Triple-threat singer, songwriter & guitarist, Lindsay Ell is back in the UK for a main stage appearance at the Long Road festival and a support slot with The Cadillac Three. It’s been two years since she released the very powerful ‘heart theory’ album although she recently released ‘Right on Time’, a song that manages to mix melody with meaning effortlessly. We were thrilled to speak to Lindsay just after her set at the Long Road festival.
We talked to Lindsay literally moments after she got off stage at the Long Road festival. So, after apologising to her for being the first thing she had to do we dived right into the questions!
That was a fantastic set, Lindsay. We’ll just say this………….Bohemian Rhapsody! (Lindsay covered the uncoverable song in her set!)
Yeah! I know it’s an iconic, tough song to cover, right? (laughing) We wanted to do something fun up there and Queen have influenced me so much over the years so we thought we’d at least hint at it, right? (laughing)
When you approach a festival set do you approach it differently to a tour night set?
Absolutely! Yeah. A festival is different in every way to a club gig. In a club you get this kinda hot, sweaty intimate vibe and you can work an audience differently in what is essentially just a closed cube! You can play different songs and even say different things at a club gig.
At a festival you’ve got this big, vast open space that you have to fill. There’s no nuance at a festival, you can’t expect to have people in the palm of your hand, everything is just big, bright, loud and wide! This festival, the Long Road festival, is just such a special group of people. The beautiful thing about this festival, and Country music in general, is that it invites in people from many different styles of music. You have the more traditional players then there are the non-traditional artists and those veering more towards the left, the mainstream and even Rock.
Can you see the boundaries and genres of music blurring and mixing a lot more these days?
I can see it changing every day. There is a long way to go and it will be a difficult road for some listeners and the newer sounding artists, of which, I think I would put myself in that category. Country fans are the best in the world and at the end of the day they really lean into good songs and good lyrics. Songs that speak to their experiences in life, you know?
Let’s talk about good lyrics right now then. I’m absolutely loving ‘Right on Time’, it’s one of my favourite songs of the year. The raw and open nature of what you are saying in that song could be overshadowed by the terrific melody if you don’t listen in carefully enough.
‘Right on Time’ was just something that totally just came out. As a songwriter you sometimes end up writing a song that is a message to yourself. Most the time we end up trying to write relatable anthems where we can all just sit in a community together but I wrote ‘Right on Time’ first and foremost for myself.
At the beginning of the pandemic it felt like all my friends were having babies, getting married and checking off all those life expectation boxes, you know? I was sitting at home, by myself, thinking ‘Did I miss the memo here?’ (laughing) It made me realise that we are all on our own trajectories and in our own stories and it’s so easy these days to compare yourself and your story to your friends via social media.
Women are pressured a lot by society to hit the right times in their lives. The right time to be beautiful, the right time to be a mother, the time to go after the career that we want. That’s a lot of pressure and its sometimes really hard to dim those voices and you can constantly feel like you are falling behind. I wanted to write a song that reminded people that you are exactly where you are supposed to be in life, wherever that is right now, you are right on time to where you need to be, so stop comparing yourself to other people.
I really loved ‘Can’t Do Without Me’ – the duet you did with Chayce Beckham. In a year when a couple of lighter or blander duets had much bigger chart success I was disappointed for you that that song wasn’t bigger. How do you define success of a song?
That’s such a great question. I’ve been touring and making music since the age of ten and have been in Nashville signed to a label for the past ten and it is always disappointing when a song doesn’t go to number one in the charts. Fans don’t really care about where songs get to, they just love or don’t love a song, which is important to remember because it is ultimately about them.
It is hard when you release a song that your label is excited about and it doesn’t do what you might have hoped it would, I’ve had a bunch of songs like that! (laughing) At the same point, all you can ever do is write and release songs that you care about and that you believe in and the rest of it is actually out of your hands then!
