On Monday January 18th of last year I headed to Cambridge to see a Lindi Ortega gig, the second time I’d seen her play live. Just a week later, I started this site. Was this is a coincidence? No, not at all. If it hadn’t been for that gig, this site would not have started. I was so inspired by the evening, that it was during the long drive home that I came up with the idea for Belles and Gals. Around 16 months on, I am absolutely delighted to interview the lady herself, a massive personal highlight. I give you Lindi Ortega.
Hi Lindi, I’d like to start by asking you about the new EP Till the Goin’ Gets Gone and in particular your brilliant cover of the Townes van Zandt ‘Waiting ‘Round to Die’ which appears as the third track. How did you come to connect with his music and why this song?
All my music hero’s were huge fans of Townes van Zandt, I would read his name in all the biographies I had read. I knew if they were all fans of his music, then naturally, I would have to educate myself. I chose this song because I felt like it fit in line with the rest of the songs on the EP. It was also the first song of his that I heard and I felt I could relate to his dark lonesome lyrics. He has become one of my top songwriters: him and Leonard Cohen.
The EP’s tracks are made all the more intimate and poignant by the minimal production. Was this ‘stripped back’ style a conscious decision made before writing the EP or did it just naturally evolve?
While some might think its a step backwards to go less production, I wanted to try something more stark. It was where my music was when I was going through a difficult time. Big production would have felt silly for these songs. They were begging for space and I wanted the lyrics to resonate and take centre stage.
How scary was it when you came close to quitting the music business recently? What would you have done instead? How important were your fans in the decision to continue?
I don’t know if “scary” is the word. I can say I was worried for my future. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I have many interests, I might have had to go back to school and pursue meteorology so I could buy a truck and go chase storms. I feel the business of music is so uncertain at any given time, you’re always sort of teetering on the edge wondering if you’ll fall off the cliff. But that’s just the way she goes. Ya gotta learn to be okay with that uncertainty, you have to just absorb the moment and do all you can to be all you can be. If you fail, at least you can say it wasn’t for lack of trying.
The fans are the most important part of what I do. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this if I didn’t have their support. They were the main reason I hopped back on the horse. I just didn’t want to let them down.
Was part of the problem being in Nashville surrounded by so many prolific writers and feeling pressured to be creative? Has the move back to Canada helped in that respect?
No, I never felt any sort of pressure like that. I don’t think I was ever really all that involved in the scene. I did my own thing. I truly don’t pay too much attention to what everyone else is doing. I’m like the weird girl that sits in the back of the class. Always just creepin the corners.
The move back to Canada has been awesome, but I face the same struggles as I always did. Some days I find it hard to write a song and some days it just pours out, some days I’m playing an arena and some days I playing for 15 people in some dive bar in the middle of nowhere. That’s my life; it’s a series of juxtaposition. I often feel its akin to Sisyphus and his boulder – he rolls that thing up the hill sometimes, and its great, he’s getting somewhere… till it just falls back down on him. But the journey is what’s most important. That’s what Camus would say, so I’ll just listen to Camus.
It says on your website that going forward musically you want “more space and ambience” than the traditional country sound that has always influenced you. Can you expand on that concept? Is the song ‘Final Bow’ a goodbye to that stage of your career?
That’s where I was with the EP, and at the time that’s where I wanted to keep going, But honestly, I don’t know what will come out next and in what way. That remains to be seen. I could be struck with some wacky idea and just run with it. I may start dabbling in punk polka, or new age modern folk funk. I mean, it’s possible, I could well lose my marbles.
“Final Bow” was actually written as the last song I would ever write, or so I thought. I never expected I would record it. I thought I was giving up music. Pretty sure I was done, so I wrote this sad little slow waltz, and I knew when I recorded it some people would be annoyed at how slow it is. But I was tired of my life moving so fast; I needed a song in slow motion.
We are a website based in the UK and there is much love for you on this side of the Atlantic. We’re told that a UK audience is very different to one you might find at a gig in the US or Canada. Is this something you’ve found?
Not really. I find its more dependent on the venue, and I feel its kind of the same across the board. If it’s a sit down performance in a theatre, usually the audience is quiet and respectful, but if I’m playing a dingy sweaty bar somewhere, then the crowd could be up dancing and hooting and hollering. I’ve witnessed that everywhere I’ve gone. I do so love touring the UK though! The venues are always really cool!
If you had to pinpoint one particular moment as a personal highlight in your career, what would it be?
Playing the Opry at The Ryman in Nashville.
Here in the UK there is a radio show called ‘Desert Island Discs’. If you could choose just one album to take to a desert island, which one would it be?
I’d have to make a mix tape of all my faves. I really couldn’t pick just one!
As a website we aim to champion artists who don’t perhaps gain the recognition they deserve. What advice would you give to a talented artist who just can’t manage that breakthrough?
Stop looking to break through. Just do you, and earn fans one at a time then give those fans everything you are. Forget about fame and fortune and all that malarky.
To finish, can we ask about your upcoming hopes and plans for the rest of 2017?
I really just take it one day at a time. I will continue to do what I do, live, tour, sing, and write songs.