In 2016, alternative country singer Lydia Loveless was sailing to new heights. She released her third studio album, Real, to widespread, critical acclaim from outlets like the AV Club, Rolling Stone, and Stereogum, who included the record in their annual Best Of list. She made television appearances and gained hype even outside of alt-country circles.
But, the past four years have brought a lot of change for Loveless, from leaving her record label to leaving her hometown. Possibly the biggest change of all, Loveless went through a divorce, which also affected her lineup, as her now ex-husband played bass in her band.
This whirlwind contributed to the longest gap between albums in Loveless’ career.
“I was transitioning out of my marriage and living on my own for the first time, which was weird,” she says. “So, I probably got way too depressed around then. And then, I moved to North Carolina from Ohio, so that put me even further away from being ready to start recording something.”
Loveless says she also felt winded from the previous three album cycles.
“I think I just had mega burnout,” she explains. “Which was hard for me to realize, because I didn’t feel like I worked particularly hard as a musician. And then, I realized I probably was super exhausted and burnt out from touring and emotional distress and fallout there. I think I just needed some time.”
Four years after Real, Loveless finally geared up to put her fourth studio LP out into the world. Daughter comes out on September 25 on Loveless’ own label, Honey, You’re Gonna Be Late Records. It’s a perfect album for the isolated time we’re living in, as it was written in a lonely manner, giving a bedroom-pop glaze to Loveless’s twangy country songs.
“I had a lot more time to myself,” Loveless says. “I didn’t have my band to pop down the street and work on stuff with. So, it was a mixture of new groups of people and being isolated, and also having to put songs together myself. I got a drum machine and a couple of synthesizers so I could back myself up while I was writing without having to just have me and my guitar or a piano.”
In contrast to Loveless’ previous records, which blend traditional country music with a punk rock tinge, Daughter is a much more intimate release both musically and lyrically. Loveless has always had a knack for making listeners feel like she’s right there, spilling her heart out to them. But, where her past work felt like shooting the shit with a pal on the front porch while smoking a cigarette, Daughter feels more like a confession from a close friend, of her struggles and deepest truths.
Loveless references personal aspects of her life and her past, including her relationship with her family, which she’s shied away from on previous albums.
“I think I’m always known as a love-song, relationship-song person,” she says. “There’s actually so much of my family on this record, which, it’s not easy for me to write about my family or talk about them because I don’t feel like it’s my place to parade my family members around. But, there’s so much of that on this, and the mental health issues in my family, including my own. It was interesting to tap into that without being as blatant as I would normally be when I was writing about the relationships that I’ve had.”
This practice in subtlety has helped Loveless expand her range as a lyricist. She continues, “I think it was a lot more subdued and a lot more personal, which, I think, made me improve in a lot of ways as a songwriter and lyrically.”
Thematically, the album centers around the title track, “Daughter,” which calls into question men who become interested in feminism only after they become fathers, uninterested in equality until they feel they have some stake in it.
“It’s hard to explain the whole process of people being able to appreciate equality without having ownership,” Loveless explains. “So, that was mainly what was on my mind. Because obviously, with the current administration, it’s just become a more popular topic to be the woke, feminist guy. And sometimes, it was irritating to see people still not get it [laughs]. Like, ‘I worry about my daughter in this world.’ Like, what about worrying for everyone? I’m just hoping that people can learn how to appreciate things that have nothing to do with them and still respect it.”
Loveless left Bloodshot Records after her contract expired in 2016. Now, she has a new sense of freedom, releasing Daughter through a record label she created rather than signing with someone else. She did this partially out of necessity.
“No one’s really signing anyone, much less aging—by today’s standards—old country pop artists,” she says. “So, I was just sort of like, well, I can do this myself and not have to feel the weight of asking for permission every time I have to do something or want to create something.”
There’s added pressure that comes with releasing an album on her own label, but Loveless leans into pressure. Perhaps that’s what makes her an indestructible machine.
“I think there’s more excitement as well,” she says. “If it fails, it’s all on me. So, all I can do is be super proud of it and put my all into it instead of it being, like, if someone thinks it’s kinda lame, they can just stop promoting it or not talk about it that much. It’s mine to fuck up or succeed at, which is great.”
Pick up a copy here.