Lindsay Ell’s not afraid to find a little space in a song and let her fingers do the talking — take the ample intro she weaves into this acoustic version of “Shut Me Up,” premiering exclusively on Rolling Stone Country. It’s a moody, bluesy solo that’s one half Buddy Guy and one half-Led Zeppelin with nary a trace of vocal until over a minute into the track. Recorded solo with a looping pedal, it showcases the burgeoning singer’s ample-skills — something she’s gotten accustomed to turning up a notch in order to silence the naysayers who aren’t exactly used to seeing shredding done in a skirt.
“From day one, when I started playing, I’d walk into venues and get the eye roll,” says the virtuosic Ell on the dreaded assumptions that come along with being an axe-wielding female. “But it almost motivates me more to put on that good of a show. To earn that credibility is something I love to watch — to see how quickly I can watch perceptions change.”
Certainly it doesn’t take long to see that not only does Ell have a dexterous approach to her instrument, but she also has a uniquely informed sound: raised playing bluegrass, she toured with Guy and moved from her native Canada to Nashville at 21 after studying at Berklee College of Music, where her list of influences from John Mayer to Eric Clapton to Tommy Emmanuel melded with the greats of Music Row. Specifically, fellow import Keith Urban.
“He’s always been a huge roll model of mine,” she says of Urban, for whom she’s opened on a few tour dates. “He’s such an incredible player, songwriter and musician, and he’s such a great guy, too.” The two performed his Miranda Lambert duet “We Were Us” together on stage with Ell singing the Lambert vocals but slinging equally with Urban on guitar.
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“I’ve had people joke, ‘you play guitar like a guy,'” she laughs. “I take that as a compliment. But if they can look at me on the same plane as any guitar player and just call me ‘good’ as they would a guy, then I’ve definitely done something right.”
Hitting the studio between shows, Ell’s logged about half of her debut album, expected in 2015. So, in the process of establishing herself as one of country’s new guitar heroes, does she ever expect to pull a Jerry Lee Lewis or Pete Townsend and smash hers on stage?
“I don’t know if I could!” she cries. “I look at my guitars as my babies, in a way. It would go against every gene in my body. But, I never say never.”