Lindi Ortega Leaves Nashville Behind, But Not Country Ahead of New EP
Canadian music journalist Chuck Schultz contributed to this story.
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The struggle facing the women of country music is not just a hypothetical. Artists worthy of a large audience are regularly having to make life and death decisions about their musical careers because the level of support necessary to make a living and pursue their creative endeavors is just not sustainable.
Lindi Ortega has received an incredible amount of acclaim over her career for her smoky voice and heartfelt songs, in media in the United States and worldwide, and in the form of Canadian Country Music Awards in her home country. Her last record Faded Gloryville showcased collaborations with two of country music’s hottest producers—Dave Cobb and John Paul White. But it hasn’t been enough so far to take her past the apartment-level, hand-to-mouth existence many Americana artists experience despite the feeling of fame some fans bestow to them.
Ortega recently decided that her five-year stint in Nashville was no longer worth the struggle. She moved back to Canada, and almost decided to leave country music behind as well. But out of her struggles, parting ways with her label, and looking for a way forward she has recorded a four-song EP called Til The Goin’ Gets Gone to be released on March 17th.
“I thought I was done. Having done music since I was 16, it got to the point I couldn’t pay the rent,” Lindi explains. “When you make a carton of eggs last a week, it’s time for a realization that maybe I’m done. I left my former label, management, and just sat. I wasn’t commercial. I’m not making money. But over a bottle of wine I sat at the piano and decided I’d write one more song. That’s where the song ‘Final Bow’ came from. I never thought it would see the light of day. But I woke up and realized there is something here.”
Lindi thought “Final Bow” might be her final song, but it ended up being the first for the new EP. The album also includes “What A Girls Gotta Do” and a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting ‘Round To Die” along with the title track.
“I went into this project with the freedom to pretty much do what we want and if nothing else it motivated me to do something special,” Lindi explains. “We recorded this in an old mansion and there was a vocal booth. We set up mics in different formations but just didn’t like it. So we went out for tacos. When we got back, still nothing. We had to use the restroom. Started singing in there and loved the acoustics. So we set up mics in there and yep I sat on the toilet and did all the vocals there. I just loved the natural reverb and the fact that nobody said we couldn’t do it that way. If there is one, wait, many things I loved about this project was the fact we made the music the way we wanted too.”
You can hear the title track to Til The Goin’ Gets Gone below.
March 1, 2017 @ 8:17 pm
That is incredible, another artist I overlooked. March 17, can’t wait… thanks for the review,Chuck and trigger.
March 30, 2020 @ 11:56 am
I just found her Music in 2018 On Your tube and It breaks my heart, she was so incredibly talented. She is one of the GREATS. Lindi give the world another chance.
March 1, 2017 @ 8:31 pm
The fact that Lindi Ortega can’t make it should fill Nashville with shame. Truckstops & Cigarettes is one of my all-time favorites and ought to have been album of the year a few years ago (or at least runner-up to Eric Strickland!). I hope she stays with it.
March 1, 2017 @ 8:54 pm
Wow, I knew it was rough for independent artists, but I didn’t realize it was that bad, especially for someone with a string of solid albums and critical acclaim. She even has some great music videos. I saw her in concert, and she’s fantastic. It would be such a shame if she abandoned making music and touring.
March 2, 2017 @ 2:12 am
My favorite country artist. Knew of her before coming here, but didn’t care until the Faded Gloryville review.
March 2, 2017 @ 4:52 am
Making a living in music is a perilous thing to undertake. It’s tough considering the sheer volume of artists out there making music. So much competition for my working man’s dollars and frankly I can’t go to shows 5 nights a week and with so many options , I pick em carefully. I must confess Lindi was off my radar..
Perhaps she can get a day job to pay bills for the meantime and play music on her off nights, that’s what a lot of artists in my town do. I applaud anyone who can make a living with their art , it’s a tough thing to do.
March 2, 2017 @ 9:28 pm
”’Making a living in music is a perilous thing to undertake. It’s tough considering the sheer volume of artists out there making music”.
You nailed it Kevin . There is just an absolute glut of folks ( singers ) trying to get noticed , get a deal , get a hit record and get a music career and its created an absolute GLUT of product in every genre. The sad truth is that anybody with a laptop and a microphone can make a more than respectable SOUNDING product right now and sell or practically give it away . And they do . Talented people are not ‘rare’ as we may have once believed in the pre-digital communication age . They have always been out there but the fact that most had no access to the extremely inexpensive technology folks do today meant that ” the chosen ones ” SEEMED rare. Of the 20 or thirty singers the VOICE showcases each season , probably 20 of them are amazingly talented and wise beyond their years . Insanely talented . But THAT has become the new norm ….great vocalists everywhere you turn . Consequently people aren’t flocking to clubs or ‘ record ” outlets to purchase product like they once did . The product is falling outa the sky for next to nothing ….much of it very good .
