Talking by phone from her mother’s Toronto home, she talked about how her 2011 release Little Red Boots inspired her to more fully explore the roots of country music.
Noting that the first book she read was Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams by Phil Hemphill, Ortega discovered Williams was heavily influenced by the blues. “That’s when I started to see a real connection between blues and country. I tried to listen solely to blues for months at a time, right around the time I was writing the songs for this record.”
She enlisted Colin Linden, a renowned producer and blues guitarist who has an extensive knowledge of blues. Linden helped Ortega weave the blues into the outlaw-traditional-country-with-hints-of-rock sound she developed. In a significant way, Cigarettes & Truckstops is an maturation of Ortega’s music from her debut album Little Red Boots. Although her sound is now more sophisticated and blues based, it has the heartfelt sincerety that drew listeners to her earlier work.
“It was really just a matter of [further developing] my own style,” she said. “It’s notreally straight anything. I listen to a lot of early country and absorb old style blues, but I also love Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and Janis Joplin. That music is just some of what influences me.”
Of course, the main inspiration for Ortega is life. She admits to having myriad leather-bound journals in which she’s constantly jotting down notes to review and continually nourish the muse.
Take the title track of the new album Cigarettes & Truckstops that she wrote based on a tour romance, which involved cigarettes and truck stops, particularly one in Evanston, Wyo. And although the experience is highly personal, she seems to have few qualms about sharing the story with her fans.
“My time on stage is the time to connect to the human race; I crave that,” she said. “When I perform, I’m sharing the loneliness, heartbreak, beating the demons, that we all encounter. I hope they can realize they are not alone in the human struggle. We all go through the ups and downs.”
But as artistic and new age as this sounds, Ortega’s conversation makes it clear she has her feet—clad in the “Little Red Boots” her manager bought her in Nashville—firmly on the ground.
“I attribute that to the way I was raised. My mother is my biggest inspiration, a wonderful person, very humble, and I want to be like her,” she said. “I don’t do this for any other reason than I completely love it. That’s what drives what I do. I am really not about making millions of dollars. I’m not about making the next huge No. 1 Billboard single. I love the life of a struggling musician. I love the [third-rate] hotels, broken down vans. That stuff keeps giving characters life. Everybody would love to be successful, but I hope if that happens things wouldn’t get boring. I probably still would want to stay in the same hotels, ride in the same vans.”
For more information about Lindi Ortega, go to her official website.