Lindi Ortega has a dark side that can be seen from her black clothing obsession, big country hair and signature red boots. The uniqueness of her sound and style cannot easily be overlooked.
The Canadian singer-songwriter recently released Cigarettes and Truckstops, following up her first album Little Red Boots. With her sweet voice, dark sound and witty lyrics, this Outlaw darling is an easy listen. Yet she’s not the kind of girl who’ll give you a lighthearted, upbeat, breakup song from. For example, on “Murder of Crows” from the new album, she sings about burying an ex-lover in a cornfield.
The style of her new album is perhaps best presented by the artist herself: “Well, I used to describe it as the roadside motel love affair between country darlings and old-school outlaws with the first record, so I would say that this new record would be as if they made little babies that were influenced a little bit by the blues.”
CMT Edge: How has country influenced your music?
Ortega: Country first got into my ears when I was a youngster. My mom had an extensive record collection of country music. She was a big fan of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard. I remember watching the Dolly Parton variety show with her when I was growing up, and I started listening to it that way. My first, biggest country music influence was Johnny Cash. I was just so blown away by Johnny Cash and the brand of country he was putting out there. I immersed myself in his records and found that he was a huge influence in the music that I was writing. I also really love Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline and Waylon Jennings.
What is the story behind “Murder of Crows”?
That’s a Johnny Cash inspiration right there. Johnny Cash has a lot of songs I would consider to be murder ballads, like “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Delia’s Gone.” These songs tackle this dark subject matter and I thought, “You know what? I want to write my own murder ballad.” I’m a big fan of the crow — an amazing bird because they are so smart, such intelligent creatures. And I love the fact that a group of them are called a “murder of crows.” I thought that was incredible so, I just had to throw that into a song. That particular song was actually a co-write with this fella named Matt Nolan from Nashville. I went in to write with him, and I said, “Oh man, I got this idea.” I love the idea of a “murder of crows,” and he loved it, too. We came up with this fantastical murder story and decided to write a creepy dark song to it.
Do you have any videos coming out for the new record?
Absolutely. It’s for “The Day You Die.” I don’t want to reveal too much because it’s kind of a surprise, but I can say that there are cowboys and there are horses. Cowboys and horses, let’s just leave it at that.
You have a very unique fashion sense. How have you developed your own personal style and what kinds of things have influenced that?
It’s a mixture between Frida Kahlo and Johnny Cash with a little bit of Wonder Woman thrown in there. I have always been a little bit of an odd person and eccentric in a way. I am big fan of people who have a style, you know? Like Elvis or Dolly and, of course, Johnny and his style. So I took a page, I guess, out of their book.
Johnny was the Man in Black, so I often like to wear black. There is a particular phrase with Johnny that really stuck with me. If you have ever seen the movie Walk the Line, the guy says to him, “Why are you wearing black? You look like you are going to a funeral.” And Johnny says, “Maybe I am.”
That really stuck with me because I am a big fan of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and Mexican folk art. There is this Mexican festival called Día de los Muertos, which means Day of the Dead, which I am hugely inspired by, really into. So I love dressing like I’m going to a funeral and that whole concept, so I often wear a black veil and a little black dress. I have black flowers in my hair, and then I throw the red cowboy boots in for good measure for a little super power there, like Wonder Woman. Maybe it’s a little strange, but I like it. It’s like my little superpower outfit for the night when I perform.