Almost anyone playing music today had better REALLY love doing so and be content to generate just enough income to allow them to continue AND live a VERY modest life . Sure there’s going to be a Katy Perry once-in -a -while ….but the label is going to want to be able to parlay and market THAT exception into a brand complete with endorsements , some acting roles , tv commercials , a clothing line , perfume , movie songs and a BIG publishing catalogue. The question is how many of these talented folks could successfully be marketed as a ‘brand’ on all those fronts ? Could Lindi Ortega ?
March 2, 2017 @ 5:33 am
The best thing that any person can do to make great music, is to just not be in the Disney Theme Park of Country Music….
March 2, 2017 @ 11:35 am
Nashville is not just the home of the mainstream country music industry, it is also the current home of the independent music industry regardless of genre. It is truly Music City in all facets, and it actually makes a lot of sense for independent artists to be based out of Nashville where it is easy to find band members, network with other artists, and play gigs when you’re not on tour.
With Lindi though, it was so far away from home, and she has pretty much explored all the possibilities for her career, I can understand why she chose to leave.
March 2, 2017 @ 6:40 am
Knowing the back story makes that song especially poignant.
March 2, 2017 @ 7:36 am
I find it very hard to believe that Lindi isn’t a bigger name in music by this point. I thought Faded Gloryville was a fine album but for me it didn’t have the same “it” factor that her previous 3 albums had. Still though, this EP will be highly sought out by me and I hope she keeps trucking along for many more years to come. Maybe her opening dates for Chris Stapleton will help get her name out there more than it already is.
March 2, 2017 @ 7:54 am
hell … now THAT’S a voice
solid writing aside from “beckons” and “vintage Cadillac”, nice lonesome guitar, and … well, I’m a fan, sign me up. great video, and go see her “Tin Star” on YT
writes first-rate melodies, too. she’s the shizzle
March 2, 2017 @ 8:23 am
I’d rather listen to Shake it Off.
March 2, 2017 @ 8:30 am
Man, I just love Lindi Ortega. I’m sorry the move to Nashville didn’t work out. Maybe being Canada-based will make her career more sustainable, kind of like Corb Lund. I see that she’s opening all of the Canadian dates on Stapleton’s tour.
It’s funny. I saw Margo Price for the first time in July. I had seen Lindi for the third time in May. I thought Margo’s show was great and at the time thought “Wow, this was as good as a Lindi Ortega show.”
Looking forward to the new EP.
March 2, 2017 @ 11:41 am
Man, I hate to come across like I’m downgrading Margo Price, because this is the way some people take it whenever I open my mouth on the subject, but this is the reason there is an underlying resentment for all the opportunities Margo has received, when artists like Lindi have been at it for years, and are at least just as good (if not better), and they continue to be ignored. Lindi Ortega paid her dues and then some. Not to say Margo didn’t but it all seems like an element of marketing that is inherently unfair to artists like Lindi and a dozen others when it’s Margo this, and Margo that, and meanwhile Lindi has to leave town with her tail between her legs because she was never given one true opportunity at a big break in the US market. People are mentioning the Stapleton dates and those are great, but they’re in Canada. Lindi has actually received tremendous support in Canada. I don’t blame her for going back.
March 2, 2017 @ 12:37 pm
That Margo show was at the Birchmere and was close to selling out. For me, headlining the Birchmere is a good measure in the DC area for being Americana big. My reason for making that comment above was that I thought Lindi deserved that level of success at the very least. My reaction after the show was that of a committed Lindi fan coming to the realization that Margo really is THAT good. I hear you about the chances she got once she signed with Jack White’s Third Man Records (e.g., Colbert spot before MWFD came out, then the SNL gig shortly after), but to me, it’s the rare example of someone deserving of a break getting one. Ad it sounds like she spent plenty of time in Nashville’s School of Hard Knocks before the break came.
March 2, 2017 @ 6:36 pm
If anyone had redentment for Margo, it beRs noting that Margo toiled for years in her band Buffalo Clover. They toured like hell and put out several albums. It wasn’t profitable though. As a last ditch effort, she sold her car and wedding ring to record her solo album and a bunch a Nashville’s “finest” record labels passed on her. Jack White had the good sense to sign her. Third Man’s weapons are they have a big fan base, great distriburion in record stores, a great online operation and they can get their acts on TV and live gigs based on their reputation. The only difference between Lindi and Margo’s stories is Margo found an unlikely and very powerful champion in Jack. Had that not happened, she may have needed to return to teaching dance classes to pay rent and “Midwest”would never have been released, which would have been a huge tragedy.
