Lindi Ortega: Frida Kahlo Meets Wonder Woman Meets Johnny Cash

July 7, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  27 Comments


“If there is one thing I can respect more than anything, it’s individuality in music. And I think back in the early era of country music that was so apparent. Like you could really tell your Johnny Cash from your Waylons from your Merles. They all had a distinct thing happening. And they were all really great at what they did. It was really important for me to etch out my own thing as a student of that.”  — Lindi Ortega

Exquisitely antiqued and strikingly original, old school country singer and native Canadian Lindi Ortega is the northern emissary for country music’s current female revolution. A class act all around that is regarded just as highly for her self-penned songs as her heavenly (or devilish) voice, Lindi is a creative maelstrom that sends the room spinning from her ability to expose the most blinding beauty from life’s inherent darkness.

Now living in Nashville, and benefiting from some song placements in the new ABC drama series named after her new home, Lindi is starting to pack venues across the country, leaving a trail of broken hearts and positive buzz. After a rousing show at Austin’s most legendary listening room The Cactus Cafe on Monday (7-1), the gracious and arresting songwriter was kind enough to sit down and explain the inspiration behind her music.

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Trigger: There’s sort of two burgeoning movements in country music right now, and you’re part of both of them. Last year and this year we keep getting great albums from Canadians. How is it being a Canadian playing country music, as a perspective?

lindi-ortega-1Lindi Ortega: I never really think about that when I do what I do. I just know what I listen to and what I’m inspired by. I don’t think about the fact that I wasn’t born in the southern United States and raised on a farm. I feel like maybe in a past life I might have been. That’s why it speaks to me. My mom was really into country music when I was growing up. She sort of planted the seed in my mind; a seed that grew into a great love and appreciation for especially old school country; you know Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn, Waylon and all of them. So I don’t really think about the fact that I’m from Canada when I’m writing songs, or paying tribute or homage to that music. I just happen to be.

Trigger: You’re also part of this revolution of young, beautiful, talented women that are giving country a shot of substance and showing respect to the music’s roots. There’s a lot of people talking about 2013 as the “Year of the Woman” in country music. Names like Caitlin Rose and Kacey Musgraves are brought up, and so is Lindi Ortega as an example. Why do you think the women are outpacing the men right now as far as substance in country music?

Lindi Ortega: I don’t know, but I’m glad that it’s happening. It’s so great because when I started doing country-inspired music in Toronto, I didn’t know anybody who was doing it. I didn’t even hear it around me. Then the more I was doing it, the more I would hear about it. And then of course I moved to Nashville and it’s all around me. It’s so great that people are appreciating the old school way. It’s nice to know that that art of live off-the-floor recordings, and not a shitload of Auto-tune and fancy stuff is going on. I’m glad that’s not a dying art. And I’m glad that females are doing it.

Trigger: So back in Toronto, you’re playing music and you had the nickname “Indie Lindi.”

Lindi Ortega: I still do!

Trigger: So you’re playing this music, and you weren’t in a scene in Toronto of rootsy musicians?

Lindi Ortega: Yeah I was a little bit autonomous. I was kind of anti-social to a fault I guess. I just stayed in my room and wrote songs. I wasn’t really part of any scene. There was a scene. When I was doing music there was much more of an indie rock scene. Now it’s a bit different, there’s a little more variety there. But there’s wasn’t a whole lot of alt-country back then. Now it’s everywhere.

Trigger: Is that what you consider yourself? Because you said “country-inspired” before and you’re saying “alt-country” now.

T&C layoutLindi Ortega: Well there’s so many labels for it and I don’t know I guess. Some people don’t think I’m country at all. And I guess if you’re listening to the radio, I don’t sound country. I like to say I’m very much inspired by old-school country. And what kind of country that is in this day and age in the modern era, I don’t know. Hey, you can call it whatever you want. As long as people are listening to it is all that’s important to me.

Trigger: Did Cigarettes and Truckstops feel like your breakout album?

Lindi Ortega: In a way, yeah. I feel like there were a lot of things that led to having successful shows. One would be the Social Distortion tour that I did; the crazy pairing with me and Social D and I did two tours with them and it exposed me to a wide audience. Amazingly they were very accepting of me and the music I’ve done. And of course the Nashville TV show, and having a few song placements on there helped.

Trigger: Have you physically seen a bump from the Nashville TV exposure?

Lindi Ortega: Yeah. People tell me at shows, “I heard your song on Nashville and I checked you out.” I think it’s amazing that it was able to resonate that way. It actually led to people coming out to shows which is great.

lindi-ortega-2Trigger: Attractive women are not supposed to be as talented as you are. Usually if someone is strong in one suit, they’re not strong in another. You just don’t see a lot of beautiful women that are creative dynamos. (READ if this part of the question offends you.) Where does your motivation to make music that may not appeal to everyone come from?

