Alt-country singer-songwriter Lydia Loveless was the star of a documentary released this past year called "Who is Lydia Loveless?" But anyone who’s listened to Loveless’ music likely feels as though they have a pretty good answer to that question. After all, over the course of her first five albums – including her fittingly titled latest record, "Real," released just last month – Loveless has built an impressive and lauded musical resume of honest, authentic songs talking about love, life and all of the joys and struggles they bring.
Before she brings that direct songwriting sensibility to Colectivo’s Back Room on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 8 p.m., we chatted with Loveless to get some direct answers directly from the source – about "Real," about being real and about that time Milwaukee gifted her boxes upon boxes of chicken wings.
OnMilwaukee: You just released your new album, "Real." What was the process of bringing that together?
Lydia Loveless: It was kind of written on the road, and then once we got home, we started ironing things out. It’s probably the most pre-production I’ve ever done. Went into the studio to do what we were considering to be demos and then we realized that we had pretty much just recorded our entire record. So it was actually quite enjoyable! (laughs)
Was there a particular song where you realized, "This is coming together; this is the album"?
Yeah, it was actually "Heaven" when we realized that there was no way we could recreate this any better than what we just done. I mean, maybe that’s a possibility, but we’re just like, "Why would we ever mess with this?"
It was funny, because I wasn’t trying to be super secret about anything; I was just wanting to get some ideas. We were about to go start making this documentary, and I was like, "What if we just sort of hammered out our ideas before we start getting really heavily into being filmed all the time." Let’s just try to have one last fun record alone and then I was like, "Oh. We’re just making the record now. Crap. Everyone’s going to hate me." (laughs)
What was it about "Heaven" that really felt like, "This is working"?
Mostly just the guitar work was really amazing for me because I had heard it in my dream, and it took like 8,000 years of torturous band practice before we started actually getting a direction for it. It was just really exciting to hear us do something with different influences than people would normally expect from us. That made me really happy.
Coming off of your past albums, "Real" is certainly a bit poppier. Was that a conscious decision to go for that different sound, or did that just develop out of the songs?
Yeah, I think the songs just kind of direct themselves for me. It’s not like I was going for poppy or slicker; it’s just that that’s where we were at the time. And a lot of people are like, "It sounds like a disco record," and I’m like, "You just need to listen to more music, because it’s not disco." (laughs) And I don’t think pop is a dirty word at all either.
Yeah, there’s this attitude sometimes that pop is going mainstream or selling out.
Yeah, or that it’s disposable. It’s just good music.
Were you concerned about going pop or going slicker? That fans might rebel or have an adverse reaction?
I don’t know if I was concerned about that, but I was concerned about people thinking it was some sort of middle finger to my previous records or like I was pulling a Taylor Swift. But to me, it just feels like a natural evolution, and I was ready to make a more interesting and varied record. I don’t know; people seem to be digging it, so I’m pretty pleased with that result. No one’s sent me death threats for selling out or anything. (laughs)
I mean, it’s funny because I made it with the exact same band and the same producer, so it’s not like I threw everyone out and fired everyone and started over and signed my soul away to the devil or anything. There’s some keyboards, I don’t know. (laughs)
You brought up your documentary before. What was that like being filmed all the time?
It wasn’t quite 24/7, but it’s definitely weird. You start to wonder why anyone would want to do that at a certain point. I don’t think anyone feels like, "I should be the subject of a documentary! I am fascinating!" But you kind of forget after a while that they’re there, which is nice … and also dangerous. (laughs)
This has a different approach than many music docs, taking on like the minutia of life as a band.
Gorman (Bechard, the director) just wanted to present what it’s like to be a mid-level band and what that looks like. I think it was funny because we had been on tour at that point for, like, three years with barely much time off, and he was on tour with us for like two days and was like, "It’s SO boring!" and we’re like (laughs) "Uh, no sh*t." He also was filming us in like North and South Dakota, where it’s admittedly not that exciting to drive through, but we’ll try to you a good time.
Obviously, with the name of the album and the lyrics, what does being real or authentic mean to you in this industry?
It’s sort of become my brand, authenticity, and it’s like shouldn’t everyone try to be themselves? But music has become such a commodity, and it’s more for entertainment than actually appreciating art at this point. It’s really weird for somebody like me, who’s not interested in shocking anymore or trying to be the biggest scumbag in the music industry, but I’m never going to totally clean myself up and become something that I’m not.
And there’s so many stories and so much awareness – especially with things like Kesha’s case of like, "Yeah, you can find the contract of your dreams, and then it can really come to bite you in the ass." To me, it’s very important to hold onto, "Am I making art that I want to make?" Because if I’m not, then there’s absolutely no point in doing this, and I’ll just walk away. If everyone’s just watching me sing a bunch of stupid songs that I don’t care about, then I’m just singing stupid songs that I don’t care about for a living just to pay my rent when I could just work at McDonalds and do that. Though I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent, but I’d could work at McDonalds and make some money. (laughs)
Do you have any Milwaukee memories from your past times here?
I think I’ve only played in Milwaukee once, and I don’t remember the bar that we played at, but the bartender gave us, like, five boxes of chicken wings. Literally packed up, frozen chicken wings – and we ate those for a really long time. And that was a really nice memory; that was very nice of him. (laughs)
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.