished. I just want to put it out like that.”
See, you never know what might happen. Now you gotta be careful about what song you just randomly play!
Yeah, I need to put more thoughts in my covers I guess. You never know when someone’s going to be like, “You need to record that thing!”
You'd better really like it. You might be playing that song for the next 30 years!
When someone comes to see you live, what do you want them to walk away thinking or feeling?
I want people to feel excited. I know when I go to a show that I actually enjoy, it makes me walk away feeling really inspired and just excited about music. Because I have a tendency to get really depressed and negative about music so I hope that when people see me, they feel inspired and energized.
Keep up with Lydia Loveless at her official website.
Here’s a video of Loveless laying down “Crazy.”Laura B. Whitmore is a singer/songwriter based in the San Francisco bay area. A veteran music industry marketer, she has spent over two decades doing marketing, PR and artist relations for several guitar-related brands including Marshall and VOX. Her company, Mad Sun Marketing, represents 65amps, Acoustic Bass Amps, Agile Partners, Guitar World and many more. Laura was instrumental in the launch of the Guitar World Lick of the Day app. She is the co-producer of the Women's Music Summit and the lead singer for the rock band, Summer Music Project. More at mad-sun.com.