20 Questions With Patty Loveless

She Talks About Dwight, Dolly and Dreamin' My Dreams

Whether she’s sassy (“Blame It on Your Heart”) or soulful (“You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive”), Patty Loveless can dig into a country song like few others. And she’s up and at ’em again with her new album, Dreamin’ My Dreams, choosing old songs by Delaney Bramlett, Steve Earle and Richard Thompson, along with new tunes by Tony Arata, Jim Lauderdale and Leslie Satcher. Answering these questions from fans, Loveless dishes on her favorite homemade Indian meal, abandoning the instant messages on her computer and why she’d like to live in Europe for a few months.

1. Whose idea was it to have that “twisty” guitar intro on “Keep Your Distance”?

Well, that twisty guitar intro was Emory Gordy Jr. [Gordy is Loveless’ husband and producer.] And actually it’s not guitar. Itt’s steel. (laughs) Is that bizarre or what? It’s a great sound, and it was just one of those that was his idea. But the idea of me kicking it off sounding more mountainous, with the voice, was my idea. (laughs) So you combine the two.

2. What is it like to work with Dwight Yoakam on your new album?

What was it like to work with Dwight? It’s always great working with Dwight, no matter what the situation is. Technology makes it possible for us to be able to be on each other’s records when we’re so far away. He was at a distance — like “Keep Your Distance” — so we decided to try to get him to put his vocals on after we got through with our part of it. And, oh, I’m so glad we were able to do that. There are so many records out there that I’d like to sing on, but sometimes when I’m on the road or somewhere else, it’s so difficult for me to be there at the time that they want me. Now this makes it possible even more.

3. I have almost worn through Mountain Soul by playing it so often. Is there a chance you will make another CD (hopefully several) with similar songs?

Well, maybe later on, but this particular album that I’ve got out now, Dreamin’ My Dreams, there’s a mixture of the more contemporary Patty Loveless and then, of course, some stuff such as Mountain Soul. But there’s a song on Dreamin’ My Dreams called “Big Chance” that is kind of the follow-up story to “Pretty Little Miss” on Mountain Soul. It’s done in the same form. It kind of describes the way I was when I was a kid and the young girls back there. At 8, they’re thinking about getting married. They don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. (laughs)

4. I would really like to hear more of your music that borders on a sort of “country blues,” like “Jealous Bone” and a few other songs you’ve done. Have you ever considered an album centered around this type of music, sort of like you did with mountain music and Mountain Soul?

I’ve always tried to mix all the influences that I have pulled from many different genres of music. “The Trouble With the Truth” felt to me like an Otis Redding thing, or even Percy Sledge could have possibly done that song. I’ve always been a big huge fan of Otis Redding and Percy Sledge, but I’ve never really considered doing a complete record of nothing but kind of “bluesy country.” But I’ll keep it in mind.

5. Are there any songs you have a hard time singing because they are just so emotional and perhaps too close to home?

Goodness, “How Can I Help You Say Goodbye,” “The Grandpa That I Know,” “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” Especially “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive.” It speaks about a coal miner that is struggling to make a life for his family, and my dad went through the same thing. He had to end up working in the coal mines for 28 years. And because it describes my grandfather. The first time that he went into the coal mines, because his father had died, he was like 14 years old. He was trying to help his mom because he was the oldest of all the children. Eastern Kentucky, where I was born — it just reminds me a whole lot of that.

6. Is there a song from an old CD that you think should have been released, but wasn’t?

Oh, gosh. There was one song “To Feel That Way at All.” It was on The Trouble With the Truth record, and it was written by Jim Lauderdale. It really pulls you in, and it’s the story of this person that just really wants to share their feelings and affection. It just pulls all these emotions out. Gosh, it’s been so long ago since I’ve listened to the record now.

7. Does it frustrate you that your songs are not getting as much airtime lately?

The only thing that frustrates me sometime is that I’m in competition with my own self. (laughs) I know I’m in competition with many others out there, and the format’s very, very small. The thing that is so frustrating is that I would love for people to hear the new music, but I feel fortunate that they still get to hear some old Patty Loveless classics. … I know a lot of stations out there play a lot of old country classics and sometimes mix it with the new country of today. I guess the old Patty Loveless is still in competition with the new Patty Loveless. She keeps hanging in there.

8. How do you determine your set list at a concert?

It depends on the venue. If it’s outdoor and there’s another band on, especially like a festival or something like that, I’ll take all that into consideration. People are outside. Are they really concentrating on what’s going on up there? It all depends if I know that I can lock ’em in to get them to listen to something. For the most part, I still decide by just filling it out when we get there that day of the show. Of course, if there aren’t really any other bands going on, then I go, “Hmmm, I’ve got to figure this one out.” It depends if you’ve got somebody in a small theater or somewhere there’s not a lot of movement going on. Then you’ve got their full attention. That’s when a song like “The Grandpa That I Know” or “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” go over very well because people are listening and hanging on to every word.

