Five Questions With… Lindi Ortega

Photo: Laura E. Partain
Photo: Laura E. Partain

Since first arriving on the scene in the early 2000’s, Toronto roots-rocker Lindi Ortega has focused equal amounts of energy on building her reputation both at home and in the U.S. It’s led to some glowing support from outlets such as NPR and The Washington Post, but it’s also understandably taken a tremendous effort.

Following the campaign for her last full-length album, 2015’s Faded Gloryville, Ortega decided to take some time off. However, her drive to keep creating new music didn’t go away, and she soon found herself trying out a different approach to writing and recording. The initial results will be heard on Til The Goin’ Gets Gone, a four-song EP set for release March 17 on Shadowbox Music.

Ortega co-produced the three new originals and a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting Around To Die” with Jay Tooke and Jason “Rowdy” Cope of Nashville-based Americana outfit The Steel Woods, with her longtime Toronto guitarist James Robertson taking part in the sessions as well. As the EP’s title track illustrates, Ortega’s intent was to strip her sound to the bone, something she suggests she will explore further on her next album.

For now, Ortega is back on the road in Canada, opening half a dozen arena shows for Chris Stapleton, starting Saturday in London, Ontario and concluding March 27 in Vancouver. For further info on her upcoming schedule, and how to get Til The Goin’ Gets Gone, go to


What is it about these songs that made you want to release them as an EP?

It was important to me to tell a story with each song. I was heavily influenced by Townes Van Zandt, which is why I included one of his tunes. I am in awe of his songwriting and his storytelling. I want to be a storyteller—whether it’s telling my own story, the story of an exotic dancer, or the story of the road of life and the resilience that we humans must have in order to get through this thing we call living.  

Should your fans take this as an indication of what your next album will sound like?

Yes, definitely. The older I get, the more I appreciate simplicity—simple recordings, simple production. It was my fans who pointed me in this direction. When I would post snippets of songs that I was working on with just me and a guitar, a lot of people would comment about how they wished I would do something more acoustic. The fans are the reason I do what I do. I don’t ever want to let them down. I owe them my best work. 

Almost every songwriter reveres Townes Van Zandt. What is your personal connection to his music?

There is a reason he is so revered. His songs are sad and beautiful and aching. We all feel these things from time to time, some of us more than others. There is a clip of Townes singing “Waiting 'Round To Die” for someone in his kitchen and the fellow just starts crying. There are few people that can write a song that can bring a grown man to tears. Townes was one of those people. There is something haunting about his words. I love so many of his songs. I find his music incredibly inspiring and songs like “Don’t Take It Too Bad,” “If I Needed You” or “Rake”… These are all the apex of songwriting for me. 

What song by another artist do you wish you had written?

I wish I had written “Bird On A Wire” by Leonard Cohen. He is another one of my ultimate songwriting inspirations. 

What are some of the biggest lessons you've learned as you've built your career, and what advice would you give?

There are so many lessons to learn and I am still learning. I could honestly write a novel. Maybe I should! I think the best advice I have for anyone wanting to get into this crazy mad business of music, is don't allow yourself to be ignorant to how the industry works. Certainly, it’s nice to want to focus yourself solely on creating, having fun, being an artist, but I wish I had taken more of a keen interest in understanding how the business functions. Now that I am learning more, I kick myself for not educating myself earlier on. This education is invaluable.

The other bit of advice I have is to always appreciate your fans and listen to them; they are the most important part of the equation. They are the ones that keep a career from tanking, they can lift you up when you feel shitty about yourself, and if you treat them right and endeavor to give them your best as an artist, you will have them for life.