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Interview: Lindsay Ell dives deep into her personal new album ‘heart theory’

The Canadian musician chats to us about her brand new record.

Lindsay Ell
Credit: Jeremy Cowart

Canadian Country singer-songwriter and musician Lindsay Ell releases her deeply personal new album ‘heart theory’ on 14th August 2020.

The follow-up to 2017’s The Project, heart theory is structured around the seven stages of grief and features the singles ‘i don’t lovE you’, ‘wAnt you back’ and ‘make you’. It’s Lindsay’s most personal body of work today and sees her teaming up with producer Dann Huff.

I caught up with Lindsay recently to dive deep into the record, talk about her Make You Movement foundation, and to find out what she learned about herself while make her new album…

It’s been a while since we last spoke. How has life in quarantine been?

You know what, I have been so busy in quarantine, it’s been busier than before, which I felt was gonna be impossible. It’s just truly been one thing after the next in an amazing way. At the beginning of quarantine, the day before Nashville shut down we tracked the last band tracking session for the record. Then we went into lockdown and I had a bunch of vocals and guitar parts to finish for the album and so Dann Huff and I decided just to finish it remotely. We were finishing the record and I was singing vocals in my house and then sending them to him and he worked his magic and then sent them back over the internet. Then we finished the guitar parts because Dann became my guitar coach. He got on FaceTime with me (laughs) and I was playing guitar solos in my studio and he was like, ‘OK Lins, that sounds great. Now try tweaking this, try tweaking that’. I was putting in 16 hour days at the beginning of quarantine. When we finished the record, we were putting the creative together for the project and getting the package all together, and now we’re doing press. Honestly, it has been very weird not to travel because I’m so used to being on the road so much. It is very weird to not be going to different countries and still be very busy.

With the amount of travel you did for the last record, it must be strange releasing this one in the current climate. How are you feeling about that?

Yeah, it has been interesting to release a record in the middle of the global pandemic. We had always planned to release the album in August so we just stayed on schedule as we were planning to do. It has just been very interesting to embrace that and not necessarily know how people are going to react or how much travel we can do, and how much press. Yet in the same light, I feel like quarantine has been such a blessing in disguise because I feel more connected to my team than I ever have right now. There is such a beauty in that in so many ways. I’m just trying to really, truly take in a silver lining from all aspects of it and know there’s a bigger purpose at play here.

Lindsay Ell

Credit: Jeremy Cowart

The album feels particularly fitting as it’s sequenced as the seven stages of grief, and I think so many of us have been through those the past few months…

Thank you so much for saying that Pip. I wrote this record around the seven stages of grief, from shock to denial to anger, all the way down to acceptance. I feel like we as human beings go through all these moments of transformation in our lives, whether that’s from a breakup, whether that’s from the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job, or in the midst of a global pandemic. I’m so with you that it is quite crazy that right now as a world, and as people and human beings on this earth, we’re really transitioning through a lot of this record. I hope that people, when listening to this music, can feel inspired and they can feel that they’re not alone.

Having listened through the album a few times, I can really hear your John Mayer influence on some of the guitar parts and production choices, especially on the opening track Hits Me. I feel like you should get him on that for a duet…

I’m there for that (laughs)

We can make it happen Lindsay. We’ll just tweet at him and get it sorted (laughs)

(laughs)

The album is perfectly sequenced to tell a cohesive story from start to finish. Did heart theory start out as a concept record or is that something that you realised in the midst of making it?

I was halfway through writing the record when I realised that I was writing these songs in the process of how I was feeling them. I was like, “it would be so cool to write a record around the seven stages of grief”. I’ve never written a concept record before but would that look like and how would that feel. It’s just been so rewarding to be able to bring that to fruition and have an album from track one to track 12 listen it down in the process, and you can slowly hear me unravel and feel feelings and that part’s been very, very cool.

A song from this record that’s rightly getting a lot of attention right now is make you. That song is the most honest and raw we’ve ever heard you. It must have been hard to write and record that, and put it out into the world. Did you have any reservations?

