art feature
  November 25, 2011

 

Lydia Loveless channels punk into her country

by Melissa Cowan

Try as she might, Lydia Loveless couldn’t shake her country destiny.
Her father owned a country music bar in her hometown of Coshocton, OH where there was “nothing to do but make music.”


But as a rebellious 15-year-old, she first found her own musical roots in the punk scene, briefly playing guitar and bass, and singing in a punk band.


“I was an angry teenager,” she said. “A lot of my friends were into it (punk), and I just seemed to relate to those people the most. I never really fit into a certain crowd, but I fit in with those people.”


Loveless eventually embraced the country influences she grew up with, musicians like Loretta Lynn and Hank Williams, and channeled them into her own music.


“It wasn’t really a conscious decision,” she said of her progression into the country genre. “I was already playing country, but it was more of an outlet to play punk and it was a chance to get on stage and not have to worry about what I was wearing or being serious and professional.”


Loveless signed to Bloodshot Records in early 2011. Reps from the label saw her band perform at SXSW Music Festival, but she wasn’t signed right away — it took a year of writing back and fourth to see if Loveless would be a good fit.


She’s currently touring the country, getting music lovers familiar with Indestructible Machine, her debut album on Bloodshot, released Sept. 13. On Nov. 16, she stopped in Kansas City to play at the Riot Room with local openers Hotdog Skeletons and Rich & Uncle Penny Bags.

 

Maybe it was because of the impending workday or maybe it was just too cold to go out, but attendance was sparse that Wednesday night. Still, Loveless expressed gratitude to those supporting her, though she seemed worn down.

 

“That’s about as much emotion I can put in my voice after four weeks of singing loudly every night,” Loveless confessed during her set.

 

Despite this, she truly thanked her KC fans by pushing through and delivering a flawless, meaningful performance.

 

At 21, Loveless possesses a timeless voice and a sass that current popular country stars just can’t touch; she may have given up her punk rock past, but there’s still an anger in her music, and she carries it in many of the songs on Indestructible Machine, an anger — and sadness —fueled by whiskey.

 

Some highlights of the set included “Steve Earle,” not about the singer-songwriter but a mega fan who wouldn’t leave Loveless alone, and “Can’t Change Me,” a song catchy enough to appeal to the masses without losing that couldn’t-care-less attitude; Loveless refuses to be anything for anyone but who she is — not for her significant other, not even for Jesus.

 

However, Loveless isn’t always so brash. She has a vulnerable side, too, which she shared with “More Like Them” and “Learn To Say No,” also from her latest record.

 

Loveless said she’s always writing, and her current influences are playing shows with bands she really likes, traveling to places she’s never been before and having new experiences.

 

Her tour wraps up in early December. While being a full-time musician can be tiring, Loveless uses the difficulties as a means to keep going. As a touring artist, her goals are modest: “I just want to be able to be comfortable and pay my bills as a musician.

 

“It’s kind of inspiring in a way to be challenged,” Loveless said. “If I weren’t challenged or pushed to be busy all the time, I would just be sitting in my house afraid to go out. It’s probably good for me to have all those responsibilities.”

 

Melissa Cowan can be contacted at mcowan0@gmail.com.