Country outlaw crosses the line

Hear Ortega’s strange brew of country Nov. 14 at Lucky Bar

Lindi Ortega comes to Lucky Bar Nov. 14.

Some musicians lie low and rest their vocal chords in the days leading up to a cross-continent tour, and others, just can’t resist a night of killer karaoke.

Lindi Ortega, recovering from stop at a Christmas-themed karaoke pub before she tours from Nashville to Victoria and back, clearly falls into the latter category.

“Singing is too much fun,” she says, the gravelly tone in her voice accentuated with a laugh. “Maybe I should be (preserving), but it’s too much fun. I’m such a nerd for it.”

Between all-nighters at Santa’s Pub, recording critically acclaimed albums and shooting music videos in downtown Nashville, music city has been good to the Canadian songstress. Ortega – known best for the 2011 Juno nominated Little Red Boots and last year’s Polaris Music Prize long-listed Cigarettes & Truckstops – had etched out a place for herself at home in the Toronto music scene before she made the southern leap two years ago. At the time, packing up her signature red boots seemed crazy, but also a necessity for an aspiring country singer-songwriter in Canada.

“My mom was shocked,” Ortega says. “‘What are you doing? You’re giving up your apartment and your friends – and you’re leaving me here?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve gotta do this.’ I’ve gotta go because it felt right.”

Ortega’s mother only had herself to blame after instilling in her young daughter a love for the classic country sounds of Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.

“I remember being a kid and watching the Dolly Parton Variety Show, then I kind of forgot about it for a bit. I got into Guns ‘n’ Roses and I was a little grunge girl in high school. When I started making music, I found that hints of country started coming through. It was a natural progression and an inevitable step for me to move to Nashville.”

Despite songs clearly marked by those early influences, Ortega says her music isn’t accepted as country by those who let Top 40 radio define the genre.

“The main thread of my influence comes from old, outlaw, classic country, but I listen to a lot of blues, and I love soul and Motown – all that culminates in my music.”

A performer since the age of 16 – when she lied about her age to play the El Mocambo Tavern in Toronto – Ortega, now 35, has long since established her style and stays true to her sound, regardless of any labels from the industry. Often around the recurring theme of loneliness, Ortega finds herself continually drawn to blending sweet melodies with shadowy storylines. “I do that a lot. Dark, lyrical content set to a happy beat – a lesson learned from Johnny Cash.”

Being a touring musician creates a prime environment for those sentiments to flourish, as they do on Tin Star, the title track from her latest record, written for the plight of the struggling musician. “There’s a lot of sacrifice. … I devote my life to music.”

Yet Ortega’s lifestyle, as the Canadian in Nashville, is nothing extraordinary, she says.

“I do think the strange brew of country that I make is a rarity. The content of my songs and the way I dress is very different and alternative to how a lot of country female artists dress in this city. That, I think, makes me stand out.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Pacific Baroque Festival highlights a new direction in early classical music

Festival focus on the Galant style will feature lesser-known pieces from the 1700s

Bachman/Cummings show part of a rockin’ summer in Victoria

Fans of classic rock can experience reunion concert July 6 at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre

Join a cross-cultural celebration at One World 2020

Pearson College UWC students present a slice of their cultures in dance, song and more, March 20-21

FILM REVIEW: Portrait of a love that burns

Film Fest hit Portrait of a Lady on Fire is directed with a poet’s soul, a painter’s eye: Moyes

Michelle Obama: In Conversation in Victoria, March 31

Former First Lady hosted by Victoria Chamber for moderated event at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre

Juno-nominated Nanaimo teen Lauren Spencer-Smith to appear on ‘American Idol’

Singer up for Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for ‘Unplugged, Vol. 1’

UVic gives grade school musicans a valuable learning experience

36th annual Bandfest hosting Canadian, U.S. bands from elementary to high school Feb. 26-28

CatVideoFest making its way back to Victoria

A curation of favourite cat videos will be featured on the big screen, all to support cats

MacIsaac/Bachand musical partnership a decade in

Legendary Cape Breton fiddler and talented multi-instrumentalist to play two sold-out shows in March

Comedian Herb Dixon going Full Throttle in Greater Victoria

Comic gearing up for shows in Oak Bay and at Elements Casino next week

Most Read