From now until the 2021 Juno Awards are presented on June 6, we will offer this weekly column to help you get to know some of the nominees in all categories a little better.
Meet the 2021 Juno Nominees: Lindsay Ell
Nominated in the category Country Album of the Year
If you’re a country music fan, you probably don’t need to be introduced to Lindsay Ell. Since releasing her 2008 debut album Consider This at the age of 19, the Calgary native now residing in Nashville has steadily risen to the upper echelons of the Canadian country music scene, becoming a perennial Canadian Country Music Association Awards nominee.
But with her latest album, Heart Theory, Ell has broken out of that bubble to earn her first Juno nomination through a collection of songs that reflect the seven stages of grief. She’s stated that Heart Theory was born out of several traumatic incidents that occurred around the time she turned 30, but as a milestone of her first decade as a recording artist, the album demonstrates how she’s only just hitting her creative stride.
“Getting my first Juno nomination this year truly means the world to me,” Ell tells us. “It makes it even more special that I got nominated for an album that I’ve put so much of my heart and soul into. Heart Theory is my musical diary that I wanted to share with the world, so this is a big deal.”
What sets Ell apart from many of her contemporaries is that she’s equally respected for her guitar-playing prowess, something that caught the ear of her first major champion, Randy Bachman. It led her to tour with blues legend Buddy Guy, but soon Ell was setting her sights on becoming an all-around modern country artist in the style of Keith Urban and Brad Paisley, both of whom she’s also toured with in recent years, on top of sharing the stage with other major stars since making her Grand Old Opry debut in 2014.
“If you put John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, and Keith Urban in a blender, you’d get close to how I’d describe my sound,” she says, although on Heart Theory Ell wanted to put the focus more squarely expressing some of her deepest emotions through her songwriting. “I got into this business to change people, to make them feel something. So, it was important to me to get really honest and say that all of us have skeletons in the closet, but those things make us who we are.”
Although Heart Theory has received international critical praise since its release last August, like all artists Ell has felt frustration over not being able to present it live to her growing fan base. However, she’s tried to compensate by staying in touch with her audience online as best she can, something that’s hardly surprising given that she’s twice been named the CCMA’s Interactive Artist of the Year.
“The past year has definitely been full of some challenges for sure, but I honestly am looking back on it as a gift as well,” she says. “I have learned so much about my fans, and new ways to engage with them. Not only new social media channels, but even just being more intentional about everything I post. I think this past year has been a really healthy reset for a lot of us, and has helped us lean into technology in new ways I don’t think we would’ve taken the time to learn before.”
As country music continues to evolve, its clear that artists like Lindsay Ell are at the forefront in challenging accepted norms. Heart Theory is surely just the tip of the iceberg.