Talent isn’t always enough in this biz unfortunately, as you report on daily.
March 2, 2017 @ 9:42 pm
”Talent isn’t always enough in this biz unfortunately, as you report on daily. ”
Its at least as much happenstance , serendipity and just pure unexpected , un-calculated and often undeserved LUCK !
March 2, 2017 @ 10:49 pm
Listen to the Price inteview on WTF. Drugs and hard times. She paid her dues. Not sure why she suddenly gor the break but Lindi didn’t she is amazing. Frankly her and Tami are the best new to me acts in country right now.
Yeah music row is ass backwards. But I also blame music listeners for their lack of musical curiosity. The majority of music listeners today seem lazy and complacent especially when you get to the under 30 club. I mean I found this site because I swore there has to be somebody still making god goddam country music and googled best country albums of 2014 and this site came up.
To paraphrase from the great book on popular music, “Love for Sale” music becomes a chart hit because it is popular and gets popular by being on the charts. It is a weird circular battle on Billboard that was better explained in the book.
March 3, 2017 @ 10:51 am
Nobody’s saying that Margo Price didn’t pay dues. And it’s in the eye of the beholder if Margo or Lindi paid more dues, and whose music is “better,” and probably insulting to both artists to compare the two side by side. Most every single artist, especially in the independent realm, has a sob story behind their music. That’s just the way it is. And it doesn’t make any of them more special or deserving than others. My issue is with the idea that somehow Margo deserved it more. Like someone said above, at least Margo finally got the attention. But I would have rather seen a raising tide raising all boats. Margo gets to tell her story on the WTF podcast. Lindi never did. That’s how certain artists continue to rise, while others struggle in obscurity.
March 2, 2017 @ 8:48 am
It’s very possible, in my opinion, that Lindi’s brand of music, which is really a whole mélange of styles, country-based but far ranging, is much too good for Nashville. She doesn’t exactly fit into any prescribed notion of what Nashville’s idea of country is, especially today. FADED GLORYVILLE, one of my favorite albums of 2015, for instance, was very much of a piece, with a sound that ranged from 1950s rockabilly to 1960s Bakersfield and 1970s Los Angeles country-rock.
Is it also possible that being a Canadian with an Hispanic surname is a hang-up for the Nashville establishment as well when it comes to Lindi? If it is, that’s their loss, but it’s a grotesque excuse as far as I’m concerned.
March 2, 2017 @ 10:09 am
maybe it’s the hat thing she wears
March 2, 2017 @ 11:16 am
I would have to think that she did not expect to be embraced by Music Row. My guess would be that she hoped to get maybe Americana/Indy Country big.
March 3, 2017 @ 11:42 am
Contrary , perhaps, to popular belief south of the 49th , Canadian country musicians have ALWAYS had a hell of a time catching fire down there. Yes , the pop acts ( Drake , Bieber , Morrissette , Neil Young , Dion, Buble , KD Lang , etc.. ) have, in the States , become close to the household words they are at home…but the country music landscape up here is littered with acts who’ve hit the wall when trying to break the U.S . market as artists . And there have been MANY . Sure , some were simply ‘big fish in a little pond ‘ and perhaps didn’t stand up against the ‘competition ‘ and numbers to the south . And yes , too many Canadian acts in their desperation to have success in the U.S. brought NO character , no identity , style or new narrative to their music opting instead to clone the latest American country radio stuff and falling short of the trend somehow . BUT there are many many Canadian acts who did/do have a uniqueness about their sound and material and still cannot crack the American charts in a significant way .
I suspect that our Canadian content regulations are as big a negative factor to their success in the south as they are a positive factor here at home . That is ….an inferior song or act stands a much better chance of getting exposure on Canadian radio due to the broadcast laws which force the stations to play 30% Canadian content . An act can appear to be ” bigger ” and perhaps more important than it really deserves to .Consequently, like American mainstream radio , we have our share of shit forced down our throats.
Still , acts with a uniqueness ( Lindi Ortega , Corb Lund , Blue Rodeo , Tragically Hip etc.. ) even have a difficult time getting airplay up here …let alone in Nashville where that indie-esque approach to creating music is also far from wholeheartedly embraced by the powers that be . And lets not forget the numbers factor . The American market is 10x bigger than the Canadian market . It doesn’t take Einstein to deduce that if a market of 350 million isn’t big enough to support a unique approach to music or a different sound , in terms of generating revenue , where does a stylized artist in Canada stand with a tenth of that market in the Great White North .
