A chance meeting with the Guess Who’s Randy Bachman proved to be a formative experience for country singer-guitarist Lindsay Ell.
“When I was 13, a songwriting buddy had been working with Randy at the time,” she says via phone. Along with Dustin Lynch, Tyler Farr and Chase Bryant, Ell opens for Brad Paisley, who performs at 7 p.m. on Friday at Blossom
. “He told me I needed to meet Randy. He gave Randy my demo CD I had at the time. It was guitar instrumentals and songs I had written. He thought it sounded like a young female Chet Atkins. We got together shortly after that, and Randy has been one of my biggest fans ever since.”
Ell, who began playing piano when she was 6 and then moved to guitar at age 8 because “it was cooler to play Shania Twain songs,” says Bachman introduced her to a new group of guitarists.
“[Bachman] saw something in me and after playing blues and jazz in the studio with him, I realized he learned from a guy named Lenny Breau,” she says. “After I sat with him, I realized that music was cool and started listening to more jazz and blues. Randy helped craft that side of my life really. I really got into blues and jazz and started listening to Hendrix and Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robben Ford. I might have heard their names, but I didn’t know what they did. It changed a lot of my world.”
In the wake of honing her skills, Ell has increased her profile in the country world. She’s toured with the likes of Luke Bryan, Buddy Guy, the Band Perry and Keith Urban. Her debut album, The Project
, topped the charts upon its release, making Ell only the second solo female to debut at No. 1 with a debut album in 2017.
As a form of pre-production for The Project
, producer Kristian Bush asked Ell to re-record her favorite album (which happens to be John Mayer’s Continuum
“He had me go and record the whole thing front to back,” she says. “The only rules are that you have to play all the instruments and you have two weeks and you need to do it by yourself. For the next 14 days, I worked on re-recording Continuum. It was crazy to me how much I learned from taking some of my favorite songs and recreating them in my own voice. When I handed in the final version, he told me to apply that to my own songs.”
While Ell wanted to release her own music first, she says she’ll put out her version of Continuum
later this year.
“I’m so grateful for Kristian,” she says. “I felt like this whole record was a process of discovery for me. I’ve been finding my sound. The fact that he could help me articulate that was huge. From the beginning of when we started working together until we finished the record, I felt like it was a science project of self-discovery. Writing is a huge part of who I am. Being able to craft the message and say what you want to say is huge. The songs came together quickly, and I knew what I wanted to say.”
On the mid-tempo “White Noise,” a poppy number that features a grunge-y guitar riff, Ell sings a love song about how “white noise” can’t erase the memory of a former flame.
“It’s an outside song,” she says when asked about the tune. “Cutting an outside song is so outside my comfort zone. It was out last day of mixing and Kristian told me that Kelsea Ballerini pitched some songs. She wrote ‘White Noise.’ As soon as I heard it, I knew I needed it on the record. We called her. I think that was her first cut on someone else’s record, which is pretty cool. I thought it was great I could highlight some amazing female artists in Nashville. I’m on a pro-female girl power kick right now.”
A song with a Sheryl Crow-like vibe, “Good” has a feel-good vibe that Ell has said made it a favorite for the live sets.
“It’s one of our favorite songs to play,” she says. “I wanted the record to have moments like that that were feel-good songs you wanted to hear when you go see us live. Of course, it allows me to play a little bit.”
Given that her music has such crossover appeal, Ell could easily venture outside of the country music world. She says she’s not quite ready to make that move yet.
“Country is my home,” she says. “It’s where I grew up and live. But as a musician and guitar player, absolutely, I would love to collaborate. Music has no boundaries. It’s not tied to one place and one place only. I played with Carrie Underwood, and I toured with Brad and can hop on stage with crazy random musicians.”