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.

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

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

I-Hos Gallery manager Ramona Johnson shows some of the paddles available at the retail outlet. Photo by Terry Farrell
I-Hos Gallery celebrates 25 years of promoting First Nation artwork

K’ómoks First Nation-based outlet has art from all over the country

Most Read