Lindi Ortega: You’re too kind to me. I spent my whole day going, “I’m getting old!” But my motivation comes from my influences, and people that have stuck to their guns. I read a lot of biographies. If there is one thing I can respect more than anything, it’s individuality in music. And I think back in the early era of country music that was so apparent. Like you could really tell your Johnny Cash from your Waylons from your Merles. They all had a distinct thing happening. And they were all really great at what they did. It was really important for me to etch out my own thing as a student of that.

I don’t care about money. I honestly don’t. I don’t give a shit. I could stay at a shitty motel, I think it’s more fun. And I like riding in little vans and I love doing it that way. I think there’s a story in that, and I write songs that are stories and that tell stories. My influences inspire me to have integrity and to do what I love and be passionate about it. I don’t care about making millions or any of that. Of course if it happens, like everyone says it’s icing on the cake. But I’m happy doing what I do. I love what I do, and this is a beautiful existence for me. I get to tour. I get to go to different cities and see the world. I can’t imagine a better existence than this.

Trigger: Are you a road dog?

Lindi Ortega: I love it. I get antsy when I’m not on the road. I start to miss it and I can’t wait to get back out. It gets to a point where hotel rooms feel more like home.

Trigger: How do birds inspire your music and image?

Lindi Ortega: Yeah, I’m a bird lover. And recently I guess ravens have been my thing. But I love all birds. I have a tattoo that says, “Bird On A Wire.” It’s a Leonard Cohen song. The image of a bird on a wire and that whole song just speaks to me. Something about flying in the sky and that type of free existence resonates with me. I always think my style’s a little bit of Frida Kahlo meets Wonder Woman meets Johnny Cash. The Johnny Cash thing is of course the black thing. I always think of that movie and the line and the manager saying to him, “Johnny, why are you wearing black? You look like you’re going to a funeral.” And he’d say, “Well maybe I am.” And I was like, “Oh, that’s brilliant! I want to go to that funeral too!” I’m half Mexican, so that whole Dia de los Muertos thing, and dying and death and the whole fleeting of our existence is always running through my mind. And I don’t always think of it in a morbid way. I guess I think of it in the more Mexican way, the colorful aspect.

Trigger: You mentioned Frida Kahlo and I saw a picture of your guitar case and Frida Kahlo is all over it. How did she influence your music?

Lindi Ortega: Well I saw the movie a long time ago. That was the first thing that inspired me because she was such a character. And then I learned more about her life and read biographies about her. And I thought in the midst of all her emotional pain she was so full of life, and it was so interesting to me. And her art was so incredible. Her self-portraits I found most fascinating because the expression on her face I felt was very familiar to one I’ve seen in the mirror a couple of times; moments of loneliness and it spoke to me. I love her. I think she’s an incredible artist and a strong woman, an inspiration and I’m slightly obsessed, and I have a song about her on my next record.

Trigger: Speaking of that, is there any hints of new stuff that you can tell us? Do you have a new album coming out?

Lindi Ortega: I do. I have a new one coming out hopefully in the fall. I’m really excited about it. Dave Cobb was the producer. He did Secret Sisters and Jason Isbell. We had a blast, it was a lot of fun. Everyone that played on it was awesome.

27 Comments to “Lindi Ortega: Frida Kahlo Meets Wonder Woman Meets Johnny Cash”

  • Very interesting. I like to see musicians, and just people in general, that are out of the ordinary. Would love to see more interviews in this site.


  • Cigarettes & Truckstops is an amazing album, one that my wife and I have not been able to take out of rotation since we first heard it. We have turned quite a few other folks onto it as well. With all the rubbish being churned out by ‘country’ music these days, this album more than any other that we have heard lately has given us hope that it might still be resuscitated. Has anyone else noticed the strong thematic progression throughout the album and how it ends having come full circle? Or is it just me reading too much into it?


  • Solid interview of a great artist. If the new record is anywhere near as good as Cigarettes and Truckstops (and I strongly suspect that it will be), we’re all in for a treat.


  • Honestly she’s one of my favorite female singers ever. Not to mention she’s drop dead gorgeous. Between her looks, music, and attitude she’s about all I could ask for in a girl lol.


  • “Trigger: Attractive women are not supposed to be as talented as you are. Usually if someone is strong in one suit, they’re not strong in another. You just don’t see a lot of beautiful women that are creative dynamos. Where does your motivation to make music that may not appeal to everyone come from?”

    I had to read and reread this question. I’m speechless. Easily the silliest assertion I’ve seen on this site.


    • Yeah, I’m going to have to absolutely agree with Justin’s point. I know the focus is here is Lindi, but that statement is not okay on several levels. I’m not going to read too much into it because I feel like it’s just filler, but please don’t make superficial, sweeping generalizations about the correlation between female beauty and talent any more.

      Otherwise, great interview. I look forward to seeing more interviews around the site.