I visited this place called Youth For Tomorrow three years ago and there is a campus that helps youth aged 12 to 18 who are victims of sex trafficking and rape. I remember sitting down at a conference table with 12 other little girls, and I sat down and told my story. I heard them tell their story and it was so inspiring to me to see these beautiful little girls who had the most horrific stories. One 12 year old girl said, ‘my parents sold me to a sex trafficking company when I was little’ and I was like, ‘What? Why?’ These things that you think you just hear in the movies and yet they actually happen in real life. I left that place that day knowing that if I didn’t share my story, I was holding back the opportunity to really help a lot of girls like that and I knew I needed to do it. I decided that I wanted to write a song about it and I’ve tried to write a song about this a number of times, but for whatever reason it just always ends up sounding so sad or too heavy. I called up my girlfriend Brandy Clark, and I was like ‘Brandy, would you write the song with me?’ and she was so fearless in her response and immediately said yes. We ended up just writing a song that spoke to the true message I wanted to talk about that is whatever we go through in life does not define our future. It’s how we react to what we go through in life. It truly defines where we want to go and who we are. I believe that what bends us and stains us and breaks us is truly what makes us.

It’s incredible that you’ve not only shared your story but you’ve send up the Make You Movement, which is going to help so many people. It must feel good to be able to turn a horrific experience into something that can affect positive change?

It feels amazing to be able to start my own foundation. I’ve always wanted to start my own foundation and it feels early iy career to do that, and yet at the same time, it feels right on time. I’m just so excited to be able to use my music to do good. The Make You Movement is focusing on disenfranchised youth and survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse. I just hope that I can help a lot of people and specifically that kids know that they aren’t alone. Pip, if I would have had somebody when I was 13 to be able to hold my hand and tell me, ‘Lindsay it’s going to be OK’ I think I would have healed a lot faster. I just really want to be there for a lot of people to let them know that it’s gonna be okay.

Lindsay Ell

Credit: Jeremy Cowart

I’m sure this album is going to help a lot of people through breakups and through other traumatic experiences in their life. When you get to the end of the album, you say that you’re ready to love again and put yourself out there, and that shows that with journey and what you’ve been through, as hard and as difficult and as traumatic as it’s been, there is always something at the other end worth fighting it out for…

Absolutely, I feel like we are all fighting our own battles and fighting the same battle at the same time. If we can just realise that we’re in this together and we can be there for each other, and although the minor details of our stories may look a little bit different, it’s truly about being there for our brothers and sisters and letting them know that that we’ve got each other.

Your new single want me back is one of my favourites on the record. You co-wrote that with Kane Brown. How did it come about?

Thank you. I’m so excited. This is the first song that Kane and I have written together. I’ve always had so much respect for Kane as an artist and the platform he’s grown, and as an amazing dad and husband. It’s been really cool to get to know him as a songwriter and get to truly see how talented he is as a writer. He’s the mastermind behind his incredible career and he’s built and he’s fostered, and he continues to master. It was really amazing to get to know Kane on that deeper level and at the same time be able to walk into the writers’ room that day and he be like, ‘Lindsay, I want to write a song for the women. I want to write a song that is all about the ladies and write a song to lift them up’ and I was like, ‘Kane, you are preaching to the choir. I’m all for that’ so that’s what we did. We wrote a song that was primarily focusing on what women specifically, but all of us need to hear, to tap into that inner confidence that we know is within ourselves, but sometimes we just lose sight of,

Could a duet be on the cards in the future? I’m sure that would be another surefire number one for you both…

That would be amazing, I’m gonna hold me to that. I like the sound of that a lot.

I don’t think we’ve spoken since you hit number one with Brantley Gilbert. That must have been a big milestone for you?

Yeah, gosh, I can’t believe it’s been that long. That has been a huge milestone for me. Getting my first number one in the States is something I’ve dreamed of ever since I was a little girl and then you get one and you’re like, ‘OK, I need to get another one now’. Being able to check that box with Brantley I was just so happy that he and Scott Borchetta welcomed me into this song. To be able to accept my first number one in the States, it’s been truly exciting.

What’s the one thing you would say you learned about yourself when making the new album?

Good question. I learned that… I can answer this in so many ways. I’ve learned that we really know who we are. We really know what we need to do sometimes in certain situations and and what we truly want, but we’re not good at listening to that voice a lot of times. I have learned that it is so important, most important, to connect and to continue to connect to that person and that voice inside of us because that is the only insight we’ve got at the end of the day. Without that, we’re just all merrily walking around on this planet trying to fit two pieces of the puzzle together. If we don’t spend time connecting and learning what that inner voice is trying to tell us and where it’s trying to take us. We’re missing the whole point.

Lindsay Ell’s new album ‘heart theory’ will be released on 14th August 2020. Watch the video for ‘ReadY to love’ below:

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