Discovered by Randy Bachman when she was just 15-years-old, Lindsay Ell knew that music was going to be a big part of her life. Having always said she would only sign a record deal once she moved to Nashville, she made the move five years after Randy found her and kick-started her performing career.
Lindsay is among many other females that are dominating the country music scene just now. She got the chance to play at Country 2 Country in London and loves the festival’s dedication to female performers: “One thing I have noticed about the C2C line up is the amount of women that are in it! It’s so wonderful to see that, and also to see C2C’s commitment to supporting women too.”
We spoke with Lindsay about the story behind her new album The Project, the special moments of her career so far and the all-important advice she always lives by…
“It was never a matter of if, it was a matter of when. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing, because those hard times make you stronger and appreciate things.” – Lindsay Ell
Taylor Magazine: How are you enjoying London?
Lindsay Ell: I love London! Fans here are amazing – they’re so passionate about music, it’s amazing. People know every word to every song! I’m so happy to be back and its such an honour to be part of C2C.
Taylor Magazine: You were discovered when you were 15 – tell us about your journey so far.
Lindsay Ell: I’ve been playing music ever since I was a little girl. When I was a little girl, I started working with Randy Bachman. Randy found and listened to a demo CD that I had made when I was little and from there, we started writing together. He came over to my parents house and they were freaking out! He was like ‘Lindsay, I’m your biggest fan and I want to help you in any way I can.’ So, I would say that Randy discovered me first.
He taught me how to write a song and how to work in a professional recording studio. I moved down to Nashville five years after that – I always told myself I didn’t want to sign a record deal until I moved there, that was a personal goal for me. Now, eight years later, here we are!
Taylor Magazine: For you, when was the point that you realised this was what you wanted to do?
“There is nothing that makes me feel the same way that playing live makes me feel.” – Lindsay Ell
Lindsay Ell: I started playing shows when I was 10 and there is nothing that makes me feel the same way that playing live makes me feel. I was such a nerd at school, I took it so seriously, but I just knew that nothing was going to make me happy like music did. My second year at business school, I sat my parents down and told them I wanted to be a musician and was going to move to Nashville, which was a bit of a shock to them, but they were nothing but supportive.
Taylor Magazine: What happened when you got to Nashville, what was your next step?
Lindsay Ell: Nashville is such a welcoming city, it must be that whole Southern hospitality thing! I only knew one person when I arrived but deep down, I just knew I was going to make it work. I wrote songs all day. Before I got my visa, I had to fly back and forth to Calgary (where I’m from) because I couldn’t make any money in the US yet. So I was waiting tables back home, playing gigs, going to school, all while trying to make my music career work. I was going to do whatever it took.
When I got my visa, I signed a record deal and was finally able to make a living in Nashville. There is such a community there and it definitely is the country music mecca, but there are are so many other genres of music there too. Everyone speaks the same musical language.
Taylor Magazine: It sounds like you went through a struggle – how did you get through the hard times?
Lindsay Ell: I just knew that it was what I wanted to do. When there is that level of passion in your heart, you just don’t settle for anything else. I am a competitive spirit, especially with myself, so when I set goals in my mind, there is no other alternative. I always believed enough in myself and my team that we were going to make it work. It was never a matter of if, it was a matter of when. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing, because those hard times make you stronger and appreciate things.
Taylor Magazine: Tell us about your album, The Project! What has been your inspiration behind it?
Lindsay Ell: This is my first album, even though I’ve been playing music for a very long time! I’m so happy it’s taken me until now to do this though, because I feel like I know what I have to say and how I want to say it. When you move to a city like Nashville, there are so many musical people there, it can be overwhelming when people expect you to know how you want your record to sound like.
Over the past year I’ve been working with Kristian Bush and one of the things he asked me was what my favourite record was, which is Continuum by John Mayer. He told me to record the whole thing. I trusted him, and two weeks later and a lot of late nights, I did what he said and handed him the recording. I learnt so much from that experiment! I really found out how I wanted my album to sound – all of a sudden everything clicked.
Taylor Magazine: For you as a songwriter, how important was that experience for you?
Lindsay Ell: Songwriting is a big thing for me. It’s so important to be able to say what I have to say. People appreciate lyrics, songwriters and what they have to say. Once you know those perimeters of where you’re going, you begin to realise which puzzle piece fits.
Taylor Magazine: Do you have a favourite song that you’ve written?
Lindsay Ell: It’s so hard… but Wildfire is definitely a favourite because it’s one that Kristian and I wrote together. The other one is a song called Castle – lyrically it’s so close to my heart. As a society we’re so obsessed with buying better things and sometimes we lose track of what is important. We get to wake up and do what we love everyday and surround ourselves with people we love – fans have really taken to that song too.
