Interview: Lindi Ortega

The Nashville based alt. country singer chats about her lauded new album Faded Gloryville and the inspirations behind the LP, plus info on UK tour dates

Interview: Lindi Ortega Issued in August Faded Gloryville the fifth album by alt. country singer Lindi Ortega was a superlative return by the Toronto born, Nashville native. Garlanded with some of the best reviews of an already highly praised career, the album saw Ortega collaborating with members of The Civil Wars, Alabama Shakes and players from legendary music town Muscle Shoals.

Set to tour the US and her native Canada later in the month the singer recently announced a run of UK dates (see below) for mid January next year. Prior to that Bearded caught up with Lindi to ask about the inspirations behind the LP.

A really straightforward enquiry to begin with then, what music were you listening to that inspired the sound of Faded Gloryville? ‘I was listening to a lot of Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Etta James’ Lindi says ‘As well as Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan and Loretta Lynn’.

Taking in country rock on Run Down Neighborhood, soul on Bee Gees cover To Love Somebody, classic pop on I’m Ain’t the Girl and torch song on Half Moon, Faded Gloryville incorporates elements from a myriad of genres into Lindi’s musical melange. Is it fair to say that the LP covers the largest number of styles of your albums? ‘I suppose, I mean I always thought I covered a lot of musical ground with my records’ Lindi replies. ‘This is the first time I injected a bit of soul, but I've always had a bit of blues, a bit of rockabilly, even a bit of bluegrass on former records’.

With Colin Linden who recently toured as Bob Dylan’s backing guitarist and Nashville’s most in-demand producer Dave Cobb both returning to operate the recording console, Lindi was re-teamed with the producers of Cigarettes & Truckstops (2012) and Tin Star (2013) respectively. In addition to these sessions three tracks, ‘Someday Soon’, ‘When You Ain’t Home’ and the aforementioned cover of ‘To Love Somebody’ were produced by John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes. How did this collaboration come about? ‘I went down to Alabama to write with John Paul White and noticed he had a new studio that he'd just started recorded people in’ Lindi explains. ‘I was working on a new record anyways so it seemed like a no brainer to ask if he'd be willing to produce a few tracks for me. Luckily he said yes’.

Having worked with Colin Linden and Dave Cobb on your previous albums how different was it working with John and Ben producing? ‘It was cool. It was fascinating to see them work as a duo’ Lindi says of the sessions. ‘I'd never worked with two producers at the same time so it was very different for me. But I loved it. They are both so talented’. The tracks helmed by the pair were put to tape in the legendary environs of Muscle Shoals in Alabama, where the iconic likes of Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles made the town world famous.

Subject of an excellent BBC4 documentary last year Muscle Shoals: The Greatest Recording Studio in the World, the reputation the area acquired in the 1960s led to The Rolling Stones and Paul Simon venturing down South to soak up the atmosphere. What was it like working there? ‘It's a cool vibe’ Lindi says. ‘Lots of well respected history that seems to permeate the music scene there. The legendary bass player David Hood (member of the studio’s in-house band The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also known as The Swampers) who was in that documentary played on my record that was killer!’

A series of vignettes that portray down on their luck dreamers, hopeless romantics and ne’er do wells, shot through with a defiant wit throughout, the lyrics on Faded Gloryville are memorable character studies. On the subject of inspiration, are all of them sung from the first person or do you take on the role of a character for some of them? ‘Most are sung from personal perspective... Except the ones where I'm burying bodies in the back yard’ the singer replies.

An influence cited by Lindi on the LPs title track is 2009 film Crazy Heart whose lead character, luckless country singer ‘Bad’ Blake played in an Oscar winning performance by Jeff Bridges inspired the song. Staying with the subject of films meanwhile, the closing bars of ‘Someday Soon’ are reminiscent of the haunting theme from taboo breaking late sixties classic Midnight Cowboy. Was the riff a direct reference to the movie? ‘The end of Someday Soon... it very well could be!’ Lindi responds.

Appearing in different band configurations on the road, Lindi was backed on her most recent UK dates by long-standing sideman ‘Champagne’ James Robertson on guitar and percussionist Alex Cox. ‘I don't know what the set up will be this time around’ Lindi says of touring Europe next year. ‘I suppose it all depends on our tour budget, it would be great to bring a full band’. With much of the LP imbued with the felling of being captured in live takes, transferring the material to the stage is straightforward. ‘It’s pretty easy’ the singer says. ‘Everyone's always excited about playing new songs and figuring live arrangements for them.

A final question then, what’s the best LP you’ve heard this year? ‘Hands down best album I've heard this year... and not just cause I worked with Ben Tanner’ the singer cautions ‘but that Alabama Shakes record (Sound & Color, issued in April) is off the hook’.

Lindi Ortega tours the UK in January/February 2016

18th – Cambridge Junction 2
19th – Norwich Arts Centre
20th – The Duchess, York
22nd – Oran Mor, Glasgow
24th – The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen,
26th – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
27th – The Cluny, Newcastle Upon Tyne
29th – Arts Club, Liverpool
30th – The Ruby Lounge, Manchester
31st – The Globe, Cardiff


2nd – Thekla, Bristol
3rd – Komedia, Brighton,
4th – Islington Assembly Hall, London