Lindsay Ell recently returned from touring Europe with Luke Bryan, and she credits that experience with helping her reach a new level of artistry. “Luke is an incredible performer, but then you get to meet the guy behind the music, and he’s just a great human being,” she tells Rolling Stone Country, after playing New York City’s FarmBorough Festival in late June. “Getting into the studio, I found this whole new wave of inspiration. I’m falling into what I want to say as an artist, which is a huge thing.”
That’s not easy for anyone, but it may be especially challenging for Ell, simply because she’s so versatile. “I feel like I’ve listened to so many different kinds of music, and I’ve played so many different kinds of music,” she explains. “Shania Twain was my idol growing up.” As a teenager, she met Randy Bachman, who founded the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive. “He brought me down a blues-jazz-rock path for a little while,” Ell remembers, “which as a guitar player I’m so thankful for. It’s given me chops I never would have. It’s also chaos for a songwriting musician.”
On top of that, she had to navigate her way within the Nashville system, rarely an easy task. She describes working with a label as “a great thing, because you get so many people being like, ‘How should we do this?’ It’s also a frustrating thing as an artist — you’re really trying to find that thing.“
Ell’s only released a handful of songs to date, but she now knows how to describe what that “thing” is: “a little John Mayer, a little Keith Urban, a little Sheryl Crow, all in a country song.” She feels like her most recent single, “Shut Me Up,” is the closest she’s come to that ideal balance. The track is gleefully vindictive — Ell catches her lover cheating on her, and she’s determined to make sure he doesn’t hear the end of it. “I’m gonna be a megaphone, telling everyone how you did me wrong,” she sings. “The only switch I’ve got is on.”
In an amusing twist, Ell lists all the people she plans to inform about this infidelity: the other woman, of course, but also the cheater’s mom, the preacher, the newspapers and now the audience at every one of her shows.
“Shut Me Up” is full of volatile guitar playing, which provides Ell with an opportunity to display those impressive chops she’s built over the years. She even gives weekly guitar lessons on Periscope in an effort to help the next generation. Ell is acutely aware that female lead-guitar players are in short supply in every genre, but they’re especially scarce in country. “I remember who inspired me when I was growing up: Bonnie Raitt, Jennifer Batten, Susan Tedeschi,” she says. “I definitely want to lead that movement and that wave for female guitar players.”