9. How do you unwind between shows or out on the road?

I unwind with my band. They’re my friends. They’re my family. After I’ve done my part, we all take care of each other out there. I enjoy unwinding with them and talking about the show and what went right and what went wrong with the performance. We like talking about the night of the performance and then listening to music together or watching a movie that everyone wants to see. But sometimes we just go off and get into our bunks and maybe pull out a book to read.

10. Is there any place or any country that you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t been to yet?

Oh, there are so many. I would love to go to Ireland. I would love to go to Scotland. I would love to go to Australia. I haven’t been to Australia yet. So many places I’ve missed. I would love to go to Europe and do a European tour. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t mind just going there to live for a couple of months and just tour. Live there for a while and then come back. I think that would be the perfect way to do it actually.

11. I am a huge fan from Saudi Arabia. Will you ever have a world tour, say for example, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates?

Goodness, what a question. I could possibly … That’s way, way in the future. Never say never. I’ll put it that way. Never say never.

12. Are you and Vince Gill ever going to record together again?

It’s bizarre that you asked. I am getting ready to go in to work with Vince. I think he has a new project that he’s working on. But I don’t know if I’m going to make it or not. I don’t know if I’ll make the record. I’ve got to go in there and see first. I’m sure that we will work together again. Let’s say that.

13. Have you ever worked professionally with Reba McEntire? If so, what is it like working with her?

In my early years, I was opening for Randy Travis and Reba. It was Reba’s show. She was always great. She’d sit out there during soundchecks, and we’d sit and talk with each other. I really do think Reba is a wonderful person and a very, very good businesswoman as well. She knows her stuff, and she knows what she wants, and she goes after it. But she’s a down-to-earth person. She truly is. I love being around her.

14. When you were starting out, what did you learn from working with Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton?

There’s so much I learned from them: songwriting ability, how to entertain people, how to talk to people from the stage. I picked up a lot about the business from them.

15. Several country music artists are releasing albums of classic songs. Would you consider doing that? If so, which songs would you choose?

Well, goodness what songs would that be? There are so many out there. To me, I have recorded a classic: [Waylon Jennings’] “Dreaming My Dreams With You” … (long pause) “Blue Moon of Kentucky” by Bill Monroe.

16. How do you stay so slim, trim and fit?

I used to work out, but now I take into consideration any kind of housework and anything that I’m doing out in the yard or anything like that. To me, that is a great workout. (laughs) When I’m at home, I like to go for long walks with my dog, Shasta, and go hiking because I love being outside. But out on the road, for the most part, I really don’t get that much exercise, except when I may go walking with one of the girls or a couple of girls, in the band. They don’t like for me to get out there by myself.

17. What’s your favorite dish to cook for yourself?

I can get bored with my cooking. At the same time, when I’ve been on the road for a while and I do get to come home, it’s like I’m learning all over again. I love cooking with Indian spices and I do love making Alu Gobi. Alu Gobi is cauliflower and potatoes in a tomato sauce and it’s all these different spices of cardamom and coriander and cumin and, of course, black pepper, without a doubt. I’m trying to think of everything that went into it. Oh yeah, and turmeric, which actually gives it a little color. It doesn’t really give it flavor. I enjoy that dish. You can have it with chicken or anything. It’s a great potato dish, but you also get cauliflower along with it. It’s pretty fast. It’s easy.

18. What do you like the most about living in Georgia?

When I come to stay in Georgia, it makes me feel like it’s sort of like Kentucky. It feels like Tennessee. Even though it’s farther south, it still has the mountains and the trees. Our home is built out in the woods with a lot of acreage out here. It’s very wild, and I just love that. It totally gets me out of the city, completely out of the city. But the city keeps getting closer and closer to us all the time.

19. Do you ever use instant messaging on your computer, or do you like chatting?

I did at first, but that’s been years and years ago. I quit that because I would be in the kitchen and I’d be cooking or doing something and an instant message would come up. I’d go over, and then I’d want to make conversation. So I said, “No, I’m gonna quit that.” Or if I was online with somebody else, one would pop up, and I said, “No, I’m not gonna do that.” I don’t really get in the chat rooms or anything like that, but I do communicate as far as e-mails. I go on when certain Web sites are brought to my attention. I go on and look at those.

20. Are you ticklish on your feet?

I used to be, but I’m not anymore. I overcame it.