TRUE TO HER ROOTS
Trad-country troubadour Patty Loveless opens up about her special childhood memories, taking risks and the importance of being honest
Patty Loveless stands in the shade of a massive oak tree in the front yard of a century-old farmhouse south of Nashville. The rope from an old tire swing sways in the breeze as she relaxes during a break in the video shoot for "On Your Way Home," the title cut from her latest album.
The home's paint is peeling and the front porch is cracked and sagging. Inside, the floors are uneven, the flowered wallpaper is faded. An old wooden ice- box sits in a long dark hallway, its door hanging open.
It's a lonely setting - perfect for the haunting video about a woman who just wants her man to be honest with her about his change of heart.
And the place reminds Patty of home.
"Oh yeah!" she exclaims. "The first shot we did today was up in the attic. It brought back memories of one house I recall in Kentucky. As a little girl, I used to go up into that attic. I tended to be sort of a loner. I guess because there were so many kids in our family and getting off by myself, to some extent, was a blessing for me."
But Patty's independent streak didn't stop at the attic.
"I used to even go climbing some of the mountains back there in Kentucky when I was a very small child," she smiles. "And my mother didn't know about it till I got back home. 'Course I wouldn't let her know about it till I got back home! I was six or seven, and that could be very dangerous for a kid.
"But, you know, she did the same thing when she was a kid! She tells me stories of how she used to be fearless. But I found the older my mother got, the more fearful she was of the surroundings - not for her, but for us. I think she probably didn't want us doin' what she did, you know?" Patty chuckles. "I didn't learn," she says with a smile.
And that's a good thing. Patty's fearless independence has served her well. Her determination to remain true to her traditional Kentucky roots has been rewarded with success and critical acclaim - at a time when many female singers are struggling on the charts.
"I am proud of this record," she proclaims. "Actually I'm proud of all the past projects I've done. I've always enjoyed the music I do. I don't think I'd be doin' it if I didn't enjoy it."
But on this day, Patty's having a harder time than usual. She's nursing a strained back - after overdoing it while rearranging furniture - and fighting a throat tickle and cough brought on by the dust in the old house. But her heart's in the song and the clip, so she's giving it her all. The tune was co-written by Ronnie Samoset and her friend and fellow artist Matraca Berg.
"I think that's why I was even drawn to the song," Patty explains, "because I sort of understand where Matraca is coming from. I have memories of my sisters who have gone through relationships. And I watched those relationships develop or maybe some of them weaken. I remember being young and thinkin', 'You know, when I get older, I am gonna make sure that my marriage works.'
"Of course, my first marriage didn't work out, but I worked at it. Because I had told myself as a really young girl that whatever relationship I might be in, if it didn't work out, it wouldn't be because I didn't try.
"This song's about trying to find the honesty within the relationship - and, as the lyric says, the truth'll set you free. That's the bottom line."
While "On Your Way Home" received a Grammy nomination, it's never been about awards for Patty.
"I've always wanted my music to just be good therapy or to be a good friend to somebody, you know?" she says. "Because it has always been that way to me. It is real important to me that my peers receive my music that way, that they find something within the music for themselves. Like I do with their music.
"The people who know me in the industry know that I try to be true to my roots and as honest as I can in the music that I do. So, if I'm given those rewards for that, it is a great feelin'. "
Patty takes a seat at the stark kitchen table to prepare for the next scene. She looks like she belongs there - because she's been there and knows people who've lived in other big country houses just like this one.
The cameras roll and the sound of Patty's voice, filling the room, sings about honesty and being true to who you are. And everyone watching her knows that she's been there, too.
-- Story by David Scarlett