“I feel like I finally made the record that is me,” Lindsay Ell said about her debut studio album, ‘The Project.’ The highly-anticipated album dropped on August 11th, and it was the top-selling country album the week of it’s release. “This. Is. Crazy. I don’t even know what to say. I am beyond humbled and grateful for every single one of you for loving #TheProject as much as we do,” she posted on Instagram when she got the news. It’s admittedly been a long time coming, and despite the struggles Lindsay had to overcome and the walls (or glass ceiling) she had to break through, her genuine talent can’t be denied – and it certainly speaks for itself. But lucky for us, we got the chance to chat with the singer before the release of ‘The Project’ about what it took to get to this point, putting the album together, and more.
“Girl, it’s so crazy!” she exclaimed just hours before sending her work out into the world, admitting that she was “half excited, half terrified.” ‘The Project’ follows Ell’s EP, ‘Worth the Wait,’ which was released in March of this year and was received well by both fans and the industry. The love and enthusiasm regarding the EP was a driving force when it came to the full album. ”All the positive feedback we’ve gotten has been just encouraging,” said Ell. “I was worried initially releasing the record so soon, but I just had all this new music and it just felt like the timing was right.” Most of the record, she said, was written in the two-to-three months since the release of the EP. “Once you find that feeling, once the puzzle is kind of laid out and you know which pieces are missing, you know exactly what they need to look like.”
Ell worked closely with her producer, Kristian Bush, and gives him a lot of credit for helping her find her sound and figure out exactly what it is she wanted to say. To get to that place, one of the first things Bush had the singer do was re-record her favorite album, John Mayer’s ‘Continuum.’ Lindsay had to do the entire thing herself – from the vocals to playing the instruments – and she only had two weeks. “I cleared my schedule for two weeks and from 8:00 am until 3:00 am, for the next 14 days I re-recorded my favorite record. Which I thought I knew, but when you need to start pulling apart all these little pieces of these songs, you just learn something to a much deeper level,” she recalled. Lindsay was blown away by how much she discovered, and when it was time to do the same with her own record, it was easy to find authenticity. “The minute you get a little bit more confidence, you keep inching out on that diving board and then you just jump off of it. You’re like, you know what? I’m just going to say what I want to say. Regardless of what people think about it, I want to be real.” She noticed that when she started writing from that place, fans could really appreciate it more.
Authenticity is something the singer struggled with when she first moved to Nashville as she was being pulled in a bunch of different directions. “I was just so hungry,” she told us. Ell was so eager to make something happen with her career, she kind of lost touch with who she really was. “It wasn’t until I began to trust myself again – like, maybe your own instincts aren’t that far off – that it started feeling more authentic. I mean, imagine that? It sounds crazy to say. The music that I’m making now is closer to the music that i was writing before I moved to town. Which is I guess is just an indication that it’s the right thing.” This new album, she said, could be described as 100% Lindsay, and it’s something she’s very proud of.
Ell had a hand in writing all but three songs on ‘The Project.’ “Which is a huge thing outside my comfort zone as a songwriter. But something Kristian really encouraged me to do was listen to outside songs, and so I ended up cutting three songs from female artists in town.” ‘Space’ was written by Caitlyn Smith, ‘Always Kiss the Girl,’ was written by Carly Pearce, and Kelsea Ballerini wrote ‘White Noise.’ “I was just so happy that I was able to feature and spotlight some amazing female artists that are also my friends, and who I just think are fantastic.” Supporting other girls is something Lindsay has always been big on, especially in an industry where it doesn’t hurt to shed some extra light on female talent. You can often find her sporting “GRL PWR” merchandise, and her boyfriend, radio DJ, Bobby Bones, has started a “Download a Female Friday” campaign. “Let’s talk about how many talented female artists there are in Nashville right now and how great the music they’re making is right now… I think once fans hear some of this music from some of the female artists that they’ll really fall in love with it.” The response to the “Female Friday” has been incredible, and it’s proof that fans do want to hear these ridiculously talented women in country music, they just need more opportunities to do so.
Lindsay has been able to show off her own skills this summer as she has been on the road with Brad Paisley supporting his Weekend Warrior Tour. “There is nothing that keeps a girl on her toes like trading guitar licks with Brad Paisley on stage every night!” she laughed. (Honestly, Lindsay slays the guitar.) But in all seriousness, she said, “Brad is a dream to tour with. I mean, he’s arguably one of the best guitar players in the world… Brad’s focus and his attention to detail at this level of his career is so inspiring to me.” Instead of riding out his success, Paisley’s drive to continue to put on the best show every night and find the best music for his fans is one of the things that inspires Ell the most.
She’s continuing to build her own fan army, and rightfully so. After seeing her perform live, one would be crazy to question her talent, passion or drive. We’re so excited that Ell will be making a couple local stops in the coming weeks. You have a chance to catch her at Pinz in Kingston, MA on September 20th and at TWINE Country Fest at the Big E in West Springfield, MA on September 30th. We couldn’t be happier for the well-earned success she’s seen thus far with ‘The Project,’ and can’t wait to see where this album takes her.
Main Photo Credit: Ford Fairchild