Earlier this month, female country artist Lindsay Ell released her new single, “By The Way,” during a 24-hour celebration and charity event in downtown Nashville, TN. The singer, one of CMT’s Next Women of Country, played a 24-hour show during the event, which was called Busking on Broadway. Her performance at Busking and her new single both display her energetic nature and love for performing, as well as her brilliant work on the electric guitar. Despite the fact that Lindsay grew up in Canada, she sees herself as a true Southern girl now. Today, we are excited to welcome her as our FACE of the South.
How—and when—did you arrive in Nashville?
I was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, and Calgary is really a music town. But I arrived in Nashville about five years ago. I think I was 20 years old at the time, and I didn’t really know anybody. And so I remember walking off the plane with my guitar case thinking, Alright, Lindsay, this is your dream. Now it is time to figure it out. The minute I got to the South, I felt like I was home. It feels right, like this is where I am supposed to be.
When did you first learn to play the guitar, and who taught you how to play?
I started playing piano when I was 6 years old, and I am really happy for that theory base, looking back. When I was 8 years old, I thought it was a lot cooler to play Shania Twain songs on my guitar and so, since my dad played—he played pretty much everything that had strings on it—he showed me a few chords to get me going. And then it just became like another limb off my body.
The face of country music has evolved beyond the constraints of “classic country.” How would you define your sound?
I am definitely more on the contemporary side of things, if I had to pick a word. But you know, the thing I love about country music fans is they are all about embracing music; they are about embracing music that is great and that moves them. I have always loved writing country music because it is a lot about the message. It is about what you are trying to say. The fact that country music as a genre is widening—as far as the instruments you will hear in a track—I think it is a good thing. It is a testament to the quality of country music listeners. They listen because it is great and they like it and it makes them feel something. That is what music is supposed to do, isn’t it?
Where do you look for musical inspiration?
I listen to a lot of different types of music … I draw inspiration from just people watching. It is crazy that we get to travel for a living and go to these different cities every day—on planes, trains and automobiles. We are meeting new people and getting to see a lot of people in different environments. So a lot of my songwriting ideas come from traveling and observing how people live their lives.
Who are some women you admire and why?
I looked up to Bonnie Raitt, especially as a guitar player; she just really stepped forward in the world of female musicians and said, “You know what? Girls can do this, too.” Just her strength is so empowering. I admire Sheryl Crow … watching her whole career and her work ethic and level of class. I probably have to say Taylor (Swift). Just watching how she has evolved her whole career has been really inspiring … really inspiring to young females, really inspiring to old females. With everything going on with streaming sites coming out and people buying less digital and hard copies, she has powered through. So, yeah. If I were to pick some ladies, those would be them.
If you could play with one person (dead or alive), who would it be?
Well, given that, hopefully, it is still an option for me to play with some of my idols while they are still alive, I am going to chose someone dead. I am going to say [Jimi] Hendrix. Hendrix was just so experimental and he developed the whole world of playing guitar to influence Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton and John Mayer and all of these players who are forming our next generation of music. There are so many players before Hendrix, too, but his influence was definitely a pivotal point in my life and my love for the guitar. Yeah, that would be crazy.
Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.
My favorite thing on the road is meeting fans. I will stay out there for hours meeting every last fan, but when I am home, I am really an introvert, which may seem surprising. I love staying at home, playing guitar, chilling out, writing songs. I am definitely not a partier, a going-out-on-the-town kind of person. I love playing shows, and I love being in front of audiences as big as they can get and will do that to the nth degree, but when I am home, I just like to stay home. It is the two opposite ends of the spectrum that gives me a happy balance.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and who gave it to you?
When I was a teenager, I was working with a guy by the name of Randy Bachman, and he was from a band called BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive), and they wrote “Taking Care of Business” and “American Woman,” all of those classic rock songs. Randy started working with me when I was really young, and I remember he sat down during one of our very first writing sessions and he said, “Lindsay, this career is going to be an emotional roller coaster; it is going to be up and down, up and down. All you have to know is who you are and never stop working hard, and as long as you have those two things, you will make your way through.” That piece of advice has stuck with me every single day because it is so true. In most of our careers, it is up and down every day, but it is all about perspective.
You have toured Europe and the United States. Where is the most memorable place you have visited?
My favorite place in Canada is Banff. They say it’s God’s Country, and it is definitely God’s Country. It is so impeccably beautiful.
I have gotten to go to Europe in the past couple years, and I was traveling with The Band Perry and Luke Bryan. We got to tour all around Ireland and the UK and Germany and there are so many incredible places in Europe, but I have to say, Cologne, Germany, is one of my favorite cities.
Nashville will always be home for me now; it has been amazing to live here for the past five years, but if I have to choose a city outside of Nashville, I would probably say Austin. Austin, TX, is just such a music town. I remember playing SXSW (South by Southwest) for my first time when I was 20 years old, and I couldn’t get into any bar because I was 20. But I remember walking up and down Sixth Avenue, the main drag of SXSW, and again, I couldn’t get into any bar, but there were bands playing in every single bar—on the roofs of bars, outside of bars—there were so many people in the street just celebrating music.
Which artists would be on your dinner party playlist?
Definitely John Mayer. You are not really ever going to meet me and have a playlist without a John Mayer song. Throw some Keith, some Sam Hunt, some Eric Church in there. I am a huge Ben Folds fan, Coldplay for sure, probably some Eric Clapton … let’s throw in a little indie. It would definitely be diversified, there would not be one specific genre on the playlist.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends.
One would be my guitar, maybe a little obvious, but even when I travel, my guitar is not very far from me. You never know when an idea is going to strike up. I am tied to my phone; my band always laughs at me because I am in conversation with them and yet talking on my phone all the time. And I’ll say headphones. I have these white Beats headphones, and it just helps me escape, and I just love listening to music.