Taylor Magazine: Is there anyone that you would love to work with?
Lindsay Ell: Well, because of the recording of Continuum and really getting to know John Mayer’s music, he would definitely be someone I would love to work with! I’m actually going to be releasing my version of Continuum too… which is really cool! I want fans to be able to hear it. I would also absolutely love to do something with Ed Sheeran one day too.
Taylor Magazine: There have been so many positives for you in music, but what struggles and challenges have you faced within the country music industry?
Lindsay Ell: There is no right or wrong way to do something in country music. For a new artist starting out, I had no idea the level of investment that had to go into what I wanted to do. Even when you get a bit of success, the bar keeps raising. I will say that the work ethic that new artists need to have is at an all time high. Everybody has their own path, journey and story, which ultimately helps you become your own artist. As advice to new artists, figure out who that person is and simply listen to that voice and heart.
Taylor Magazine: And on the opposite side of that, what is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Lindsay Ell: Moments like this! We work so hard and to be able to say that my record is in a store half way across the world is just incredible.
Taylor Magazine: Do you have any other big moments that were really special?
Lindsay Ell: Getting to play shows with artists that I look up to – we’ve been on the road for the past year with Brad Paisley. It has been so exciting to share the stage with him every night. We’re touring with Keith Urban later this year, which I’m really looking forward to! My first time on the CMA awards was with Carrie Underwood, which I absolutely loved. Moments like that – being able to share the stage with artists that I respect is great.
Taylor Magazine: When you found out about C2C, what was that like for you?
Lindsay Ell: C2C has always been something that I have wanted to do! There is nothing like this festival, it’s so special and unique. You can feel the passion from the fans the minute you walk in.
Taylor Magazine: In terms of performing live, do you have any pre-show rituals that help calm your nerves?
Lindsay Ell: Absolutely! The band and I always say a prayer and get into a huddle. Sometimes the guys and I do 20 push-ups to get us pumped! I’m so happy to be able to make music with people I really love.
Taylor Magazine: Females in country music are really dominating the scene right now – are there any women that you look up to in the genre that have helped to inspire you along the way?
Lindsay Ell: One thing I have noticed about the C2C line up is the amount of women that are in it! It’s so wonderful to see that, and also to see C2C’s commitment to supporting women too. Faith Hill has been an inspiration to me since I was a little girl. Watching Kacey Musgraves build her career is incredible too – as an artist I have such an appreciation for her and her artistry. She’s not afraid to say who she is and her fans really respect that. Seeing someone like Maren Morris build their career and be who they are is also really inspirational. I’m inspired my females left, right and centre.
Taylor Magazine: How do you try to differentiate your style from other artists?
Lindsay Ell: When Kristian and I were getting together the sound for this record, I wanted it to be a bit like Tuesday Night Music Club (Sheryl Crow’s first record). I can’t really describe it, but I feel like we created something that fans will like – it’s a little bit of blues, rock and country merged together. I like to describe it as Sheryl Crow, John Mayer and Keith Urban in a blender! There is a lot of guitar, it’s a bit of everything really!
Taylor Magazine: Playing instruments is fundamental to music, but in country music it’s something that really is a requirement. Is that something you’ve noticed?
Lindsay Ell: There really aren’t a lot of females that play lead guitar. – you don’t see many. I’m really happy to be able to lead guitar and show women that we can play too! It is awesome to be part of a genre that has so much respect for musicians and musicianship and to be able to see fans appreciate it too!
Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?
Lindsay Ell: I would definitely tell her to not worry as much and just trust yourself more. Trusting that inner voice as a teenager can be really hard, and it’s easy to doubt it, but your gut feeling is always strong. Always trust yourself.
“Trusting that inner voice can be really hard, and it’s easy to doubt it, but your gut feeling is always strong. Always trust yourself.” – Lindsay Ell
Taylor Magazine: We focus on self-care and being the best version of yourself, so what is something you would do to cheer yourself up on a down day?
Lindsay Ell: The music industry is so up and down, so every day there are those moments! Life is busy and messy when you’re on the road in particular. I try to find little moments where I can be by myself. I’m an extrovert on stage for sure, but I’m such an introvert. People sometimes think that’s weird as an artist, but being by myself really re-charges me. I also drink tea like it’s going out of fashion… I feel at home when I’m in the UK! So, I always have tea with me. I love chocolate, I eat it every day. Restoration is key – I’m always trying to get more sleep too. Making time for me.
Taylor Magazine: What should we look out for from you in the near future and long term?
Lindsay Ell: In the next few months you can definitely expect to hear my version of Continuum, which is exciting! The rest of the year I’ll be touring with Sugar Land and Keith Urban. New music is coming next year and I definitely want to come back to the UK for sure!