Lindi Ortega is a Northern girl with Southern charms, a cowpunk who writes songs that make grown men weep, a tattooed lady who's comfortable wearing ruby-red lipstick and cowboy boots, a modern-day Patsy Cline who sings with genuine feeling while channeling Johnny Cash.
Born and raised in Toronto, the multidimensional musician is now making a living in Nashville, following up her 2013 Juno Award-nominated Tin Star with the equally impressive Faded Gloryville, 10 songs drenched in passion, heartache and country swagger.
Lindi Ortega appears in a screen shot from the video for "Ashes" from her
August release Faded Gloryville.
Polishing her tin star, this Americana sweetheart will make her Grand Ole Opry debut Saturday (Nov. 7) on an "Opry at the Ryman" bill that includes Connie Smith, Riders in the Sky and Old Crow Medicine Show.
You don't have to wait until then to catch the sultry songstress perform, though. Today at The Huffington Post, Ortega presents the striking video for "Ashes," the opening song from Faded Gloryville, which was co-produced by in-demand Nashvillian Dave Cobb, Canadian Colin Linden and two very Southern gentlemen -- John Paul White (The Civil Wars) and Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes).
The video, beautifully directed by Vancouver's John Poliquin and shot in mid-September at the Ford Plantation in Savannah, Georgia, shows Ortega lamenting the end of a relationship represented in the fine form of professional dancer Marcelo Gomes, a native of Brazil who was raised in Rio de Janeiro.
Missing from the video are Ortega's trademark red boots, which she displays at shows like the cool AmericanaFest showcase I attended at the High Watt in Nashville in September 2014 (above), but there are enough smoldering elements to keep your toes tapping for the next four minutes. So feel the heat while watching "Ashes," then check out the insightful (and sometimes humorous) email answers Ortega submitted to a few burning questions.
For a song dealing with heartbreak, how difficult was it to write "Ashes"? What can you share about the circumstances?
LO: "I had gone through what I think a lot of us go through when you meet someone who seems to be magical and you really buy into it only to find it was all just an illusion. I was angry at myself for falling for it. I kept envisioning the moments we shared like photos that were burning up in my mind. That's what sparked the idea for the song."
What's easier for you to write -- a sad or happy song (and why)?
LO: "For some reason, I lean towards dark, sad songs. I have a deep well of that kind of heartbreak to draw from. I think I've always been a kind of unrequited, hopeless romantic type. So I just kept putting myself in scenarios that would ultimately set me up for a crash and burn. The only upside was that these songs would pour out of me when it was all over."
What were the best (or worst) experiences you had shooting the video?
LO: "Shooting the video was quite a wonderful experience. Savannah, Georgia is beautiful! The Ford Plantation sits on an exquisite piece of land. Almost whimsical with the Spanish moss hanging from the trees. The house itself was old and gorgeous. It felt like it was filled with beautiful spirits."
What is the message you want to make with the video?
LO: "I think there is something poignant in my looking longingly out the window for something that will never come back to me. Kind of like Scarlett O'Hara when she kept waiting for Ashley Wilkes to come back. Just the idea of being in this big mansion all alone, almost trapped in these feelings of longing and yearning."
How was the idea for the video conceived?
LO: "It was mostly the director's idea. I think we really wanted to utilize the grounds of this beautiful location we got to shoot on and convey that message of deep yearning, longing and sadness."
Apparently it was by design that you and dancer Marcelo Gomes (left) had no scenes together, but did you get to meet him?
LO: "No, I never got to meet him. I was impressed by his talent and his ability to interpret the song through dance."
How are things in your personal life these days?
LO: "Things are good these days! I realized that hopeless romantics come to a point that they don't get jaded and bitter by all the frogs they kiss. One day they are no longer hopeless and things actually can be genuinely magical."
How is Nashville treating you, personally and professionally?
LO: "Nashville has been wonderful. Great city. So many talented musicians, it's inspiring to be surrounded by it. I have made some lovely friends here."
How comfortable are you with Southern culture now or will you always be a loyal Canadian at heart (and why)?
LO: "Southern culture is pretty easy to delve into! The food is incredible and of course the music. I've always been inspired by it. But you can't take the Canadian out of the girl ever. I still say 'eh'!!"
What's the story behind the red boots? Where did you get them and how long do you plan to continue wearing them?
LO: "I've always been a fan of superheroes that wore red boots like Wonder Woman and Supergirl. So when I went to Nashville for a writing trip, it was my birthday and my manager wanted to buy me boots! I ended up getting red ones. I loved them so much I wrote a song about them and have been wearing them on stage ever since."
Since you're making your Grand Ole Opry debut Saturday, where does it rank among dream places to play?
LO: "I'd say it ranks as the #1 place to play. So much history, such legends have graced that stage. It's such an honor for me. I can hardly articulate it."
What country performer do you identify with the most?
LO: "I've always been a huge fan of Johnny Cash. I love that he always wore black, I love the dark context of a lot of his tunes. He was a true original."
Concert shots by Michael Bialas. Other images courtesy of the artist.