Lydia Loveless had a simple goal: “I wanted to write a really sad song about oral sex. Not necessarily because that would be funny, but because it would spark some kind of emotion.” At 23, Loveless inspires emotion through virtually all of her wiser-than-her-years songs spanning a prolific three albums and an EP, mostly on Chicago-based Bloodshot Records (Neko Case is an alum). Recently lauded as bringing back “outlaw country” by Grantland, Loveless sings don’t-give-a-shit feminist anthems for a new generation about sex, stalkers, heartbreak, and whiskey. Recently, DCist spoke with Loveless about staying healthy and sane on the road, covering Ke$ha, and dealing with internet trolls. Loveless and her band roll into 9:30 Club this Saturday night to support her latest, Somewhere Else. They will open for Texas alt-country legends Old 97’s.
DCist: So I saw you recently quit smoking. Was the timing of that related to the tour?
Lydia Loveless: It hasn’t been going too well because I smoked last night.
LL: Yeah, but I was up to a pack a day when I was touring, and I’ve cut down. I’ve been trying to get in shape and it’s harder when you’re smoking that much.
DCist: How did you go about quitting?
LL: Well, I went to acupuncture to get some voodoo magic done to lose my desire to smoke, and it didn’t really work, but it has helped with anxiety. But smoking was getting to be a crutch.
DCist: How are you working out while on tour? Do you run around the block?
LL: I have a kettlebell that I keep with me, which is great until it rolls across somebody’s foot. When I use it, I like to pretend I’m hitting my enemies in the face.
DCist: Like a giant broadsword, Game of Thrones-style.
Speaking of, do you all have a TV show that you watch together on tour? Like, Prince made his entire touring crew watch New Girl from the beginning because he’s obsessed with that show.
LL: And wasn’t he on it recently?
DCist: Yes, he asked to be.
LL: We don’t really all have the same tastes. I’m obsessed with Mad Men right now, and Orange is the New Black. Sometimes I make them watch that. I wish we were interested in the same things, but being the only girl makes that difficult sometimes.
DCist: Speaking of being a girl, I wanted to ask you about a single that’s garnered a lot of attention, “Head.” There are plenty of songs on the subject of cunnilingus, but I find a lot of them are rap songs, and a lot fewer in the alt-country genre. “Head” is more in the feminist anthem vein of Rihanna’s “Cake” than Rick Ross’s “Diced Pineapples.” Were you trying to stimulate discussion about female pleasure with “Head”?
LL: I was, kind of. After that single came out, men kept commenting to me, “It’s so interesting you wrote a song about this from a man’s perspective.” And I thought, “No, it’s not. Do women not get head?” I wrote it with my guitar player, but it’s from the perspective of a woman. I wanted to write a really sad song about oral sex. Not necessarily because that would be funny, but because it would spark some kind of emotion.
DCist: So people who have heard it a few times still think it’s from the perspective of a man?
LL: Yeah, and when men say that in particular, I think, “You are not doing right by your ladies.”
DCist: Since Columbus (Ohio) is a college town, how do you think tastes of that demographic shaped what you listen to, and what kind of music you’re creating now? I was going to ask how you chose Ke$ha’s “Blind” as the B-side for your Record Store Day release.
LL: I’m really obsessed with Ke$ha and I have been for a few years now. The first time I saw her live, I wasn’t old enough to drink, so I was sneaking in stuff. I’ve always loved pop music. I was born in 1990, so I’m destined to love shitty pop music.
Image via Lydia Loveless/Bloodshot Records.
DCist: Ke$ha isn’t shitty pop music! She’s a professional songwriter. She writes music for other people.
LL: You know, I was having an argument the other day with someone in the band, about how influential Britney Spears has been on my generation. And he was like, “Madonna did it first,” and I was like, “Whatever.” I unironically like pop music. I’m young.
DCist: I was listening to an interview with Bob Marley’s daughter, and she said her dad’s favorite cover of any of his own songs was Annie Lennox’s version of “Waiting in Vain.” What makes a good cover? Who would you want to see cover one of your own songs?
LL: I think making it your own is key. I don’t appreciate covers that are just trying to perfectly recreate a song. You have to make it your own, without doing an injustice to the song. You should change it a little bit, enough that it’s unique.
DCist: And who would you want to cover one of your songs?
LL: Well, Ke$ha, actually. I would really like Ke$ha to do one. Someone the other day was suggesting “Hurt So Bad” would be a good song of mine for her to cover, if that ever happened.
DCist: Seeing your blog posts reminded me of a time at the end of the 90's and early aughts where bands were really getting into communicating with fans through self-maintained blogs. So many band blogs now are ghostwritten, or scrubbed by labels before going up. How do you maintain that connection to a growing fanbase outside of performing? Is it social media, or facetime after shows?
LL: Definitely by meeting fans after shows. I find it increasingly more difficult because I get really tired, but I don’t want people to be like, “Lydia Loveless is a bitch.” So I also find keeping in touch with people on Twitter is useful, because you can have short exchanges with individual fans. But people say so much crappy stuff on the internet. It used to be really fun to keep in touch with your fans, but those crappy people have ruined it for the nice people. Like the other day, I read someone’s comment that I’m fat now and have gained all this weight.
DCist: Where was this?
LL: On YouTube.
DCist: Never read the YouTube comments.
LL: I know, I know.
DCist: They’re all just Illuminati conspiracy theories anyway.
LL: I love that! I read them and wonder, do these people even know what the Illuminati are?
DCist: It’s on any pop star’s Instagram. I’ve heard that Beyonce deliberately incorporates the diamond-forehead move into her stage performances as much as possible now, just to troll those people.
LL: That’s great.
DCist: Have you played in Washington before? Anything you want to check out while you’re here?
LL: I have played, I was just in D.C. for promo stuff. we did a Tiny Desk concert for NPR. We never get to do anything when we’re in cities for the night, though. When we were last in D.C., we asked as a joke, “Is there anything touristy to do in D.C.?” And people were like, “Are you insane? There are so many museums, and monuments!” Hopefully this time we can actually check out a museum.
Lydia Loveless plays the 9:30 Club on Saturday, May 31 at 8 p.m. She opens for the Old 97’s. The show is sold out.