Though she's a few years removed from high school, take one look at Stoney Creek recording artist Lindsay Ell, and you might automatically assume that with her infectious personality and stunning looks, she would have been homecoming queen material. Alas, Ell tells Billboard there's another side to her.
"I'm a little bit of a guitar nerd," she confesses with a smile. "I will totally endorse the title. I started playing piano first, when I was six years old. Then, when I was eight, I started on the guitar. My dad played, and I thought it was cooler to play Shania Twain on the guitar instead of classical concerto. I'm so thankful for starting on piano now, but the guitar became another limb off my body. I just loved it, everything about it. I had no social life growing up. I would just sit in my room and play all day."
As she worked to develop her talent, she met someone who inspired her even further instrumentally. "When I was thirteen, I met up with a guy named Randy Bachman, who was from Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and The Guess Who. We'd have these writing sessions together, and he would play all these crazy jazz chords up and down the neck. I would just sit there, and say 'What is that? That is so cool!' He was the one who turned me on to Clapton and Hendrix, all these guitar players that I had never heard of before. From that point on, I definitely started exploring a lot of different worlds, and as a guitar player, there was a completely different vocabulary from which to pull from. But, as a songwriter too, I learned to connect to different audiences. Ultimately, I'm a country girl at heart, and moving to Nashville made that sink in so much more. There's nothing like writing a country song, but I just add the rock or blues lick in between."
Ell, a native of Calgary, Alberta, is making that move to Music City work for her. Her debut single, "Trippin' On Us," is finding favor at radio, currently sitting at No. 51 on the Country Airplay chart. She says that she took a little bit of time from signing her deal to releasing her single – for good reason. "You only get one shot to get that first impression, so I think that's why I waited so long – to make sure that this is who I am," she says. "I'm so passionate about what I do and who I am. As a guitar player, singer, and performer, I want to make it clear for people when they see my name or hear me perform that they see who I am as a person too."
Ell is wrapping up work on her debut disc, and she says she can't wait for fans to hear it. She feels that it is totally representative of who she is as an artist. "I'm so grateful to my producers, New Voice Entertainment. They have embraced me as a guitar player, which up until this point, they haven't really allowed me to play a lot of guitar on the record, which is weird, because I'm totally obsessive about the guitar. But, they said 'Lindsay, we want you to do your own thing with your music.' So, I played all of my own guitar solos, and I got to be who I am. If I'm not playing on my record, then what's the point of making a record. They've allowed me my space, and to make the kind of record that I ultimately wanted to make."
Influence-wise, she cites three women among her biggest – including two women who know their frets. "I really looked up to Shania Twain, Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow for their presence. They each have a way of staying classy and strong from a feminine point, while still being very progressive with their musical styles."
One highlight in her young career thus far was being selected by the Band Perry to open for them on their world tour, as well as their 2014 dates here in the U.S. "It was so unexpected and such an amazing surprise when I got the call. We got hired for the North American run, which was so incredible. I went to see them July 4 at Riverfront, and met them backstage. Shortly after that, I got the call from them asking if I wanted to join them in Europe. That, and being able to do it with them, who are three of the sweetest people on earth was amazing. We did twenty shows in nine countries in thirty days, and the fans over there are amazing. It was such a positive experience."