Lydia Loveless sings a song about being stalked by Steve Earle.
“He won’t stop calling and I’m not sure how to blow him off / He stands outside my window until I have to call the cops,” she sings in a perfect Midwestern drawl.
The 22-year-old Ohio singer also mentions cocaine in that song, and there are many other twangy numbers about boozing, cheating, leaving, and more boozing.
So, it will surprise no one that Loveless cites as influences both Loretta Lynn and the hard-living barfly poet Charles Bukowski.
After a long swing through Europe, where her rowdy brand of alt-country has become surprisingly popular, Loveless and her band are stopping in Billings on Saturday for a 9 p.m. show at the Railyard Ale House.
Although barely 5 feet tall, Loveless packs a huge Kelly Hogan-sized voice, and she has the kind of swagger that adds a believability to her unvarnished take on life.
“ ‘Cause my daddy was a preacher, but he was a junkie, too / I grew up on whiskey and God, so I’m a little bit confused,” she wails in one song.
Her daddy really was a preacher, who hauled his young family into the woods of rural Ohio where the kids were homeschooled, the girls wore dresses, and they all worked an 80-acre farm and shunned the evils of the world.
After about a decade, a rift in the church sent the family back to secular living.
“I was happy about that,” Loveless recalled. “It meant I could listen to rock music and paint my fingernails again. It had been real strict for a while.”
Her father took up barkeeping and booked local bands. It wasn’t unusual for her to wake up to find an unwashed traveling country singer asleep on the couch.
“I had an interesting childhood,” she said. “I learned all the things I needed to learn to be a country singer.”
Loveless’ most recent album, “Indestructible Machine,” got lots of great reviews and landed her on Spin Magazine’s short list of the “Next great artists in the United States.”
Not just in America, it turns out, but Europe as well.
Loveless toured Sweden recently where she said she was “treated like a country goddess.”
“There’s something about the culture there, something I don’t completely understand, that makes them like country music,” she said. “Maybe it’s because there are a lot of wide, open spaces there, too.”
Their knowledge of American country music runs deep, too.
“They knew more about it than I did,” Loveless said. “It was kind of embarrassing getting schooled by a Swede in your own music.”
In Europe, she changed her set list occasionally to include covers of alt-country standards like Townes Van Zandt’s “Poncho and Lefty.”
“And they knew every word,” she said.
All the praise for her new album has lifted Loveless into bigger venues, making for fewer surprises on the road. She once found herself performing to one person in a Japanese restaurant in Canada.
“And it was some weird guy who kept yelling, ‘I’m sorry no one is here,’ ” she said. “And I thought, ‘Yeah, there is someone here and he keeps yelling.’ ”
And, no, she hasn’t heard from Steve Earle.
“I’ve heard he doesn’t listen to, or read, anything about himself,” she said. “So, he’s heard of it, but not heard it. I guess that’s OK.”