There was a point after the release of her fourth album, 2015's Faded Gloryville, when Lindi Ortega didn't know if she could keep going as a professional musician. The realities and practical pressures of day-to-day existence had begun to bump rudely against her creativity, and the Canadian singer-songwriter felt as though her days in the studio or on the road might be numbered. It took a renewed approach, a new set of songs and a bottle of wine to convince her otherwise, resulting in her forthcoming EP, Tll The Goin' Gets Gone, out March 17th. Watch the lyric video for the title track, a moody, acoustic folk ballad about summoning the will to continue along life's long and arduous roads, in the exclusive premiere above.
"I reached this moment in my career where it was a question of whether or not I would continue to do music," Ortega tells Rolling Stone Country. "I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to survive, pay my rent. I was at this moment where my time was up at my label, and I didn't want to have a record deal anymore. I left it all behind and thought I was done for. But I decided that I would keep going and continue to make music, and I wrote a couple songs that fell in line with that idea: to keep going, juxtaposing the road of life with the actual road, and how you can't really get off unless you actually get off. You have to keep going and pick yourself up. And hopefully you reach someplace where you are happy."
Til the Goin' Gets Gone is a departure from much of Ortega's previous work and its honkytonking, rockabilly orchestration, putting her haunting vocals at center stage and leaning on simple, stark production. Recorded in Nashville at Eastside Manor Studio, the four-track collection includes three originals – the title track, the ode to the lengths some must go to make ends meet, "What A Girls Gotta Do," and "Final Bow," a song that Ortega thought might be her last – as well as a cover of Townes Van Zandt's seminal "Waiting 'Round to Die."
"Two or three years ago I discovered Townes Van Zandt," Ortega says. "People had been talking about him on tour and I thought I would sit on my porch when I got back and suck it in. I didn't think I could like anyone as a writer as much as Leonard Cohen, but I felt that way about Townes. 'Waiting 'Round to Die' is one of the first songs I heard of his, and I thought it was so crushing and poignant."
Part of the inspiration for the songs and style of Til the Goin' Gets Gone actually came from tuning into some fan feedback. "I would put out these little videos on Instagram and people would suggest I do something acoustic and stripped down," she says, "and I thought, 'well, now it's time to listen.' To have the lyrics speak and the vocals speak. I'd love to do a whole record like this." It was a smart lead to follow: Til the Goin' Gets Gone shows the full breadth of her range, both dynamic and vulnerable, and her clever, evocative storytelling that bridges the confessional with the compassionate.
Now living back in Canada after five years in Nashville, Ortega's put some physical and metaphorical miles between her and the country music grind – though she did make an appearance at the CMA Awards back in November as part of Carrie Underwood's all-female band. "Carrie Underwood is very lovely, and it's always nice to see when someone is a down to earth and lovely person," she says. "It gives you hope that fame doesn't ruin people. And it was really nice that she was wanting to showcase up and coming artists." Ortega isn't exactly seduced by the glitz and glamour of celebrity, anyhow. "I actually spent most of my time at the CMA's talking to a tuba player from New Orleans."