      • Clearly that statement was meant as part sarcasm and part flattery, two things that may not translate the best in written word, but I think when taken with the spirit of this article and the long-standing track record of Saving Country Music to not only avoid superficial elements when talking about music, but actively working to erode superficial elements in popular culture, it should be clearly understood what the intention of that statement was.

        The important part of the question was the last part, and I think it resulted in Lindi’s most compelling, insightful, and inspiring answer of the interview. And since I said it, I think it would be disingenuous to edit it out.

        Folks have tried to pin labels like “misogyny” on Saving Country Music over the years, when in truth this site has a gross bias towards covering ALL women in country music in an unveiled attempt to give them a leg up. If I feel like a woman’s appearance (which I reference later in the article in regard’s to the inspiration Lindi takes from birds) is relevant to the conversation, then I will reference again in future interviews and articles. If you want to make assumptions that it is bred from a “superficial” perspective, then so be it, but you are wrong, and that argument won’t hold any water in a greater context.

        Having said that, I apologize if someone was offended.


        • Trig, I’ll admit that I didn’t catch the sarcasm, and I have no issue with the flattery. I’m also not offended in any way, because I read this blog fairly often and I don’t think you’re sexist or a misogynist of any kind. If anything, you do well to point out aspects of rape culture and hypermasculinity in country culture that I think are spot-on. I also really appreciate the “unveiled attempt” to feature more women.

          I wasn’t accusing you of having a superficial perspective by any means, only a statement (now understood as sarcastic) influenced by superficial ways of thinking about women in American society. In short, my previous comment wasn’t meant as a personal attack or a critique of your blog — I was simply concerned about that particular group of sentences.

          Thanks for your honesty and commitment.


          • I hope you didn’t think I was jumping down your throat Nellie, I can see how that could be misleading, and I more was using your comment to piggy back off of to explain the situation. I’m glad I have commenters who hold my feet to the fire and keep me on my toes.


          • More likely I can accuse him of kissing ass to women more, look who he picked as number 1 artist for last year compare to the other great artists!


        • No offense taken Trig, taken in the spirt it was offered. Ms. Ortega certinaly was not offended based on her response. People neet to lighten up. She is a heckuva an artist. At the end of the day if her good looks help her to get her art out there to more people, awesome. People like her give me hope for country musics future.


    • I agree that the sentence didn’t read well. I decided to take it in the same spirit in a sentence I vaguely remembered from his Cigarettes and Truckstops review, and which I’ve since looked up:

      “Like with Elizabeth Cook, you almost can’t believe that an artist whose beauty is so stark would find appeal in the lower rungs of the music world; that they would settle on being real instead of real famous. “


      • The comment coupled with Trigger’s explanation pretty much nips it in the bud. Just didn’t translate to text well.


      • Bingo. A girl like Lindi, if she was willing could probably make lots of money playing Music Row’s pop princess. But she refuses to, and I think that speaks to character. And this is the same point I’ve made about many performers.


        • And that may have been the line that got me off the fence with respect to buying this album (and Little Red Boots, too). I love Elizabeth Cook, especially her Balls and Welder albums, and have seen her and her combo do three great shows. I’ll admit that part of the excitement of seeing her for the first time was the chance to personally see her up close, but it was the great music show that made me decide to go back two more times.

          Excellent interview, by the way.


    • Here’s how I read it, aside from the sarcasm and flattery. The music business is full of attractive posers and performers not as talented as Lindi that labels signed largely because they are eye candy. This site has articles about some of them, men and women. I guess Trigger said “women” because Lindi is a woman and it sounds better than “people” but country radio is full of men with mediocre to bad songs. It might be worse in other genres. We haven’t quite had a Milli Vanilli yet have we?

      Aren’t there some songs about being too politically correct?


  • […] I get to go to different cities and see the world. I can’t imagine a better existence than this. ● – – Lindi Ortega to Saving Country […]


  • I approve of that song there.


  • Us ugly fuckers can make shit music too.


    I just read it as you were flirting with her. She didn’t seem to mind.


  • Dam Trigger man. I remember watching you going with lindi for that interview that Monday and all i can think was. “That is one lucky fucker “lol.


  • With a lady that sounds like she does, I think she could make a decent following in the Texas Country Music world because of how honest her lyrics are.


  • It’s a damn shame that someone from Canada has to point out what’s right and wrong with what is primarily a U.S. genre. But I’m glad she’s doing it!


  • Agreed. Corb Lund and Daniel Romano aren’t too shabby, either!


  • I appreciate the style of music and the talent, I also like her style. I could live without the short skirt and strutting around… but that kind of stuff is popular I guess. Didn’t see Loretta struttin’ her stuff around.


    • But you can bet Dolly Parton was strutting her stuff. Who cares anyway, you listen to music with your ears not your eyes!


  • Hell yea solid I need to get her album


  • Solid interview, decent tunes.


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