Musician Lindsay Ell: A Calgarian in Nashville

Catching up with country music up-and-comer Lindsay Ell

Lindsay Ell is one of those lucky people who figure out their life’s calling at an early age. In her case, that calling was country music. 

Born and raised in Calgary, Ell was picking out Shania Twaincovers on her dad’s guitar when she was only eight years old and tagging along with him to bluegrass festivals. 

A mutual friend introduced 13-year-old Ell to Canadian rock maestro Randy Bachman, who took her under his wing and helped hone her skills as a lead electric guitar player. At 16, Ell was gigging in local bars and other venues where she had to be given a special performer’s designation to even be on the premises due to her age (she credits “very supportive parents” and the flexibility of her self-directed learning program at Bishop Carroll High School for allowing her to keep an unconventional schedule).

Ell graduated from high school at 17 and made her first visit to Nashville at the age of 19. Since her mid-teens, her goal had been to establish herself in the epicentre of the country music universe as an important step toward realizing her dream of travelling the world, performing for thousands of people. She began going down for two-week stints to participate in songwriting sessions, all the while keeping a home base in Calgary, playing as many shows as she could to earn money for her next trip south. 

At the age of 21, she made the move permanently and has never looked back. “I remember getting off the plane, me and a guitar, and thinking: ‘Okay, I’m here now, so what do I do next?’ ” she says, “but you have a way of figuring it out.” 

Since then, Ell has secured a spot on the roster of Nashville-based Stoney Creek Records and spent the fall and winter of 2013-14 touring Europe and North America as an opening act for The Band Perry. Last December saw the release of her first official single, “Trippin’ on Us,” which became the most added song for country-music radio in the week it was released in both Canada and the United States. She also filmed the video for “Trippin’ ” with director Roman White, who has worked with Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. The next step for Ell is the completion of her first full album, hopefully in time for a fall release. 

In the meantime, she’s just happy to be in the heart of her scene, participating in collaborative songwriting sessions in the studios on Nashville’s famous Music Row or hanging out at intimate local clubs where it’s not uncommon for superstars like Vince Gill to drop in and play an acoustic set. “Most people in Nashville are either musicians themselves, in the music industry, or married to or dating someone who is, so everybody speaks the same language,” Ell says. 

“It’s such a humbling city because it’s one where people can just be people. It’s a place where Keith Urban and his family can just be a family, go grocery shopping and not be inundated by craziness.”

As a self-described “workaholic” who is happy to be consumed by her music dream, Ell has done right to get herself to the place where country music dreams are made. “I’ll always be Canadian,” she says, “but Nashville’s definitely my home.” 

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