Hard on the heels of shows at Wild Bill’s in Banff (May 13-14) country music sensation Lindsay Ell will play the Canmore Hotel, May 20.
“I love coming out to Banff – Banff and Canmore to me is like God’s country,” said the Calgary native, who last played the Canmore Hotel about a year ago. “It’s a wonderful treat to be able to get away all the time.”
Though only 22, Ell embarked on the path of a music career at a very early age and in the last seven years has released three albums. In 2009, she performed at the renowned South By Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas. That year she performed at the Juno Awards in Vancouver and was also a feature artist at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
“I started playing music at a very young age,” she said. “I picked up piano when I was six and started playing guitar when I was eight. My family was really musical, so it was in the blood right from inception.
“I started playing in my church when I was really young and that got me playing in front of an audience, and I used to gig with my dad because I was too young to drive. One thing led to another and I started playing more and more, and the rest is history.”
When Ell was 15, a demo CD she made was given to Randy Bachman. Impressed with her work, Bachman helped Ell write, record and produce her first album, Consider This.
“I grew up playing country music and bluegrass and finger-style guitar and then when I started working with Randy, he took me more in a pop rock route,” she said. “Which was a great learning experience for me – it allowed me to look into that world.”
Three years later, Ell released a second album, an acoustic work entitled Alone.
“From there I’ve gotten to be on some pretty neat tours,” said Ell. “I toured Western Canada with Buddy Guy, which was very cool. As a guitar player, the guitar is such an important part of who I am and my music – so to share the stage with such a remarkable artist and player himself, who’s been in this industry for 50 years… it was a moment I’ll never ever forget.
“That was blues, another whole segment of music I got to explore and as a player it helped me establish a wide music vocabulary that I can pull from now. But looking back on the past few years, it’s really important for any artist to figure out who they are and sometimes starting out so young is great, but you can be influenced by all these interesting mentors who you’re working with and sometimes you lose sight of who you really are and what you want to do.”
When it comes down to it, Ell has decided country music is where she wants to be.
“For the past two years I’ve been focused on ‘What is Lindsay Ell? What is this voice I’m trying to proclaim to the world?’,” she explained. “I’ve been hanging out in Nashville a lot in the past year and I’ve finally discovered I’m coming back to my roots.
“Country music is in my heart and it’s where I’m meant to be. As a player I’ll always be able to pull from those blues and rock and jazz elements, but deep down inside what I write and who I am is a country musician.”
After initially attending school for a degree in business, Ell has shifted gears and settled into a life of perpetual touring, songwriting and crafting of her music.
“If I’m going to do music, now is the time to do music,” she said. “I can always go back to school, so I decided to start doing music full-time.
“At the end of the day I’m a firm believer that if you want to do something, you need to commit yourself 500 per cent to it. Music is my heart, this is what I need to do.”
At present, Ell is focused on developing her next album, and travels down to Nashville about once per month to work on it.
“There’s so many different facets that keep it fresh,” she said. “I love performing in front of an audience – there’s nothing that can top that feeling of having a crowd in the palm of your hands and being able to pour your heart into it and play for them and sing and connect in a different way – but writing is such an amazing experience too, especially in Nashville. Some of these songwriters leave me speechless at the end of a session.”
While her shows at Wild Bill’s were her first appearance there, Ell has fond memories of the Canmore Hotel.
“It’s such a great room – these rooms that have been around so long and so many artists have graced the stage before – it’s cool to walk into these venues and light up the stage for another show,” she said. “They have great crowds of music lovers, which I really appreciate.
“You never know what it’s going to be like until you walk into a room, and I always like playing around home, especially out here because people seem to appreciate it more.”
For her her show in Canmore, Ell will be joined by Ben Ward on drums and Darcy Johnstone on bass.