t an age when most people are contemplating the direction of their life, Lydia Loveless has already blazed an impressive trail. The 21-year-old native of Coshocton, Ohio (between Columbus and Canton), and current Columbus resident began playing bass with her two sisters in their band Carson Drew when she was just 13 and was playing solo shows at 15. In between, the family relocated to Columbus, and shortly thereafter the band dissolved and Loveless concentrated on her solo work.
Given her upbringing, Loveless’ music career seems inevitable.
“My entire family played and wrote at some point, and I just pictured myself always doing it,” Loveless says from her Columbus home. “I just didn’t have my style yet. My boyfriend at the time introduced me to a lot of Country music and it just came naturally to me because it’s easy to play three chords and sing about how much your life sucks.”
Although Loveless certainly draws a great deal of influence from traditional Country — everyone from Hank Williams to Merle Haggard to Waylon Jennings — she considers Williams’ grandson Hank III to be her greatest guiding light.
“He just says it like it is and that was really inspiring to me,” she says. “He led me to realize that you should say what you’re trying to say and not hide it in metaphors and weird story lines that don’t make any sense.”
At the same time, Loveless is a product of her age and Rock figures heavily in her rootsy Americana output, as evidenced by her sophomore album and debut for well-respected AltCountry/Roots Rock label Bloodshot, the just-released Indestructible Machine. Like most 21-year-olds, Loveless has plenty of room in her wheelhouse for more contemporary artists.
“My mom introduced me to Elvis Costello and the Velvet Underground, and that probably influenced me as a kid,” Loveless says. “(Punk icon) Richard Hell was a big influence on me, lyrically and musically. I like a lot of poppier stuff, moreso than (current) Country, like Ke$ha and Britney Spears. It’s like my time, so I can’t not like that music. Pop/Rock like the Gin Blossoms and The Strokes inspired me when I was growing up in a hick town. They seemed like a sign from God that there was still good music out there.”
More than one critic has noticed the stylistic similarities between Loveless and Neko Case (her Bloodshot bio cites her as Case’s “tough little sister”), and while she acknowledges the compliment, there’s an edge to her acceptance.
“It was cool the first 50 times, I guess,” she says with a laugh. “I hate to sound like an ingrate, but it’s been kind of weird. Awhile ago at my job, there was a Neko Case CD playing and someone was like, ‘Is this Lydia?’ So I guess I must sound like her because everyone seems to think that’s me. There are definitely worse people that you could be sick of being compared to.”
Indestructible Machine is an amalgam of Loveless’s myriad musical exposures. She warbles like Patsy Cline one moment, rattles rafters like The Old 97s the next and it all rings true with Loveless’ powerhouse voice and resolute musical conviction. One of the album’s highlights is the song “Steve Earle,” which is not about the gifted Americana singer/songwriter but rather about a Columbus wannabe that was constantly trying to insinuate himself into Loveless’ circle. She doesn’t think the real Earle has listened to the song, although her management was trying to convince him to appear in the video. But there’s a chance that the other, more annoying Earle has heard it.
“I heard that when I played this festival, he was standing right there, so I think he heard it,” Loveless says. “I don’t know if he put two and two together. But he doesn’t call me anymore or bother me or come to my shows, so I think he might have gotten the hint.”
Loveless is looking forward to her experience playing MidPoint, as much for the opportunity to catch a set by Banderas, who she identifies as good friends, as for her own appearance. Although Indestructible Machine clocks in at a brisk 38 minutes, Loveless has plenty of material for a full set, from her own songs to inventive covers that reflect her influences across the board.
“If I’m working on something new, I’ll drunkenly subject everyone to that,” Loveless says of cover possibilities. “I do some covers, not too many, but we do Buck Owens and Hank Williams, and we’ve done Def Leppard and Metallica, which is fun, and I actually do a Ke$ha cover. I try to keep the Country ones as old-timey as possible. I’ve always been fascinated by and wanted to play Metal, so I don’t know if I Country them up … I probably stupid them up.”
LYDIA LOVELESS performs at the MidPoint Music Festival Thursday at 11 p.m. at Know Theatre on the Bioré Strip. Go here for all the MPMF details (performers, venues, new features, ticket options and latest news).