Lydia Loveless wrote her fifth studio album, Daughter, after a self-confessed period of personal upheaval. The dissolution of a marriage and an interstate move away from her longtime home of Columbus, Ohio, left her seeking to redefine herself both inwardly and societally. Released independently, Daughter presents an electric balance of deep vulnerability and power, replete with wry humor and honest, unadorned regret.
Recorded by Tom Schick (Mavis Staples, Norah Jones, Wilco) at The Loft in Chicago, Daughter features anthemic hooks and reflective moments of spaciousness. With Loveless writing on keyboards, synths and drum loops, the work comes together to present a group of compelling songs that create a treatise on selfhood, womanhood, hypocrisies of Western society, and the reverberant pain and joy of being human. Loveless spoke with BGS from her North Carolina home about the album she considers her most personal one yet.
BGS: Daughter lays out so many emotions and states of being that women are usually cut off from expressing — there’s a lot of sardonic humor, a lot of anger and frustration, there’s this rejection that every woman should have maternal desires. I love these very plain descriptions of living with depression, and the vocals sit right on top of the mix so you can hear every single word you’re saying. What was your internal process like while writing these songs?
Loveless: I mean, I’ve always been a bit of a sad sack. [Laughs] But I always couched it with humor. I feel like I found my place on this record with that. Because I’ve had a lot of people say that it’s… they don’t really say that it’s funny, but they can sense a lot of the humor and sarcasm in it. So I feel like I got to a solid place with that and I was probably reading a lot of depressing old ‘60s writers [Laughs] so that helped pull the content along I think.
In Daughter, you write very honestly about how your personal and professional life has shifted in the last three years — a move and the end of a marriage. What is it like to make a piece of art that dealt directly with that change?
It was super cathartic. I feel particularly excited about it and confident in it because it’s a self-release so it pretty much has got my stamp all over it. I think the idea that it’s up to me to make it more successful has had some sort of reverse psychology. Like I’m not very freaked out, I’m just excited and proud, and happy with the whole process.
One of the aspects of this record that I love are the variances in instrumentation and gear — the drum loops and keys as well as analog synths. It adds this whole other dimension to the album. How did these different instruments affect the way you write, if at all?
I think it helped me a lot to come up with better melody and more focused songwriting. I think in the past I’ve always been a very hard guitar player. [Laughs] It’s not like I don’t like that or that I’m embarrassed by it, but I wanted to try something different. I felt like it opened things up a lot. The whole band was playing every instrument except the drums because we’re not all that good. [Laughs] It was very exploratory and it helped me to give the songs a lot more space than I usually do.
Is that something that you’re hoping to continue?
Yeah. I feel like every time I make a record, the only way I really break through my inevitable period of writer’s block is by doing something that I don’t know how to do, so that I can learn it and be inspired by the newness of it. I’m sure I’ll run out of things like that eventually but I think it’s what helps me stay mentally in shape, for sure.
In past interviews you’ve talked about having been totally exhausted by touring. What was it like to sort of…stop? Because right now, many of us are at home dealing with having to be still. It’s very jarring for a lot of people. What was your experience with stillness in making Daughter and also now, during the pandemic?
It’s pretty tough, because the thing I miss the most about regular life is traveling and touring. Not necessarily going to the bar or getting dinner at a restaurant. I just miss being somewhere else all the time [Laughs], because that’s my natural state. It’s definitely something that I’ve had to work really hard on not going crazy with. Because it’s something I really enjoy — so that’s been the hardest part… not being able to just go random places and hop on a plane or go to the beach or whatever, you know?
Do you have three records, books, or movies that you’re enjoying right now and would recommend to readers?
I’m reading My Brilliant Friend right now. I’m studying Italian so I wanted to read something set in Italy — not that I’m reading in Italian. [Laughs] It’s great writing and the characters are very real. My movie watching has been lots of cornball thrillers. I think everyone should see Face/Off at some point in their life to feel better about their creative endeavors. Musically, I’ve been listening to a lot of Harry Styles. I’m a basic, basic human.
This record is a compelling statement on feminism, and specifically the concept that women only have worth insofar as they can be associated relationally with a man, as a daughter, wife, sister, etc. What do you hope people take from this record — this listening experience?
I think a lot of people have been frustrated with that whole “it’s somebody’s daughter” thing for a long time. I’m sure there’s been commentary on it, but I just have personally struggled with it for so long. So I am glad that I was able to get it down in a sonically pleasing — to me — way. [Laughs] So hopefully other people find it not just moving, lyrically, but think of it as a set of solid songs instead of just me screaming into the ether about how much it sucks that people don’t get feminism!
You’ve said that “Love Is Not Enough” is the closest to a political song you’ve been able to write thus far. What are you hoping to communicate with listeners through that song specifically?
I mean, I guess it’s sort of a grumpy song. But yeah, I think we’re all going through that right now. Everyone’s taking a lot more action than before and I don’t think we can really fool ourselves of this idea that if we just vote and say kind words, everything will be okay. [Laughs] There’s a lot more work to do. I think that society is really maybe finally coming together in that sense. But I also feel like this is in some ways my most personal record ever. And I think in some ways that makes it a lot more relatable. I feel like the more personal something is, the more people can connect with it. That’s my hope.
Photo credit: Megan Toenyes