Canadian musicians are challenged on many fronts but interestingly , America seems to be the toughest and the most important market to crack in order to sustain a significant music career . It seems an act has to totally acquiesce to the big boys down there and cross their fingers or stand their respective musical ground and go almost completely unnoticed …here AND there .
Of course ther is always a third option : just show a little more navel and sing nursery rhymes .( Don’t worry … I won’t name names Shania )
March 2, 2017 @ 8:57 am
I make a carton of eggs last two weeks. Keep on keepin’ on, Lindi!!
March 2, 2017 @ 10:25 am
Talented artist – check.
Independent spirit – check.
These days, those two qualities get you ignored by the blood suckers in power. Way too much easy prey out there for them to waste their time on someone like her.
Is it just me, or does it feel like music is falling to the same fate as farming in this country?
March 2, 2017 @ 12:21 pm
it’s not just you. it’s Industrial Global Modernism. it’s why Thomas Rhett looks “country” in the way a supermarket tomato looks like a “tomato.” it’s why SCM is sorta like the Seed Savers of music.
March 2, 2017 @ 10:53 pm
Women are tomatoes of country music, don’t forget.
March 2, 2017 @ 2:47 pm
Come to Texas, Lindi. We’ll damn sure appreciate you more than Nashville.
March 3, 2017 @ 8:28 am
Got that right, hoss
March 2, 2017 @ 6:14 pm
It’s a shame someone like Lindi can’t make a living in Nashville while others are getting rich. I guess playing an instrument and writing your own songs is frowned upon now.
March 2, 2017 @ 9:17 pm
I love Lindi’s silky smooth voice. I thought she was going to break out as a big time artist a few years back with Truckstops and Cigarettes, but for whatever reason the momentum didn’t carry on to her subsequent albums. I hope she continues on. Lindi is one of the few artists that my wife, someone who is not a huge country fan, and I both love.
March 2, 2017 @ 10:54 pm
Keep at Lindi. Do it on your own terms just like Sturgill.
March 3, 2017 @ 4:28 am
I saw Lindi at a small but intense festivak in Australia. She came out after some rock bands with just a guitar and held the whole rowdy, drunken crowd.
She is another artist who badly needed a great album and got let down by Dave Cobb.
If only she picked a better producer.
Lindi, if you’re reading this, dont give up. I think you’re extremely talanted and will continue to buy your music/ come to your shows. Your music makes my life better.
P.s a couple of drinks later and Ill be asking you to marry me
March 3, 2017 @ 6:53 am
She should definitely get some red dirt on her boots.
I’m not sure any artist can expect a smooth rise to the top. 3 steps forward and 2 steps back seems more typical. Can’t get in through the front door? Sneak in the kitchen! Whatever it takes. If you’re good, you’re good. Keep on trucking, Lindi!
Better stop before I run out of cliches.
March 3, 2017 @ 9:29 am
Never heard of this gal before Trigger posted. Forget Cobb or the Industry. Word of electronic mouth seems to prod me to buy a CD a month. You just have to decide what you want and put your money where your mouth is. I like uncompressed audio, where I can hear what producers and engineers contribute the most. So far, Trig is batting well over .500. The path looks pretty old-fashioned to me:
artist > producer, engineer > pressing > internet word of mouth > purchase
Guess I’m in the minority, though.
March 3, 2017 @ 9:26 pm
Corncaster, I rely on sites like this and word of mouth to buy things in this genre of music. I think artists like Lindi struggle with publicity and then distribution of product. ITunes helps some of it get out there but its hard to walk into even the best indie record stores and find some of these records or someone who can recommend them.i try to order direct from artists but even they sometimes don’t have their own releases on their websites. As an example, I looked at Lindi’s website this week and was surprised how many albums ahe has put out. I would love to buy a bundle of her LPs (maybe even signed) but cannot, so that’s money she loses. So that leaves Amazon, eBay or iTunes.
I know its tough to pay to have stuff pressed up, shipped, mainain a web site, and advertise so I get it, but these are the kinds of details an artist has to work out in today’s music world to survive. I used to buy a lot of stuff from Bil at Village Records back in the day but haven’t found a store like that now who knows this kind of music and can recommend artists you haven’t heard of before.
March 4, 2017 @ 9:34 pm
biscuit it’s like anything else in life, eventually you find your circle of friends. once you stop wanting to be popular, your own path emerges, and on it, you can find other people walking in the same direction. for consumers, that can be enough. but for artists…
March 12, 2017 @ 9:59 pm
It’s streaming here now, http://www.cbcmusic.ca/first-plays/212/lindi-ortega-til-the-goin-gets-gone.