With a debut EP and a full-length on the way, musician is making headlines and making people take notice in the Nashville music scene.
There are many, many indications that Lindsay Ell has finally, deservedly made it.
There was a celebrated appearance for the Calgary-born country artist on Jimmy Kimmel the other week.
There’s the storming of the American C&W singles charts with her tune Waiting On You from her official debut EP for US label Stoney Creek — in Canada it’s being distributed by Sony Music — titled Worth the Wait.
There’s her opening spot on superstar Brad Paisley’s current tour.
Hell, even on this Wednesday morning before she takes the stage at Cowboys for a hometown Stampede gig, comes word that she’s received another Canadian Country Music Association nomination, for Female Artist of the Year.
Oh. And there was also that other thing. Ell was recently involved in something of a controversy south of the border when it was revealed she was dating popular country radio personality Bobby Bones, and a competing station in Sacramento cancelled her scheduled live appearance at the last minute.
When she Tweeted the message to her fans, “Had a scheduled performance in Sacramento today for listeners. The radio station has asked me not to come bc of my personal life. Sorry guys” the backlash was intense, the conversations about sexism and country music’s gatekeepers were begun anew, and her name was found in headlines everywhere.
But, hey, if you’re big enough to cause a controversy, you must be doing something right, right?
Before Ell came back for her Cowboys show, she spoke with theYYSCENE.
Q: How are you, Lindsay?
A: I’m awesome. It’s been so amazing being on the Paisley tour this year. Brad has just been so wonderful to us, so the band and I are having a blast out on that. And having a new single out is exciting and the record’s coming out in August, so life is good. It’s just been crazy. I’ve been travelling constantly.
Q: I see that from your Twitter feed: You’re always on planes or in airports, etcetera. But it seems that things are finally really happening for you.
A: It’s the best problem I could ever, ever ask for.
Q: How did the Paisley tour come about? It seems like the perfect marriage of artists.
A: It’s been such a wonderful tour. I got to do a few college shows with Brad last year when he was going around doing the college circuit. And the first time we played a show with him he was like, “Hey do you want to come out and jam later in the set?” And I was like, “Uh, yeah, I’d love to.” And his whole crew said they hadn’t seen Brad smile like that in a long time. I don’t know if it was because he hadn’t played with a girl guitar player or hadn’t been on a bill with a female artist who was also a guitar player. So it’s just been awesome. We started up a friendship right away and he’s just been super, super supportive and in our corner. And we get to be out with him all year, we’re playing over 50 shows — it’s been awesome.
Q: He’s coming back to Calgary to play Country Thunder in August. You’re not playing it this year are you?
A: No, because I played last year. They have rules about those things, but I won’t be too far from everybody — we’re playing Saskatoon and Winnipeg.
Q: But first you’re coming home for the Stampede — right into the thick of things.
A: It’s always a favourite thing of mine to come home, especially during Stampede. I remember years where I had 68 shows in 10 days. Just years where I was so busy that my mom had to take the week off work so she could drive me to each show because I didn’t have time to park the car. (Laughs) So I was laughing about it last night, because this Stampede I have two shows. I’m flying out this morning because we just played (a corporate show) last night — I’m actually sitting in the airport, as you hear the announcement just come on — then I’m playing Baton Rouge and Jackson, Mississippi this weekend, then we’re coming back next week for Cowboys, which I’m super excited about. (Laughs) It’s living the dream and I couldn’t be happier.
Q: Congratulations on the EP. I know it’s just a taster of what’s to come (the full length The Project), but are you happy to have something out there?
A: So happy. It’s amazing to have music out there that I feel is finally in my voice. And I’ve been working with Kristian Bush over the last eight months or so — from Sugarland, as we know and love him — and he’s so brilliant. Working in a studio with him has just been such an eye-opening experience and I finally feel like I’ve found me. I’ve finally figured out the puzzle. It takes some time sometimes as an artist, and especially moving down to Nashville and you’re surrounded by so many talented musicians and producers. Sometimes to filter through all of that and be like, “OK, if I was given three minutes for someone who has never heard my name or has never heard my music before, what would that sound like? What would I say?” And I finally feel like I have that with Waiting On You.
Q: What was it that got you to that point? Was there one moment, was there one thing that was said to you?
A: One of the coolest things was Kristian had me re-record Continuum. He asked me in one of our first music meetings, “What’s your favourite record, what’s your desert island record?” And I was like, “Well, it would by Continuum by John Mayer.” And he was like, “OK perfect. I want you to go record the whole thing. The only rules are: you have two weeks and you have to play all the instruments and you have to do it in your little studio at the label.” And I was like, “OK?” So I cleared my schedule for two weeks and 8 a.m. until 3 a.m. I re-recorded my favourite record. And after those two weeks I handed over a CD to him and I was like, “Kristian, I have learned so much about how John Mayer plays guitar, how I play guitar and most importantly how I want to hear a band in the studio.” Instead of putting 50 instruments on a song, I found out I really love to hear five, and sometimes background vocals and sometimes not. It’s simplicity, but everything that’s there means a whole lot more. It was just such an eye-opening experience.
And he just laughed and said, “Now it’s time for us to do that with your own music.”
Q: Are you ever going to release that album, your re-recording of Continuum?
A: We’re talking about definitely releasing Continuum. We wanted to get the EP out and because we’re releasing the album so soon — it’s coming out in August — and Continuum will come out hopefully shortly after. But, yes, I’m definitely going to release it. We did add one of the Continuum tracks on the EP, we put Stop This Train On just because it was so much a part of the story and the process of getting there. So that’s the exact replica, the little demo I made in my office.
Q: I wouldn’t be doing whatever job this is if I didn’t ask you about the recent controversy. Are you still getting backlash? Or are things better?
A: Things have pretty much died down. It was definitely a crazy weekend and I never wanted any of that to happen. I never intended for anything like that to blow up. I just wanted to apologize to fans. I was going to show up to a show that had been promoted for weeks and then the night before I was just taken off of it, so that’s all I wanted to do was tell the fans, “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be here.” And I had absolutely no idea that a fan army was going to come out of the woodworks and just uprise (laughs) with this roar. It was crazy. The situation and conversations aside I feel so loved by my fans. That was my first intention was making sure they knew what was going on in the first place.
Q: Congratulations on the relationship because that sounds like it’s going incredibly well, as well.
A: Thank you. Hey, to finally be able to say I’m going to be happy and figure out whatever happens on the other side of life was a big step for me and a big step for him. But everybody deserves to be happy, right?
Lindsay Ell performs Wednesday, July 12 at Cowboys Dance Hall. For tickets click here.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.