I sit in a place of acceptance, I guess. All I can do is make the music that I love and hope that it finds the ears that will love it back.
‘heart theory’ was such a personal and raw album. Did it take a lot out of you in terms of picking up the guitar and writing again after or did you find it easy to begin the next phase of writing?
I tend to just write and write and write! (laughing) I can’t believe ‘heart theory’ has been out two years to be honest! I’ve been working on tons of new music and now I’m in a phase that is all about deciding what to release and when. Obviously ‘Right on Time’ is the tip of that iceberg and I’ll have some new music out later this fall and then an album to follow next year.
When you wanted to write ‘Make You’ (Lindsay’s most personal song about her experiences of abuse) did you approach Brandy Clark with the idea in mind or did it evolve out of a session you were already doing with her?
I 100% approached her. Brandy has been one of my favourite writers in Nashville for a long time. She knows how to write hard stories. Bring her a difficult topic or story and she’ll be, like, ‘Got it!’
I was helping with some kids in an organisation called Youth for Tomorrow. They deal with 12-18 year olds who have been victims of sex trafficking, rape and domestic abuse. I was sitting with a group of girls one day and a 12 year old girl told me that she had been sold to a sex trafficking company when she was ‘little’. I was like, ‘When you were little??!! You are only 12 years old!’. That 12 year old taught me that if she had the courage and bravery to talk about her experiences then so should I.
I knew I needed to write a song and have my voice to tell the story about these things that happened in my childhood and I knew I had to have the perfect person alongside me to help me do it so I called Brandy up. I told her what I wanted to do and she said that she would be honoured to be involved.
‘Make You’ has been such a force. When we released ‘heart theory’ I remember getting thousands and thousands of DMs from fans thanking me for saying something like that and how it helped them come to terms with their own experiences. It reminded me just how powerful music can be. It helps when I get into my own head about chart positions or singles not doing what we’d hoped they do to think back to then and realise that that is the real reason why we do what we do.
How many times a month do you get asked, either as a singer or guitarist, to collaborate on another artist’s project?
(laughing) Quite often actually! I love collaborations – I think they are so fun and so important. I also think it’s quite important for the genre of Country music that collaborations happen so that we can continue to blend and blur the boundaries and welcome new fans into our format.
I just did a collaboration with Lee Brice and Cheat Codes which was so fun. I have a few more things in the works too.
Your appearance on ‘Fox & Friends’ in the summer was very empowering. Did you intend to go on such a right leaning platform and talk about women having freedom to choose what happens to their own bodies or did it happen spontaneously?
We got a call to do that show and it definitely rubbed me in interesting ways. At the end of the day I love what I do because it gives me a platform to talk about things I believe in. There’s different sides to every issue and every story and every news network, obviously, but all I can do is show up and be who I am.
We were in the middle of my interview and the anchors started talking about women’s rights I just said that I believe that women should have control over their own bodies and have their own rights, blah, blah, blah (laughing) and I could see them all stiffen (laughing). It’s not like I was saying anything controversial but then I introduced ‘Right on Time’ by saying this song goes out there to every women out there fighting for their rights and I saw them all stiffen again! (Laughing)
We’re just human beings trying to learn to love each other, right? People get confused and obsessed by the wrong things, you know?
Your Instagram bio says ‘fiercely pursuing the meaning of life’. Hows that going and have you got any tips for the rest of us?
(laughing) Goodness gracious! I’m just swimming upstream like everyone else. The past couple of years have been a bit of a reality check and priority alignment for me and everyone else in the world!
I think a lot of us have come to realise that life isn’t just about working. I am a workaholic, I love what I do so much, but it’s so important to have balance, which in turn will give your work more meaning. There’s only 24 hours in a day so you have to work out how many of those hours do you want to allocate to your job, right? Time is so precious and life is so short, so if I’ve learned anything so far it’s make sure that you wake up in the morning and feel happy about whatever it is that you are doing.