By Jeffrey B. Remz, September 2000
hoto by Morello/GhergiaPatty Loveless figured it was about time for a break. Finally. After slogging through recording studios, concerts and the requisite duties of being an artist, Loveless had about enough.
The result was no album from the queen of country for a few years, at least until "Strong Hearts" hit the bins in late August.
"I've been touring ever since '85," says Loveless in a telephone interview from on the road. "It hasn't been probably the glamorous type of lifestyle. The fact is that I needed to kind of just rejuvenate myself, get away from it, get away from the road and miss it."
"If it hadn't been for the people and the audience, it would have been really hard to survive all of those years. There was sometimes only 45 minutes when I was opening for Vince (Gill). Some nights was a 60, some nights a 75, and some nights a 90. You just couldn't keep the juices flowing here. Sometimes it wasn't always the best situation. Sometimes the sound was good. Sometimes the sound wasn't."
The road obviously had taken its toll on the 43-year-old soft-spoken, mild-mannered Kentucky native.
"I slept on the bus every night. I showered in a hotel every day. It got to the point where the road was wearing me down, wearing me thin. We travelled 8, 12 hours last night. After awhile, it gets to a body. It gets to a voice too. There were many things I was missing in my life."
"I wanted to have a child which I wasn't able to," says Loveless.
Personal tragedies also entered into the mix.
"I lost my sister," she says. "I almost lost my husband." Loveless' sister had been sick for awhile with emphysema. Her husband, Emory Gordy Jr., who also produces her albums, was in the hospital, ill for several months before recovering.
"My body was torn down I tried to be strong. I tried to accept everything that was going on. I (could have had) a nervous breakdown."
"I've really had to get away. It was getting to the point where my heart wasn't feeling what i was doing any more. I was feeling all this hurt and anger. You go through this anger. Then trying to accept and being in front of thousands and thousands of people every night and trying to smile and making like you're having a great time...I wasn't being true to the people out there."
Loveless says she wasn't very good at hiding her feelings from her fans either.
"I'm very open. Some times I feel very negative. There were times they noticed. It wasn't them. It was me."
Loveless says the break gave her time in the recording studio as well without any immediate deadline looming overhead.
The time also gave her the chance to snare folks like Steve Earle, Trisha Yearwood and Travis Tritt to play or sing on the album.
Earle's very prominent harmonica on the opener hard-edged "You're So Cool" is the first sound you hear. Yearwood sang backing vocals on "My Heart Will Never Break This Way Again," and Tritt performs the same chores on "Thirsty."
The connection with Earle goes back a number of years. Loveless recorded Earle's "A Little Bit in Love" for her second album, "If My Heart Had Windows," which yielded her first top 10 hit, the title track.
"I fell in love with the song when I heard song I heard it," she says of "You're So Cool." "It's sort of my flirty side, my humorous song. A grown ' woman can get a crush. A married woman can get a crush. The women I play to and the men I play to every night, I think they get it. It's okay to be who you are. Don't be afraid to express yourself."
"She Never Stopped Loving Him" isn't exactly for the uptempo feel-good crowd. The song talks of a woman's never dying love for her deceased husband and her heartache after he passes away.
"I don't necessarily want to give the song away, but I know eventually media will have to. I want people to listen to it, and people will think they're watching a movie. It's one of those spiritual type songs. I think of my mother. I think of so many spouses out there - women - that sometimes women express themselves more to men, but sometimes there are men that don't really know that women felt that way about him. No matter what, she never stopped loving him."
While picking other writers' quality songs befitting her style has always been a hallmark of Loveless' albums, she wrote her first song that appeared on her album since co-writing "Go On" with Roger Murrah for "Honky Tonk Angel," her third album from way back in 1988.
Together with Gordy, Loveless wrote "You Don't Get No More," one of two bluesy songs, a style on which Loveless acquits herself quite well.
"I'm pretty rusty," she says of writing. "I was getting together and writing with some people. There were some songs that were coming across, but I'm very critical of the writing that I do. When we were writing, he said, 'we've got to get something of yours on here. I said, 'Okay, I'll do it. He's responsible for the music, and lyrically, it was he and I together."