In 2012, Lindi Ortega was nominated for a JUNO Award for New Artist of the Year. Despite that tag, this country-rooted singer-songwriter is no novice. Her debut album The Taste of Forbidden Fruit came out in 2001, and Ortega has patiently honed her craft on the Toronto scene.
Career ups and downs along the way include a short-lived stint on Interscope imprint Cherrytree, prior to signing with Toronto label Last Gang. 2011’s JUNO-nominated Little Red Boots and its equally-acclaimed follow-up Cigarettes & Truckstops have announced Ortega’s arrival as a powerful vocalist and poetic songwriter, and international audiences are now embracing her original yet retro-tinged sound and vision.“I love the fact it has been a long struggle for me to get to where I am,” says Ortega. “It makes me really appreciative of things like sold-out shows at [Toronto club] The Rivoli. It took me ten years to do that. When it happened, I felt genuinely sentimental.”
Now selling out venues double that size, her profile has been boosted by appearing in, and having her music played on, the hit TV series Nashville. That’s fitting, given Ortega’s relocation there in December 2011. “Music City is just a very productive town,” she says. “It kicks your ass into gear. Returning to Toronto after a tour, I’d go ‘OK, I’m just going to sit and watch Netflix and pig out on Doritos and hang out in my pajamas.’ Here, you realize everyone around you is constantly creating.”
: “I’ve started to really concentrate on coming up with meaningful lyrics, thinking about the story you want to tell in a song.”- Lindi Ortega
Ortega is now co-writing with such Nashville songsmiths as Bruce Wallace and Matt Nolan. Her current goal is to write a song a day, and she’s aiming to release another record by year’s end.
Ortega credits Nashville with changing her outlook on songwriting. “I’m much more appreciative of the art of song now,” she says. “Early on, I’d just strum some chords and words would come out. It was haphazard, but I could create a song. There is a beauty to that, but I’ve started to really concentrate on coming up with meaningful lyrics, thinking about the story you want to tell in a song.”
Helping fuel that process is her own increased musical knowledge. “Through my exploration of country music I’ve come to love blues, and all kinds of folky and rootsy music,” she says. “It’s important for me to really learn and evolve as a songwriter, and listening to people like Townes van Zandt, old blues singers or Hank Williams can really teach me.”
• Ortega won the Best Music Video Award at the 2012 iPhone Film Festival for her self-directed clip for “Cigarettes & Truckstops.”
• She has opened for acts as diverse as Keane, Social Distortion, and k.d. lang
• Colin Linden, who produced Cigarettes & Truckstops, is credited with boosting her love of blues.