Country singer Lindsay Ell, originally from Calgary, is hitting the stage big time July 18th with the Boom Chucka Boys and Kira Isabella at the Centrium as part of Westerner Days.
Doors open at 7 p.m. with concerts starting at 8 p.m. The concert is free with gate admission. For the past few years, Ell has been attracting a growing audience of fans via a number of singles, the latest of which is a striking cover of Sugar with Landon Austin.
For Ell, a love for music – and the guitar in particular – was sparked early. She started with the proverbial piano lessons when she was about six, but it was the magic of guitar that really won out.
“Growing up, Shania Twain was my idol,” she explains during a recent chat. “When I was a little girl I would get so upset with my dad if he changed the radio in the car from anything that was country. I knew pretty much every word to every Shania song, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Terri Clark – they were all my idols. I would walk around the house just singing constantly.
“I’m really fortunate to have a very musical family,” she said. “Whenever we’d get together at Christmas, it would turn into a great big family jam session. I was sort of surrounded by it all through my childhood.”
Ell was also singing in her church youth group at 10, so getting up in front of people became that much more of a natural and comfortable experience. “I used to have one of those plastic microphones and I would carry it around the house singing songs left, right and centre,” she laughs.
Her dad also was a major influence in helping her hone her guitar skills. “Looking back now, I’m really glad I started off with a classical background – it gave me a really good base. But guitar was much more fun growing up,” she adds with a laugh.
She started playing guitar around the time she was eight.
She was discovered at 13 by BTO and The Guess Who’s Randy Bachman (American Woman, Takin’ Care Of Business) through a songwriting partner.
“He opened up my whole perspective,” she said. “We’d be in the studio and he’d be playing all of these jazz chords – I’d be sitting there with my eyes wide open,” she said. “Randy learned guitar from master jazz guitarist Lenny Breau, so I dove head-first into this world of blues, jazz and rock guitar – learning all these different solos, switching radio stations and trying to get an idea of where all those techniques come from.
“So he really opened my mind to jazz and blues,” she said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have experiences with different genres of music. I’m definitely a country musician at heart, but as a guitar player I can pull from some of those other influences.”
During those formative years, she would also head off to Nashville for two-week songwriting stints, juggling these creative treks with performing in Canada. Ultimately she settled in Nashville about five years ago, and she credits the musically-rich oasis with fueling plenty of her creativity as well.
“Nashville is an amazing place to live. You can surround yourself with people who will make you a better person, a better musician and a better songwriter. It’s the perfect place for me to do that.”
Obviously, by the point she made the decision to relocate, it seemed clear that Ell was destined for a career in country music – even though she had started studying business at the University of Calgary. “Eventually I knew it just wasn’t going to work – I couldn’t do two things at once.”
A couple of years ago, she embarked upon one of her most exciting opportunities yet – an opening slot on The Band Perry’s ‘We Are Pioneers’ World Tour. The tour included some 50 dates throughout Europe and North America, and marked Ell’s first trek across several European countries.
Ell is quick to say her journey to success in the industry has been influenced by many along the way. “I have so many friends who have helped me get to where I am,” she said, adding that many here in Canada have also been key to her growth as a musician, too. “It’s a very warm feeling – it’s very comforting to come back here. It’s almost like the feeling of a Chinook,” she laughs.
“It’s the people who believe in you from the very beginning and champion you and see the vision. I have a long, long list of people I could thank that would go on for days. I can’t thank these people enough, because when you are starting out, you do need these people who are willing to take a leap of faith. I’ve been very fortunate.”
As to her musicianship, not to mention her power as a singer, there is no doubt fans will continue to take note. “I’m the luckiest person in the world to pour my heart into songs and then go and sing them to an audience of people who want to sing them back – there’s nothing that will top the experience of standing on a stage and seeing people sing lyrics you have written sung back to you. It puts you on a high that nothing else can touch.
“I truly love what I do. I think to survive in this industry you have to love it, because you have to deal with the ups and downs and the wonders of life. But I love music – I’m so passionate about it and I know I couldn’t do anything else.”