A Canadian falls for country

Lindi Ortega moved to Nashville a little over a year ago and has since appeared in ABC's "Nashville," which has used her music.
Lindi Ortega moved to Nashville a little over a year ago and has since appeared in ABC's "Nashville," which has used her music. (JULIE MOE)

It started with her mom's big crush.

Posted: February 01, 2013

Growing up in Toronto, Lindi Ortega got her love of country music from her mother.

"She had a big crush on Kris Kristofferson," the 33-year-old singer and songwriter recalls from a tour stop in Kingston, Ontario. "She used to listen to a lot of Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings. . . . Then the older I got the more drawn to the genre I was. I think it had a lot to do with the lyrical content. A lot of Hank Williams was heartbreak, lonely, hurting, tear-in-your-beer kind of songs that just resonated with me."

Once she heard Outlaw country and Johnny Cash, "it was all over."

Mixing those influences with her love of blues and soul, as well as the likes of Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, and Tom Petty, Ortega has come up with some striking music of her own, as you can hear on 2011's Little Red Boots (she wears them at every show) and last year's Cigarettes and Truckstops. The latter, produced by fellow Canadian and guitarist extraordinaire Colin Linden, finds her equally adept at the wistful balladry of the title song, the rock-edged attitude of "Don't Wanna Hear It," and the pungent atmospherics of the Cash-inspired "Murder of Crows."

A little over a year ago, Ortega moved to the home of country, Nashville.

"I really wanted to go and immerse myself in the history and not just read about it," she says. "In Toronto there really wasn't much of a scene for the music that I do.

"It was a great challenge. I never really had ventured far from the securities of my mom and dad and being close to my friends. It was liberating to know I had it in me."

One benefit of the move: Ortega has appeared in the ABC prime-time soap Nashville, filmed in Music City, and her music has been played on the show.

That's likely the greatest exposure her songs will get, even if you can hear the potential for hits in some of her compositions. And that's fine with her.

"I certainly don't fit into the new country scene," Ortega says of the slick, supercommercial end of the country spectrum. "I'm not played on country radio. . . .

"I don't think about writing hits. I'm a fan of songwriting, and I'm really learning about the art of songwriting, especially being in Nashville. It's not like I'm trying to fit any formula or mold. I just try to come from my heart with what I do and hope people like it."

Lindi Ortega, with Dustin Bentall and the Smokes, plays 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Tin Angel, 20 S. Second St. Tickets: $12. Phone: 215-928-0978, www.tinangel.com.