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Lydia Loveless gets 'Real' about creating 'good things out of horrible feelings'

Lydia Loveless

Lydia Loveless David T. Kindler

It’s hard not to fall for Lydia Loveless, the rising alt-country star from Columbus, Ohio.

The 26-year-old musician is popping up everywhere, including at NPR, the A.V. Club, and Spin, on the buzz of her latest album, August's Real. Today, it’s a conversation with City Pages. This Saturday, it's at First Avenue with the Drive-By Truckers. 

Meet your new favorite artist.

City Pages: What is the engine driving Real?

Lydia Loveless: Aside from being an artist and having to do a thing, for this album it started with a sort of a rock-bottom point, which apparently, you can always go further. “Hey, I’m really depressed. Am I going to drag myself out of this, and create good things out of these horrible feelings?”

I put my best face forward, not only lyrically, but musically I think a lot more crafting went into this one, and I got really absorbed in the studio process. Real was something I could focus on.

CP: I feel like you are playing around with the concept of what “real” is on the whole album.

LL: I accidentally used the term “slick” in an interview, and then people were all like, “Oh, she wants to be slick, ugh." Ninety-percent of what people listen to is “slick”, but the term is somehow distasteful coming out of my mouth.

What was interesting was this time around, it was the same band, same producer, same studio, and everyone is like, “Why has the style changed?” I mean, what is my real style? I don’t think I have one particular way of doing things. That is what makes me feel “real," when I am following what I am feeling at the time.

CP: I don’t think Real should be that much of a shock to listeners if they have been paying attention to your trajectory. It feels like the next logical step.

LL: Yeah, I think so, too. My first album came out in 2010, but I started working on it in 2007. That was when I was just learning how to be in a studio. All of my records are basically me learning how to do what I am doing.

This time I was really excited to go into the studio to put what I have learned into song form instead of throwing things against the wall… Not to talk shit about my earlier records, but this one really felt good and comfortable. I felt prepared for it this time around.

CP: Speaking of peoples’ expectations, is there a bit of “DANCE, MONKEY!” with the album cover?

LL: A lot of people asking, “Why are you wearing a dumb hat?” I am obviously a monkey, duh.

CP: Playing around with, again, what’s real, who’s in charge? Who’s the monkey, and who’s turning the crank?

LL: People think of the organ grinder as being in charge because he turns the crank and takes the money, but it’s the monkey that is performing. A lot that is coming from feeling the pressure and anxiety of going out on tour. As someone with some social anxiety, I do feel like a performing monkey sometimes.

CP: The first couple seconds of “Same to You," I hear a really strong Cure reference.

LL: I like that you got that vibe. It’s probably not intentional, but there is a lot of suggestions of vibes throughout. Definitely the Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, especially Jay [Gasper], the steel player, is a huge fan of that music, so I can see how that would happen.

CP: It was on the next song, “Longer," that I knew something different was up. There are some really interesting new-wavey keyboard flourishes.

LL: Thank you. I remember working on that one on acoustic guitars with Todd [May], and it was almost turning “sludgy," and I wanted to make it happy sounding about sad feelings. More like the Cars.

CP: Who are “Midwestern guys”? They sound like real assholes.

LL: They can be. It was sort of a loving ode to assholes thing. I hang out with a lot of middle-aged dudes, and I was writing about all their weird stories, their crazy teenage years. I wonder how half of my bandmates survived, with the stories they tell. Ben’s [Lamb] stories are particularly insane.

CP: Do you want to apologize to Def Leppard right now for calling them out in the song?

LL: No! I’m not apologizing to them or their crappy blowjobs.

CP: You have an upcoming show this Saturday at First Avenue with the Drive By Truckers. How did that come about?

LL: Bloodshot Records sent Patterson [Hood, of DBT] copies of my records, and he liked them. I played a couple solo shows with him in December, and I have always wanted to open for them.

CP: You and your band, and DBT should get together and go all Temple of the Dog, and just record different versions of “Hunger Strike” over and over.

LL: I’m into it. Patterson and I already have a fake duet record called, "How Do You Say ‘Blow Me’ in Spanish?"

CP: Is that to be released?

LL: In our minds!

CP: Do you have any surprising musical influences?

LL: That’s hard to answer. Everyone seems to ask, what are the country influences, and what are the punk influences? There’s so much more. Motown, Stax, and a lot of terrible '70s smooth jams like Ambrosia. I’m a fan of music. I don’t know? Meatloaf?

CP: Everybody seems to have a Tommy Stinson [who LL recently played with] story. What’s yours?

LL: I got to listen to the new Bash & Pop record, and that was pretty fucking surreal. It’s really good. It was really cool to be on stage, with him watching, saying things like, “When are you gonna play something lousy?” I just sort of crapped my pants because when I was 13-years-old, I was that kid that someone through a bass at. We are kindred spirits, I guess.

Drive-By Truckers and Lydia Loveless 
When: 8 p.m. Sat., Sept. 24
Where: First Avenue
Tickets: $25; more info here