“Welcome to my bachelor pad,” Lydia Loveless sings at the outset of her new LP. “I stay here when things get bad.” Titled “Dead Writer,” the song was the first in a collection that would chronicle a major turning point in the roots-rocker’s life. Daughter, out today, is the first Loveless album since her divorce from her longtime bassist Ben Lamb, the first since her departure from her longtime home base of Columbus, the first since her messy falling out with longtime label Bloodshot Records. If these past four years have been a time of global upheaval, her personal and professional life has mirrored that tumult.
So it’s perhaps unsurprising that Daughter is a Lydia Loveless album unlike any other. Her sardonic wit and powerfully twangy croon are instantly recognizable, and her songs remain as purposeful and direct as ever. But these 10 tracks find her expanding on the sonic exploration of 2016’s tremendous Real, shading new styles and nuances into a straightforward template. Recording at the Loft in Chicago with Wilco accomplice Tom Schick, Loveless and her band teased their sound out in various directions, often morphing the songs beyond their barebones barroom rock origins in ways that recall everyone from the Replacements to Kate Bush. It’s almost like if Waxahatchee made an album in the mold of Wilco’s deeply moody and subtly adventurous Ode To Joy; you can hear the fog Loveless was under when she wrote these songs, as well as the inspiration that seemed to strike again and again.
To commemorate Daughter’s release today, Loveless shared the story behind every track on the album. Press play and read on.
1. “Dead Writer”
I was really unhappy for the last couple years of my marriage, which makes me sound like a huge jerk, but I just wasn’t capable of being a good spouse at that age. I was participating in horribly self-destructive behavior, nothing exciting, but I certainly got into situations where I could have been horribly injured or killed. I was living out some stupid caricature of ’60s literature, drinking too much and thinking it was a creative motivator to be in an utterly dismal, bleak mood all the time and treat other people like garbage. Turns out it wasn’t — but this was the first song I wrote for the record, so maybe in some ways it was just the inspiration I needed!
2. “Love Is Not Enough”
There were people saying, when Trump got elected, how great it was going to be for music. I can’t even express how much that irks me. I think right now we’re all swimming in sadness and confusion and trying to figure out how to contribute in the right way, but sometimes you have to cut the platitudes out and take action. I guess that was the thought process that made this song. I wrote it in my head for a long, long time, not knowing if I really wanted to do anything with it until I was at The Loft recording some demos and decided it was then or never. I recorded it on the piano and there it was. I love the jangly guitars Todd [May] and Jay [Gasper] added, making it more musical against the very low register (for me anyway) I sang it in.
I think this song has evolved for me over time to mean a lot more things than just a romance ending. Every verse deals with a different person or situation, the last verse being about a business relationship I had for many years that sucked me dry and left me feeling really burnt out. I started working on it as a guitar loop, and I sat down and had it all planned out but somehow ended up recording the loop backwards and just wrong enough that I could never recreate it. So I carried around a Ditto looper forever with this messed up loop on it until I could play it for the guys. I love that it has a moody Kate Bush vibe.
4. “Can’t Think”
I’m always struggling with the battle between being responsible and diligent and going off the rails, especially when I’m in love with someone. I think it’s my Virgo sun/Pisces moon thing. I kept hearing the chorus as a round — which is annoying to construct, but it paid off so well in the end. I wrote it in my closet with a crappy loop and an even worse drum beat I had made. George [Hondroulis] kept the drums so tight and drum-machine like on the final recording that it made it easy to lock into the vocals. I love the way this one came out.
5. “Say My Name”
I have no idea why, but this song always makes me think of this bar in Columbus called O’Reilly’s. It’s super dark and old-manish, and it feels like you’re waiting for something or someone. I think I was going there a lot when I wrote this, and generally moping around and wasting time, trying not to go home. This song is about being so into someone that you lose your sense of self and generally act like a fool, which is my M.O.
I kept hearing the chorus in my head in George Michael’s voice. I usually know I’m going to take something somewhere when that happens, when I can hear it in someone’s style, because it amps me up. I write a surprising number of songs “in” other people’s voices. It just sort of fell out at the piano, which I was not expecting. It’s my favorite on the album, I think. Again with the round style vocals at the end, which I just love.
I went to lunch with my friend Amy who is a poet and a super inspirational human, and we drank wine and cried and talked about everything under the sun. I was complaining about this idea for a song that I had but was too scared it would come off preachy or cornball. I was about to leave for the second to last band practice before we went into the studio and she basically said, “You’re going to write this song today.” And I was like, “Sure.” And I started playing the keyboard at practice, and it all came out so much better than I had ever imagined. It sounds sexy and sad on the recording, which is my aesthetic for sure.
8. “When You’re Gone”
I wrote this after a very important person to me had attempted suicide. I felt incredibly shattered and scared of the finality of it all staring me in the face. It’s about death and finality and anger and sadness when someone doesn’t want to be here anymore. Short and sweet.
9. “September” (Feat. Laura Jane Grace)
When I was 14 my family lost our home I had grown up in. We moved into this house that was very small and everyone was struggling with years of trauma and unchecked depression and we were all just encased in our sadness. The house was next to a golf course, and several times men exposed themselves to me when I would walk by there. It was hellish, especially as a teen.
My brother and I were very close, and he was obsessed with studying birds at that age — that’s where the line “I can see that you’re a bird….” comes from. A lot of it is a fantastical viewpoint in which I get to be a hero and rescue my kid brother. The rest is bits and pieces of things that happened in the short time we lived in that house, but it’s a song about escape and starting over, and probably hoping to be rescued by a hot dude. It allowed me to let go of a lot of pain, finally recording it, as it is a fairly old song I’ve never felt comfortable releasing.
10. “Don’t Bother Mountain”
This is definitely one of those making-the-sausage songs to talk about. I had finally watched Cold Mountain after like 30 years of it being out, and at the end I shouted, “More like DON’T BOTHER mountain!” at my boyfriend cuz….I’m so funny. I don’t know why I was going through this Civil War phase and also had severe creative block. So when I got the idea for the music I had no idea what I wanted to say or who I was feeling like. It was in the early stages of plotting the record which is always very bleak to me, and that’s essentially what the song is about, the sadness and reluctance of starting over.
Daughter is out now on Honey, You’re Gonna Be Late Records. Buy it here.