Life has been quite the ride for singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega since launching her debut CD, Little Red Boots, in May 2011.
In 2012, she was nominated for two JUNO Awards - for new artist of the year and for roots and traditional solo album of the year – she moved to Nashville, toured with some pretty big names and released her sophomore album, Cigarettes and Truckstops.
Now, after quite a long time since headlining her own show, she returns home to Toronto Jan. 24 for a stop at the Rivoli (334 Queen St. W.).
For much of 2012, Ortega’s life was filled with tour dates – learning to ply her skills with the likes of k.d. lang, which brought her to Toronto in September. Her dad, Paco Ortega, was at that Phoenix Concert Theatre show. He was all smiles when discussing his daughter’s success.
“I think her success is wonderful,” said Paco, also a musician. “For many years she’s been doing this. I am very proud of her. She started to learn as a baby, now she’s doing it. I am happy for her.”
Ortega said while on the road different musicians taught her different things.
“k.d. lang taught me a lot about performance, and vocal health and its importance. To witness her flawless performances each night really inspired me to want to be a better singer ... so I picked her brain about techniques and little tips to keep the voice in tip-top shape,” she said, adding her time touring with Social Distortion was completely different.
“I got to tap into another side of my character, the more badass, edgier side of me came out to play on that tour.”
Ortega believed it would have been intimidating opening for devoted punk fans, but said she realized she had to be tough, and just do her thing. “It ended up being a super empowering tour for me. If anyone tries to give me grief about anything these days I just think ‘I opened two tours for punk legends Social Distortion,’ not a lot of gals can say they’ve done that!”
Ortega misses her former Beach neighbourhood – the short walk to the boardwalk, Lake Ontario, the stores along Queen Street East.
“I felt it was very calming to walk down to that big body of water; I had my little haunts where I’d go for a coffee or a beer. I also miss my family, who are all in Toronto, and my friends.”
But Nashville is where she needs to be.
It’s “exceeded my expectations. I can’t imagine a better place for me to be right now,” she said. “All the history and great music constantly being made – it’s inspiring! I’ve really taken a shine to the music city. ... I’ve always considered myself a little bit of a weirdo, I never really jumped into social circles easily, but with everybody being a musician it’s a lot easier for me to connect with people.”
Since moving to Nashville – home of the Grand Ole Opry and where many of her country music heroes lived or played – Ortega’s career has grown, including a stint on the television show Nashville where she can be seen strumming her guitar on stage during one of the episodes.
“Sales of my songs that were used in the show shot up directly after, and I noticed a big increase on my social media outlets,” she said. “I am not familiar with the world of television and the job that actors do, so it was a great insight.”
Her new album, Cigarettes and Truckstops, came together naturally, Ortega said. The album was inspired by the on-the-road lifestyle and the biographies she was reading, with Ortega first reading one about Hank Williams and finding out he was influenced by blues musician Rufus Payne (also known as Teetot).
The blues can be heard across every track on Cigarettes and Truckstops.
“I saw that blues had a lot of influence on early country music, so when I started making those connections I started to listen to a lot of blues so when it came to making the record, I noticed the alt-country music I was making started getting a smattering of blues.”
Ortega is constantly writing music and loves to debut new songs at shows; she is confident her Rivoli show will have “some new tunes, as well as cover tunes. I love messing around with cover songs and making them my own – doing them a bit different,” she said.