No love in the heart of the city

Lydia Loveless brings hard-hitting country tunes to Festival Palomino.

Grant Tillery

Lydia Loveless hung up the phone 15 minutes into our conversation. Right in the middle of a question, the receiver clicked, leaving an audible dial tone where Loveless’ voice — similar to that of a middle-aged person who smoked too many cigarettes over the years — was heard mere moments before. 
 
While some might perceive such a slight as insulting, the incident’s abruptness was amusing and par for the course for the direct Loveless.
 
The brash country songstress’s choppy, abrasive, carefree manner was on full display during the brief chat. Despite the disconnection, Loveless’ self-deprecating black humor was in full swing. Loveless pens country tunes where she wears her heart on her sleeve. She’ll bare her soul on stage at the Trampled by Turtles-curated Festival Palomino on Saturday at Canterbury Park.
 
While Loveless’ first two albums do a good job of capturing her attitude, it’s her third (2014’s “Somewhere Else”) that cemented her reputation as an alt-country artist on the rise. On songs like “Wine Lips” and “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud,” she unleashes raw emotions about bad decisions and illicit romances over catchy Americana melodies, drawing parallels to the country superstars of yore. Her sonic irreverence evokes the snarl of a punk-rock Wanda Jackson and the easygoing nature of the Jayhawks.
 
Finding themes for songs comes easy for Loveless. She’s a natural observer who has a knack for processing what other people are saying.
 
“Usually, I get it from eavesdropping on people,” Loveless said. “I don’t jump into things; I just feel through people’s conversations.”
 
While ideas are Loveless’ forte, winnowing them down is a painstaking endeavor for her. Many of her wacky tracks don’t make the cut for albums, though remnants of them are recycled. 
 
“Most of my songs get beheaded,” Loveless said. “They don’t make it very [far]. That sucks … but it’s also probably for the greater good of mankind.”
 
Though Loveless’ profile revolves around her country songstress prowess, her upcoming fourth album is taking a turn for the weird, combining serious thematic elements with Top 40-influenced melodies. 
 
“It’ll definitely be poppier, maybe darker … lyrically,” Loveless said with hesitation. “I don’t know if that’s possible. I’m really excited about it; it’s a step further away from the whole Americana thing.”
 
Loveless was adamant about the fact that she fell into her niche as a country artist. Her current style of playing is more indicative of the music Loveless grew up on than the musical vision she has for herself.
 
“I really hadn’t ever written songs, and that’s what was coming to me at the time,” Loveless said. “I wish I could say I ever made conscious creative decisions, but I just roll with my hormones and when the spirits move me.”
 
Raised on country, Loveless said she thought the genre was stupid as an act of rebellion against her honky-tonking parents. But an open ear and mind led her to the classic
country canon as a teenager, and the simple-chorded melodies and guitar-driven twang made an imprint on Loveless’ ear.
 
“I stopped thinking my parents were losers,” Loveless said about coming around to country music.
 
At that age, Loveless’ true loves were Top 40 pop and rock’n’roll. Both types of music are still dear to her heart, and she’ll readily admit to rocking out to Carly Rae Jepsen’s latest album.
 
“Probably the first Britney Spears album and Led Zeppelin — those were my favorite things when I was growing up,” Loveless said with a chuckle.
 
This none-too-serious persona Loveless embodies is a large part of why she captivates audiences and listeners. It also serves as an explanation for why she cut our phone call short, as well as her strange voicemail greeting, which features the slow, dopey voice of an anonymous man.
 
“That’s my guitar player making fun of my voice, so we decided to make it my voicemail,” Loveless said. “Surprisingly, it is not actually me.”