Canadian Artist Bewitches Country Music
What if Wonder Woman went country? Her fierce red boots turned-rugged cowboy style. Maybe a singing superpower with an entrancing twang? She already has a Lasso (of Truth), ya know.
Multi-Juno award and Polaris Music Prize nominee, Lindi Ortega is dubbed an alternative-country artist, in little red cowboy boots. A Mexican/Irish Canadian, Ortega now fondly calls “Music City” her home.
“And I guess I just always wanted a pair of red boots, ‘cause I was always a big fan of Wonder Woman when I was growing up,” says Ortega. “She had red boots, so… I wanted to do a country version.”
Gifted by her manager during her first songwriting trip in Nashville, the original pair got swallowed up in a mucky Louisiana swamp. But with a new pair, and a new label, Ortega is trudging out of the mud, and into the spotlight.
Her fourth full-length album, Cigarettes & Truckstops drops October 2, following her exemplary Little Red Boots of 2011, by acclaimed producer Ron Lopata on Last Gang Records. The title track off the record is reminiscent of a tour romance, and the countless late night truck stop smoke breaks. “It’s a nostalgic memory for me,” says Ortega. “Every time I pass by a truck stop I’m reminded, and it happens a lot when you’re on tour, so I just decided to name the record that.”
In regards to her two indie releases prior to signing with Interscope/Cherrytree Records in 2008, Ortega believes her music found its own way to country. “My first record [The Taste of Forbidden Fruit – 2001] was more piano based, as I was inspired by Edith Piaf at the time,” says Ortega. “Although there was one song that definitely had a country vibe.” Then the second record, “[Fall From Grace – 2007] had even more of a country feel, and it just seemed like with every record there was more.”
Despite gravitating toward country, Ortega does not entrap herself in an aesthetic restraint when it comes to her genre. “I would never say I was a straight-up country artist,” says Ortega. “I have so many different influences: blues, soul, to deep south, and county… every facet of it creeping in, I especially love folk and I love roots.”
Ortega can’t deny she’s got country pulsating through her blood. “My mom, who was a big country fan, listened to a lot of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Linda Ronstadt, and Merle Haggard,” says Ortega. “And I just remember being a young child and watching the Dolly Parton Variety Show with her.”
Wandering further from her childhood country influences, Ortega began to saturate her insatiable musical taste buds with age. “Johnny Cash is my biggest inspiration,” says Ortega. From Cigarettes & Truckstops, “Murder of Crows” is a fictional-based song, infected by Cash’s eerie lyrical stories. “I was inspired by the fact that Johnny Cash did that with songs like ‘Delia’s Gone’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues,’” says Ortega. “I just wanted to try my hand at it.”
Dually her heritage bewitches a spicy, yet sinister siren. “I’m very drawn to my Mexican heritage, in my style, look, and artwork,” says Ortega. “Especially the first record cover-art, a lot of my painting is inspired by Dia de los Muertos art from Mexico.”
“Heaven Has No Vacancy” is favored off Cigarettes & Truckstops. Produced by distinguished blues-guitarist Colin Linden, “it’s as if he delved into my mind and brought the track to life exactly how I would have wanted it to happen,” Ortega praises. “It’s an interesting lyric choice, and theme to run with.”
Ortega knows all too well, that a genuine producer and label is exhausting to find, and a blessing once obtained. Thrown by the waste-side, after Interscope/Cherrytree Records became intoxicated with dance-pop label-mate Lady Gaga, Ortega packed-up and signed with Last Gang Records in 2011, a Canada-based indie label run by her trustworthy manager.
Artistically liberated, Ortega relocated and rejuvenated herself in Nashville. Seduced by a Hank Williams biography amid writing Cigarettes & Truckstops, she was awestruck by his biggest influence, Rufus Payne ‘Tee Tot.’ “I found out that blues was a major influence of early ountry,” says Ortega. “So for this particular record, I was listening to a lot of blues music, resulting in a sprinkle of a blues sound among my own songs.”
Presently opening for legendary k.d. lang in Canada, following with Fall US stops [November 3 – Electric Factory] alongside punk-rockers Social Distortion, Ortega is road ravenous. Touring worldwide with such noteworthy acts as Keane, Kevin Costner, and Raul Malo (The Mavericks), she also sang back-up for Brandon Flowers (The Killers.) Backings now considered a one-time only, “unless Willie Nelson called me up,” says Ortega.
With spellbinding charm, Lindi Ortega just wants to sing her songs. She’s a modest vixen. She’s got an old school heart. Her music aches, tantalizes, and pays grave admiration to a sultry southern bluesy-soul. “Above all else, I advocate the singer songwriter,” says Ortega. “I never want that to become a dying art.”
“Now the world is ready for you, and the wonders you can do… Wonder Woman.”
Written by: Julianne Cassidy