Today, she calls Nashville home, but singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega is, in fact, a born and bred Torontonian. At the age of just 16, inspired by her mother’s love for country, Ortega taught herself to play guitar and has been paving the path to success ever since. Her debut album, The Taste of Forbidden Fruit, was released in 2001 to much acclaim – both Exclaim! and CBC Radio 2 were completely taken with Ortega’s enchanting voice, which has been described as a blend of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash – while Little Red Boots (2011), Ortega’s fifth release but first album with label Last Gang Records, was nominated for two Juno Awards. Ortega’s latest effort Cigarettes & Truckstops, continues the artist’s musical evolution, featuring new themes, new sounds and new musical genres. (I guarantee it will not disappoint!)
I had the incredible opportunity to catch up with Ortega while she was on tour to discuss Cigarettes & Truckstops and her very distinct and intriguing voice. Here’s what she had to say:
YT: How has your transition to the city of Nashville influenced Cigarettes & Truckstops?
LO: Well, Nashville is music city. There is a lot to be inspired by because some of the greatest musicians ever are there, making music and playing in bands. It’s hard to not get inspired when you go out and see a show there. . . On this particular record, we have had a lot of great musicians like David Roe, Bryan Owings and, of course, Colin Linden.
YT: What was Canadian singer-songwriter Colin Linden’s impact on the album?
LO: Colin has wealth and knowledge as far as the blues goes and he is an incredible player. . . I picked up all these records after reading the Hank Williams biography and learning that he was influenced by Rufus Payne, who was a great musician, and there was Led Zeppelin and Robert Johnston – and I started listening to them and then I realized the more that I was listening to that kind of music, the more it was impacting how I was writing. I saw that my close chord percussions got a little “blusier” and my melodies got a little “blusier” and so we thought that it would be great to have a producer who was really familiar with that style of music, to give that little bit of influence and show it up on the recordings. I think Colin did an excellent job – just with his background – of doing that.
YT: Colin and all his glory of the dobro feature on Cigarettes & Truckstops. What is it about the dobro that is so awesome?
LO: I can’t really explain it; it’s just one of these instruments and I loved the sound of it. Besides it being really cool looking, it just sounds amazing, and man, can he play it! He plays it amazingly! I just love the tone and the feel.
YT: Did you have such high expectations for Cigarettes & Truckstops, or has the album's outstanding success caught you off guard?
LO: I don’t see constant things happening through a lot of expectations and pressures, because I think that those things can impact the way I make music. If I pay too much attention to the expectations or pressure, I think that it would cause me to overthink things. I put that by the wayside – acknowledge it briefly and then I let it go and create from my heart. I throw it out there like a sweater in the wind and hope that the people are gonna enjoy what I do!
YT: You have had the opportunity to open for punk rockers Social Distortion and rock veteran Burton Cummings, among others. How has maneuvering through such different musical genres had an impact on you as an artist?
LO: It’s fantastic to be able to have the kind of music that you can do different tours like that. It kind of blows my mind that I was able to open for Social Distortion! I can’t say right away what kind of an influence it has had on my music because Cigarettes & Truckstops was recorded a little bit before I did the direct support, and some of the songs were written before the first run with them. But I can say that I bet there will be a little bit of an influence for the next record because I don’t know how I couldn’t be a little bit influenced by touring with Social D. So, who knows, maybe it will be more rock and punk kind of songs, but it is hard to say.
YT: It is clear that Johnny Cash has been a true inspiration to you throughout your musical career. What inspires you most about his work?
LO: So many things! Johnny was a true original in his genre and the kind of style of music that he plays has got this thing that’s called the “chica-boom” – “chica-boom” “chica-boom” “chica-boom” when you're listening to the music and I love that vibe and hip-hop feel. I also love Johnny for his lyrical content. He has these really jovial upbeat songs with dark lyrics and I am a huge fan of that, and it really got me the first time that I heard him. I love his voice and I think he is an incredible singer who is very unique with what he does. He is also a great writer – there are so many things – and I love the fact that he is the “Man in Black.”
YT: Was music ever just a hobby or were you always committed to the idea of becoming a professional musician?
LO: I think it started out as a bit of a hobby and just the whole learning of the guitar. It wasn’t until I started playing in assemblies at school that I decided that I was in love with being on stage and performing and I really wanted to try and make a career out of it. At 17 or 18 years old, I basically got the idea of turning it into a career path.