The first time I spoke to Lindi Ortega, she was calling from her kitchen, having just finished washing some dishes. She was ready to talk about why she named her then-new release Little Red Boots.
“I went to Nashville on a songwriting trip and I always had it in my head I wanted red boots,” said Ortega at the time. “I am a Wonder Woman fan and I was always picturing myself in red boots. The very first store we walked in had red cowboy boots, and I could literally hear a chorus of angels singing. It happened to be my birthday, and my manager bought them for me! What a sweetheart!”
There was something about those boots, she said, that convinced her they would be a lucky charm of sorts. A few years and an album later, Ortega’s prophesy seems to have come true. These days she’s a bit tougher to get for interviews due to her constant touring — she’s in Europe now — and high-profile gigs including her own appearances on television shows including Nashville. And chances are pretty good she’s not spending a lot of time washing dishes in her own kitchen. But despite her turns in the spotlight, it’s exciting to hear that Ortega is still as down to earth as she was before the release of Little Red Boots.
“I attribute that to the way I was raised,” she said of her down-to-earth attitude despite frequent turns in the spotlight. “My mother is my biggest inspiration. She’s a wonderful person, very humble,and I want to be like her.”
Now as she tours in support of her latest album Cigarettes & Truckstops, inspired in part by a somewhat brief but intense tour romance – she adds that she views the music industry a bit differently than others might.
“I don’t do this for any other reason than I completely love it,” she said. “That what drives what I do. I am really not about making millions of dollars, I’m not about becoming the next No. 1 Billboard artist. I love the life of a struggle musicians. I love the shitty hotels, the broken down vans — that stuff keeps bringing color to my life. And I”m a character myself.”
Clearly quite a talented “character,” as evidenced by her popular success that has included chart success and hitting top critics’ lists. But don’t look for Ortega to sacrifice her creativity in pursuit of higher recognition. Indeed, her lack of concern about charts and cash is what keeps her creative muse flowing. While Little Red Boots put her on a solid country track, she turned to the Blues for her sophomore release.
Cigarettes & Truckstops finds Ortega channeling some of her earliest country influences including Hank Williams. She been reading a lot about the blues that influences him such as Robert Johnson and others and that has helped her draw connections between country and blues music.
“I never claimed to be a straight-up country artist. I’m a huge fan of old-style country, for sure,” she said. “That that characterization is very flattering to me. But 90 percent of my songs come from my own experiences so I go where those lead me.”
Rather than locking into a format, Ortega prefers to let her music bond her to her audience throughexperiences that reflect the human condition.
“My time on stage is the time to connect to the human race,” she said. “I crave that – sharing loneliness, heart break, beating the demons. I hope my audiences can realize they are not alone in the human struggle.”
— Nancy Dunham