Black Music Matters Festival

Lindi Ortega plans on sticking aroundPrint article

By Dustin Blumenhagen, October 2013

Lindi Ortega has come a long way from her urban home of Toronto to her current digs in Nashville. Her songs about murder, love and the things that connect the two are reminiscent of country artists like Johnny Cash.

Far from an overnight sensation, Lindi Ortega independently released her first album "The Taste of Forbidden Fruit" back in 2001. She followed this up with a second full length and a couple of EPs over the seven years, including one for Interscope Records. Ortega built a following in her hometown of Toronto, but struggled to breakthrough outside of the city limits. She toured as a backup singer on The Killers' lead vocalist Brandon Flowers solo excursion, which she credits as inspiring her return to the front of the stage. After spending so much time on the side of the stage, Ortega was itching to sit down and write some new music of her own.

She never shied away taking chances with her music, whether touring with consistent punk mainstays Social Distortion or recording with innovative electro dub artists Major Lazer.

Finally, in mid-2011, Last Gang Records of Canada released "Little Red Boots," which met critical acclaim and exposed Ortega to a wider audience. Capitalizing on the momentum of her rediscovered passion for music, she followed up with a Christmas EP "Tenessee Christmas" a few months later. Her relationship with Last Gang marked a new direction in her career. A new release followed again in 2012 (the well-received "Cigarettes & Truckstops") and "Tin Star" in October.

Ortega has already begun working on new music. The artistic flood could be attributed to her new label, but it likely has as much to do with her new home, Nashville.

Her wardrobe channels the classic beauties, most comfortably aligned with modern rockabilly styles, but Ortega isn't satisfied being lumped into any one genre. On "Tin Star," Ortega emanates pure Southern charm, with nary a hint of snooty upscale urban attitude to be found.

"It's only ever my goal to be able to do what I do for a living," she says. "I'm glad that I am able to be in Nashville, New Orleans is one of my favorite cities, and I love the south. It's so exciting, travelling through the desert in my little car, touring around the southern States. It's really great to be able to make a living out here, it's a great honor. Anything beyond that is icing on the cake. We strive to be all that we can be out here and hope that people take notice."

But Ortega hasn't forgotten her roots. "I love Canada too."

"I think (‘Tin Star') works well as a companion to my last couple of albums. It's an evolution; I'm a fan of using different musicians and producers. I've always had great players."

Recently Ortega was nominated for a Roots Album of the Year award for "Cigarettes & Truckstops" at the Canadian Country Music Awards. While she ultimately did not take the award home, she had a great time back in her native country.

"It's always an honor to be nominated and to be recognized, it helps solidify that I'm doing something right. But it's not about winning awards; I create music because I love it. I'm honored to be invited and meet people. I was so happy for Corb (Lund; winner of the award five years running). I love Corb, I wasn't sad that I lost, I was super happy for him."

Ortega took some time to collaborate with punk artist Tim Armstrong of Rancid on a Ramones cover. "(Tim) works his butt off and does all these recordings. He has 10 on the go at a time. He has this band, which is really old school country with fiddles and steel guitar. He mixes old music, old pop, old punk, old country. I have nothing but amazing things to say about him, what he's doing is really innovative. He is supportive of talents who aren't famous and introduces them to his established audience."

With the wide variety of collaborations that Ortega takes part in, those who have never heard her music may be unsure of what to expect. "I always tell people that I'm a huge fan of old country, but I also listen to old blues and soul music, it's an amalgamation of everything I love, there's a little snippet of everything I love, it's hard for to define myself. I make music in the most honest way I know how; I put it out there, as long as you believe in it and stand behind it, you can be proud."

With a whirlwind of music releases in a short time, Ortega is obviously inspired these days. She tours constantly, covering North America on a regular basis, with short breaks for recording. Her music is far removed from the current crop of Nashville pop country, but Ortega isn't worried about fitting in to sell records. She has a message for the marketing machines that mold artists in search of mass consumption.

"I look so weird to everyone out here in Nashville, the way I dress, people are always giving me the stare down, and people expect me to sing some weird shit. I'm sticking around, so you better get used to it."