When she sings, Columbus, Ohio’s Lydia Loveless seems to be an open vein of emotion. She pours so much feeling into her vocals that at times she seems to be on the verge of breaking down. In fact, on one track (“Move Me Over”) from “Real,” her devastatingly dark breakup album from 2016, it really seems like Loveless starts to cry.
Typically, those incredible vocal performances are backed onstage and on album by tough, gritty alt-country arrangements played by a full band. And they’re great to listen to, but it’s exciting to know that, when Loveless plays at The Radio Room in Greenville next Thursday, it will be as part of a duo, just two guitars and that voice.
“It’s me and Todd May, who plays guitar with me,” Loveless says. “He’s been in the band for like nine years. We’ve always written together, so it’s pretty easy for us to just head out and play the songs together.”
Loveless says that the duo setup is ideal for where she is in the album-tour-album cycle, with her most recent new work about two years behind her and new songs beginning to come for her next album.
“It’s just always been a really easy dynamic with Todd,” she says. “I’m working on new material right now, so it’s not always beneficial to have a full band set in the ‘in-between times.’”
Actually, there could have been an even more intimate setup for some dates that Loveless had planned for last year; it was supposed to be her first-ever solo tour. But then…
“I had a solo tour booked last year and I chickened out,” Loveless says with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Todd, please come with me!’”
Loveless didn’t chicken out this year; she’s doing a series of solo shows leading up to her performances with May, something she said started with her “mostly just shaking with fear.” It was an intimidating step for a performer who describes herself as not just shy, but introverted and private.
“It’s been scary but not super bad,” she says. “I’ve done solo shows before, but never a whole tour when I’m carrying everything onstage and I’m also doing my merch. So it’s a lot of social interaction. But mostly it’s been exhilarating. I hope it’s exciting enough for people to watch me onstage playing guitar.”
Interestingly enough, there’s a fair amount of rearrangement that Loveless and May have had to do to her songs, mostly because of the way they created them in the first place.
“The way it usually goes is that I write the songs and then Todd and I will arrange them with the full band along the way,” she says. “You always have to make room for new parts when there’s no drums or bass going on. So there’s some rearrangement, but it’s not planned out. That’s what makes it fun, I guess.”
Anyone who’s listened to Loveless long enough knows that she has a knack not just for songwriting, but for covering other artists’ material; the stripped-down version of Elvis Costello’s “Alison” that she put out as a B-side in 2012 (later added to a reissue of her “Boy Crazy” EP) makes a dark, lonely song even more emotional, and she’s even been able to breathe life into a pop trifle by Justin Bieber (“Sorry”) by turning it into at atmospheric acoustic ballad. So it’s good to hear that the upcoming duo show in Greenville will feature some outside material, even if Loveless isn’t sure what it will be yet.
“I’ll totally be doing some covers because it’s just fun,” she says, “especially in a stripped-down kind of set.”
Lydia Loveless w/ Darby Wilcox
When: Thursday, June 21, 8 p.m.
Where: Radio Room, 110 Poinsett Highway
Tickets: $15 adv., $18 door
Info: 864-609-4441, http://www.radioroomgreenville.com/