After a year on the road in support of her 2016 breakthrough album “Real,” Lydia Loveless had to take stock of her life outside the tour bubble of the van, venues, shows and motels.
“As a musician, you’re touring all the time and not always paying attention to what’s going on with you,” she said. “Then you get into the real world and it hits you. I think that’s what happened to me. I had so much time off this year, I went into a huge depression.”
It took a few months for Loveless to come out of the depression that was caused, in part, by a divorce. In that time, she made some changes in her lifestyle, the biggest of which was moving.
“I’m about to be a farm girl again,” said Loveless, who grew up on an Ohio farm. “In August, I’m moving to a little homestead in North Carolina. I'm like, ‘Oh my God, do I have the constitution for this?’ ”
While she gets ready for life in country, Loveless has started writing songs again, something she couldn’t do when she was depressed.
“When that finally lifted, I've been able to write,” she said. “It’s hard to be creative, at least for me, when you’re depressed. It’s not what people think. They think the songs come out of the depression. They don’t. ... I’m definitely writing more now. Pretty much everything can go wrong and if I’m creative, I'm OK. I’ve got like three new ones that are kind of typically schizophrenic.”
So are those songs going to be like those on “Real,” an album on which she added Replacements rock ‘n’ roll and Britney Spears pop to her Richard Hell-meets-Hank Williams country-punk mix?
“Who knows?” said Loveless, who has released a new collection of singles, rarities and covers called “Boy Crazy and Single(s)” to bridge the gap before the next studio album. “It’s more about what kind of mood you’re in when you get into the studio. I know one thing, I’m trying to get out of the old, white man Americana scene. I probably just alienated 800 people. But I’ve got to shake things up.
“I'd always rather be seen for what I am, for what the songs are rather than how country is something,” she said. “How many country points do I get? I don't care. It's a really rough scene to be in, especially as a lady.”
“Real” started that Americana rejection, and drew a younger audience, and far more women, to her shows.
But Loveless said she had never intended to get pigeonholed into a genre, even one as amorphous as Americana, and never wanted to keep her music the same from year to year or album to album.
“All the artists I admire are chameleons,” said Loveless. “That’s why we've all been so sad about Prince and (David) Bowie. They changed and explored and took chances. For me it was (never) 'Indestructible Machine' was good, let’s make 'Indestructible Machine 2.' ”
“Indestructible Machine” from 2011 was Loveless’s first album on Bloodshot Records. But she started making music years before that. Growing up in a musical family, Loveless began playing piano at 8, became the bassist in her sister’s band at 13, started writing songs and singing at 15.
She began writing songs for “The Only Man,” her 2010 independently released album, when she was 17. That led her to reflect on the perils of being a direct, brutally honest songwriter at a very young age.
“Every day I do that,” Loveless said. “When you have the concrete proof of what you were going through at 17, it’s like ‘Really, did that have to be preserved?’ ”
That said, Loveless has no regrets about what’s she said in song, be it brash or vulgar. She has points to make and a very direct way of making them.
“I think the thing I despise most about society is the amount of lying that goes on,” she said. “I can come across as the harsh, judgmental jerk. But I have to be brutal.”
But don’t expect Loveless to bring that raw brashness to everyday conversation, be it after a show or in an interview.
“Offstage, I’m really kind of shy,” she said. “I’m a really private person I would say. Music, it gives me a chance to get stuff out there. People expect me to be the same way. No. That’s why I made a record.”