Lindsay Ell talks about her writing process, mid-gig thoughts and John Mayer's Continuum!
There were a couple of artists at C2C on the pop up stages and satellite stages that everyone was talking about. They stole the show away from the big stars such as Tim and Faith, Emmylou and Little Big Town. Those two artists were Ashley McBryde and Lindsay Ell. Wherever you went, every ten seconds you would over hear a conversation about how amazing those artists were, and in the aftermath of the weekend social media was buzzing with excitement, again over those two artists! I first saw Lindsay Ell supporting The Band Perry way back on the 4th December 2013. I had never seen anyone play guitar like that, male or female, I was seriously blown away and I knew back then that this girl was going to be a superstar! I was of course delighted when she was announced on the line up for C2C but disappointed she was only on the Satellite stage. Luckily there was a number of opportunities to catch a full set on one of the pop up stages and she even had time to chat to me on the Friday! Find out what she had to say below.
First of all could you tell me about when you first decided you wanted to be a musician?
I started playing Guitar when I was eight years old, Piano was actually my first instrument at six, but ever since I picked it up it just felt right, music was just home to me. I played my first show when I was ten and from that moment on I knew I wanted to be a musician and nothing else would make me as happy as music does. I’m originally from Calgary Canada so I grew up buying a band van and driving back and forth across the country, playing for three, four hours a night just learning how to play and how to perform. Then I finally moved down to Nashville about eight years ago so it’s my home now but Nashville was always sort of the dream when I was a girl. I would always say “One day I’m going to move to Nashville and sign a record deal” and do all of these things that when I was a little girl were just dreams but these past eight years have been like a whirlwind in the best way possible. To come full circle, this morning (9th March) to be able to walk into HMV and purchase my album, as we decided to release my album in the UK so it’s record release week and so I’m happy I get to celebrate it here with all of you. It was crazy to wake up this morning and see my album on the stand and buy it!
Where do you draw inspiration from, who do you listen to and who did your parents make you listen to growing up?
When I was growing up we listened to a lot of Country early on so I love Shania Twain, Faith Hill, of course Faith and Tim are playing C2C tonight. In my teens I started working with a guy named Randy Bachman, Randy in bands Bachman Turner Overdrive and Guess Who they had songs like Taking care of Business and These Eyes and American Woman, they were classic rock. So Randy got me into listening to Blues, Jazz and Rock and in my teens I dove into listening to Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn and they became my favourite artists. I listened to the blues so much that as a guitar player, I play lead guitar, there aren’t a lot of girls that play lead guitar and so it was wonderful to have such a different musical vocabulary, to be in those Worlds. Nashville brought me back to my Country roots but my heart lies in so many different genres because of the time I invested all of those years and so I play a lot of blues live and write Country songs. So a little mish-mash of everything!
Where do you draw inspiration from when writing lyrics?
I feel like making this record as a writer I’ve written some of the most vulnerable songs I’ve ever written. I feel like the more personal the lyrics can be the more fans can relate to them and the more fans can find out about me. I love social media, I love being so open and let fans into that and if fans can hear that in my music then I think it bands it all together in a cool way. Some of my favourite artists are artists that when you hear their music you know what it’s about and you can see that in your own life. I do write a lot of my lyrics from experiences in my life or things that my friends have been going through and things I can share on social media to fans and stuff.
We’ve already spoke briefly about your incredible guitar skills, but when it comes to writing songs do you start with the guitar first or the lyrics first?
I will say that every song is different and sometimes I’ll even break my own rules and I’ll write a song on piano and I write a completely different song on piano than I would have done on guitar. Generally yes, I always start with the music side of things, I’ll have a title or topic of what I want to write about and that will let me know the mood of wether I want something fast or if I want something slow, something happy or sad and then I often start most of my songs with a melody or music so I’ll have a guitar lick or a chorus melody that can help me build the music around it, then I’ll write lyrics to it. On my phone on my voice memos I have so many ideas and most of them are terrible but there are a few gems in there that you can pick out and delve into a cool song. I find that we’re travelling so much, we’re on the road so much that I’m just writing constantly and gathering ideas and it’s those random ideas that you’ll find you’re in the middle of a coffee shop and a song pops into your head and you’ll sing it into your phone or when I’m walking through an airport people see me singing to my phone, I must look like the crazy lady singing into her phone but I’m just capturing song ideas.
