Tony Brown, then head of A & R at the label, insisted she be signed. "Tony took more of an interest in the country things I did, the very traditional country song that I wrote," she remembers. "I don't think at the time (then president of MCA Nashville) Jimmy Bowen had any interest in signing me. But Tony and Emory Gordy, Jr. did. I think they were ready to turn in a letter of resignation if Bowen didn't sign me. That's how much they believed in me."
While Loveless' six years at MCA yielded No. 1 hits like "Chains" and "Timber, I'm Falling in Love," she hadn't yet hit upon the right blend of voice and material.
And it kept her from attaining the status of label mates like Reba McEntire and Wynonna. "Sometimes I look back on albums that I've done, and it's hard for me to listen to," she claims. "Some of those albums were done so fast and so quickly, during a time when we were trying to find what particular style of style music Patty Loveless will sell to the audience out there. And of course, that's what labels are always going to think of: Sell, sell, sell. And I was always thinking, 'How do I make the best music?'"
Thus in 1992 she left for Epic Records, where she hit Number One with her next single, "Blame It On Your Heart." Loveless was finally a player, one who had a contemporary sound to go with her mountain-rooted country soul.
Over the next few years, the hits and awards piled up, and everyone finally recognized that the naked emotion of Loveless' voice was the kind of sound that occurred maybe once in a generation.
The latest evidence is on Long Stretch of Lonesome, a potent collection reinforcing Loveless' reputation as a singer who can consistently find the heart of a song. From the exuberance of "The Party Ain't Over Yet" to the hard country soul of "You Don't Seem to Miss Me" to the plaintive title cut, Loveless tackles a wide range of emotions and comes up aces every time.
But it wasn't actually the album that Loveless wanted to make.
"I wasn't ready to turn this album in," she admits. "I wanted to wait and cut a couple more things, actually I was getting ready to go into the studio. And I did tell the label, 'Well, I'll hand this in, but I really don't want to.' It's a serious record. I wanted to find a couple more things that were a little more light-hearted. "High On Love' is the most light-hearted song on the album; even "The Party Ain't Over Yet' is lyrically serious."
"But I wanted find something else like 'I Try to Think About Elvis' to have fun with on stage. That's the reason it's so important to me to have as many good songs on an album as I can. I know you need the uptempo and fun stuff; it's important to have that balance. But that's the reason I wasn't ready to hand this album in, because I felt the ballads on there were serious. But I think this album is really good, and I'm proud of it. But I still sometimes go, 'If I had just a little more time'."
As a music-biz vet, Loveless obviously knows that an artist has to move product. But thinking about sales is not something she enjoys.
"Sometimes I get so tired hearing about breaking records. That's not what I'm here for. It's takes a lot of the fun out of it, and it takes a lot of the meaning out of making music. When you start thinking, 'I've got to break my own record' or 'I've got to break his or her record'.....No! You've just got to make music that moves people. And I hope that we never lose sight of that. I'm not here to break records, I'm here to make records.
"You constantly hear this 'uptempo positive' today. But when it comes right down to it, what really sells records is ballads, and when I finally had the chance to be heard, that's when things started taking off for me, like 'If My Heart Had Windows,' 'Don't Toss Us Away' - those types of songs were selling records for me. Still, 'Chains' and 'That Kind of Girl,' those kinds of songs did the same thing. With this album, I had been a little more selective with lyrics.
"With the songs that I choose, I try to be true to my own self and what I can present. I'm able to share some of my feelings within those songs with my audience. I know 9 times out of 10, there's going to be somebody who feels the same way as what the song is trying to say. Exactly like 'I Don't Want to Feel Like That' - what I pictured in my mind was this person having a conversation with themselves, waking up in the morning; they can't sleep, and they're saying "I don't want to feel like that no more.' I found myself doing that many, many times in the past few years, and it touched me, and I think that it will touch many other people out there too."
In short, Loveless lets the music do the talking. "I want to be considered as a very emotional singer," she insists. "To me, that's what success is all about."