LYDIA LOVELESS Doing laundry, zoning out.
Blackletter/Patrick Crawford

THE RECENT SXSW music festival coincided nicely with the promotional push behind Lydia Loveless' new album. Somewhere Else was released in February by alt-country super-label Bloodshot Records, and as a result, the Ohio singer/songwriter was one of those artists in Austin this March, in town to blow through eight shows in five days, from high-powered showcases for Bloodshot and Spin magazine to lower-profile gigs like the annual party of beloved Austin rockers Grand Champeen.

All that revelry is likely why she missed the Mercury's phone call for an interview, right?

"I was doing laundry and I just kind of zoned out," Loveless says, days later from her tour van in Southern California, far from the craze of SXSW. "And then I was like, 'NOOO!' and I saw all these missed calls. I had like three interviews that day while my laundry was clanking around."

Ah, the glamorous life of a buzzing young musician at the country's biggest musical showcase.

"No, it wasn't very..." Loveless says, before trailing off. "Well, it was a good year."

That's a bit of an understatement. The first three months of 2014 were spectacular for Loveless. The 23-year-old, who's from a musical family, made a splash in 2011 with her second album, Indestructible Machine, a bracing country-punk record that heightened the anticipation for this year's follow-up.

After a false start or two—Loveless says she scrapped a bunch of songs that felt like she was trying too hard to be "the epitome of alt-country"—she delivered an absolute gem. Somewhere Else finds Loveless in a fiery and confessional place, exploring the ups and downs of relationships with a lyrical bluntness that complements her powerful voice and backing band. On her third album, Loveless has turned the corner from alt-country in favor of a muscular and melodic brand of rootsy rock 'n' roll.

She describes the fuel for Somewhere Else as a "self-loathing sort of crisis" that left her feeling "disgusted" at her efforts to fit into not only a stylistic box but also to become a songwriting machine. "I had to just relax and let other influences come out, I think. People have talked about how it sounds so different, but to me it felt like the most natural progression in the world. I think for a while I was just trying to be too genre-oriented for the sake of pleasing people."

By the time she turned in Somewhere Else to Bloodshot, however, she was over that. "I just kind of gave it to them and said, 'I don't even really care what you think 'cause I think it's really good,'" Loveless says. "They were like, 'What do you want us to say about this?' And my manager was just like, 'Nothing. We just wanted to give it to you, so here it is. We don't really need any advice.'"

Her manager was right. The album is near perfect as is, and gushing reviews have poured in accordingly. At first, Loveless says the attention exceeded her expectations, although she soon admits that she'd hoped Somewhere Else would carry her name much further than ever before.

"With the second album I was just hoping that anyone would care," she says, "and people ended up caring about it a lot more than I thought, so this is about what I would expect for [this] one. Indestructible exceeded my expectations, but this was more like, 'God, I really hope that my insane, delusional fantasies come true.'"