A couple of different questions for you now, what’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written a song about?
That is a very good question, oh my goodness. You know we get to do a lot of people watching through airports and through travelling all the time and I remember there was this homeless man and we landed in New York City or something and there was this homeless man that just made such an impression on me because of the way he was sitting on this bench and he seemed to be so grateful of everything he had but he didn’t have anything but he was still grateful. That was the most random thing that I just saw and instantly a song came over me.
When you’re on stage are you completely focused or do you let your mind wander? What are your mid-gig thoughts?
So a little bit of both. Most of the time I’m completely focused in terms of a setlist, having the band and knowing where we’re going however there are a couple of times in the set where I leave for those moments of spontaneity, for those creative things that make every live show different. I leave lots of spaces for guitar solos, shocking I know but those are moments where I can do different things and I can play to the room or something I’m feeling that night compared to the night before. I always have an acoustic part of my set when we have longer sets and I love those minutes of a set because I can play whatever, I can play an old cover song I used to play when I was growing up or play a brand new song I wrote yesterday. It’s those moments that make shows truly unique.
Do you have any advice to aspiring songwriters and musicians?
Absolutely, I would say as a young songwriter I wish I could go back ten years ago and tell my young songwriting self to just trust myself more. It’s those instincts, gut instincts that you feel but are drawn to whatever you hear on the radio or on certain playlists and you think well maybe I should do that. Trust those gut instincts, it’s that inner artist self in you that’s unique and I think thats the artist that fans want to hear from, those artists are the ones that make you fall in love with them, when you see some of your ten favourite artists in a row those inner instincts are what makes those artists who they are and when I think of my favourite artists it’s those little quirky things that I love about them. So I say to young artists and songwriters lean in to those things that make you who you are and that you may be scared to write into a song or show to people.
You’ve worked a lot with Kristian Bush, how did that collaboration come about?
Kristian Bush is one of my favourite people, he’s always been such a beautiful human being and he is so smart, I call him like my studio Yoda. He’s just so brilliant about the way he writes songs, he’s been the songwriter, he’s been the producer, he’s been the artist, he understands all aspects of the industry and so going in to record this record he was the perfect person to guide me musically, spiritually and emotionally. Through this whole process he’s been there. He was the one who had me record my favourite record, this was pre-production before we even started my own record. He said Lindsay what’s your favourite record, and I said it would have to be Continuum by John Mayer, he said perfect I want you to go and record the whole thing. I was like what? He said yes, you have two weeks I want you to play all the instruments and you have to do it by yourself at your studio by the lake, those are the rules, go! So I said ok, and I cleared my schedule for the next two weeks and 8am till 3am I re-recorded Continuum and I felt like I learned so much about the way John Mayer plays guitar, the way John Mayer writes songs, the way I play guitar and write songs and most importantly how I wanted my record to sound. It was like all of a sudden the gears clicked so from that experience to now, a year and a half later getting to buy my album at the HMV Oxford Street, it’s a full circle moment I feel like Kristian has helped me find out who I am, what I want to say and how I want to say it, I’m so grateful to him. I’m touring with Sugarland later this year so yeah, Kristian Bush is one of my favourite people.
Whats next for you?
This years going to be a busy one we’re on tour currently with Mr Brad Paisley it’s been so amazing on the weekend warrior tour. We’re out with him until the end of April and I will say nothing keeps a girl on her toes than trading licks with the guitar legend Brad Paisley. We will be on tour with Sugarland later this year as well as with Keith Urban in the fall which I’m super excited about.
Can you bring any of those tours over here?
I know, I will try my best, with all the power I have to persuade all of them to come over but I will say I will be coming back to the UK to tour, for sure, sometime in the fall but hopefully sooner than that. I want to come to the UK as much as I can I love it over here. I’ll also be releasing my version of Continuum so fans can hear that! We’ll also be going into the studio in December to record the next record so a busy year but a great year. It’s also so incredible to be a part of C2C I wanted to play this festival for so long, so it’s amazing to be here.