Lydia Loveless is animalistic. She's fickle and she's wild. Sometimes, the Ohio-bred farm girl is charming and almost vulnerable -- but that "purr" is almost always closely trailed by a razor-sharp hiss.
Her contradictions don't end there; Loveless' powerhouse voice and lyrical insight also defy her tender age.
"When people first see me," Loveless says, during a recent phone call, "they often say, 'I was expecting an old, tall woman!' But I'm 5 feet tall and 23 years old," she corrects. "I guess we all have our visions of people."
Seeing Loveless in-concert quickly debunks any "old" misconception; onstage, she has the uninhibited energy that only a 23-year-old could have.
She aimed to capture that same live vibe while recording her third and latest album, Somewhere Else.
"We record everything as live as possible to preserve the idea that we're either just playing in the basement, or that we're onstage," she says. "That's the sound I like."
Clearly not short on ideas, Loveless scrapped an entire album's worth of "subpar" material before writing Somewhere Else.
"I think letting go of those [unused] songs was a good exercise for me," she considers. "Many musicians say their songs are like their babies -- but I never want to be like that, especially with my bad songs...so I had to kill them."
For a woman with the reputation of being a combative badass, Loveless is rather thoughtful as we speak; it's her afterthoughts that reveal her underlying edge. If we guessed artists' cities via their sound alone, her honky-punk hybrid sounds better suited for the trendier alt-country capitals of the South than Columbus, Ohio, where she resides with her husband and bassist Ben Lamb. But she's a Midwest girl at heart.
"I've thought about living in Austin or Nashville," Loveless reveals, "but I just like the Midwest. My favorite band is The Replacements," she adds. "We're both angry, stubborn Midwesterners freezing our asses off -- but those are the kinds of people I identify with."
We've witnessed Loveless' "angry, stubborn" attitude onstage. During her performance at SXSW 2013, we watched her unabashedly sprawl across the grimy stage floor in a hiked-up miniskirt while still playing guitar.
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But it wasn't the fact that half of Continental Club learned that night what color underwear Lydia Loveless wears; rather, it was her raw, reckless abandon that made her particularly memorable. Furthermore, for a woman who struggles with debilitating anxiety offstage, Loveless somehow sheds apprehension while performing.
"It's like being possessed," she says, of her contrastingly fearless stage persona. "Talking to people after the show still terrifies me," she specifies, "but I play off my bandmates' spontaneity while onstage. A lot of bands keep everything the same every night," she compares, "but I can't do that. The danger in wondering what's going to happen each night keeps things exciting."
Offstage, Loveless is trying to ease her struggles with anxiety via some alternative approaches.
"I've started going to acupuncture for my anxiety, though I'm quitting smoking now too, so I wouldn't say my anxiety is in a very good place," she laughs.
Her outside-the-box interests don't stop at acupuncture.
"I've been studying spirit animals," she giggles, referring to herself as a "new-age flake." And one last time, Loveless flexes both her sweet and sour sides, and in the same breath.
"My spirit animal is the brown bear, which has traits I identify with, like needing a lot of alone time to recharge," she pauses. "But after alone time...I go out and I eat people."
Lydia Loveless opens for the Old 97's Tuesday night at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. Doors open at 7 p.m.
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