Lindsay Ell is an artist who has been constantly on the move. The Calgary native fell in love with music at a young age – learning piano at the age of six, discovering guitar at age eight, and beginning to write songs when she was only ten. Twenty years later, Ell has established herself as an accomplished country music singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
Ell has been heavily touring over the past few years to promote The Project, her debut LP produced by Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, playing 235 shows in the last year alone. She’s toured with the likes of Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Sugarland, the Band Perry, and Luke Bryan. Her single “Criminal” was her first top 40 hit, and she is currently featured alongside Brantley Gilbert on his single “What Happens in a Small Town.” While focusing more on the artist side of her career, she’s seldom swayed from her songwriting roots.
“I started writing when I was ten years old growing up in Canada, and while there’s a music scene up there, it’s nothing like the music scene in Nashville,” Ell shares, adding that she wrote by herself in her journal everyday, not knowing anything different. She spent six months on a trip to Los Angeles, where she first experienced co-writing with other songwriters.
When she made it to Nashville, she remembers co-writing feeling very “foreign” to her. “I walked off the plane with the guitar on my back and was like, ‘Well, I guess now is as good a time as any to figure it out!’ I never really knew about co-writing and didn’t understand it until I started traveling,” she says.
“It was really cool getting to meet all of these writers and realize that I could bring my idea or my half-written song to a co-write, and then put another brain or two other brains on it,” Ell explains, sharing that she fell in love with the art of co-writing after meeting and writing with other writers. Her early years in Nashville consisted of going to writers rounds and being a “sponge” to all of the talent residing here.
“This town is so crazy full of so many talented writers. It’s really an honor to be a part of that thread and that quiltwork. I was so enamored going to writers’ rounds and seeing these people sit on stools and just win your heart over with a three minute song,” Ell gushes, still in tune with the magic of Nashville sharing that after nine years, it is definitely home.
Ell says that when she first came to town, she would book triple writing sessions a day, often writing from 10-1, 2-6, then 7-10 before heading to a writer’s round. “I didn’t know anybody in town and really wanted to network as much as I could so I could just write, write, write,” she explains.
A songwriter dedicated to her craft, whenever Ell has a day off the road and at home, you can find her writing. Some of her favorite Nashville songwriters to write with include Brandy Clark (Miranda Lambert’s “Mama’s Broken Heart”), Justin Ebach (Brett Young’s “Sleep Without You”), Josh Kerr (Kelsea Ballerini’s “Love Me Like You Mean It”), Jordan Reynolds (Dan and Shay’s “Tequila”), and Nicolle Galyon (Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic”), and Laura Veltz (Maren Morris’ “I Could Use a Love Song”), though Ell says she could “go on for hours and hours” when it comes to the writers in town she likes to work with.
“It’s an honor to be in this town and creating next to creators that are so uberly talented,” she says. Contrasting her solo writing in the beginning of her career, Ell says that she grew to be dependent on co-writing but is proud that she has now created a balance of writing on her own and co-writing.
Spending the last few years on the road away from Nashville, she has had to adapt and learn to write wherever necessary – from small green rooms, to the middle of concert venues, and in staircases. She admits that she feels most in her element on a writing retreat, which allows writers to go to a specific location and spend a few days fully focused on writing songs, something that isn’t as easy to do when there are specific time frames and commitments in Nashville. “If you can get a few writers you really, really love and go somewhere for a few days, I just feel that the songs are so much more focused and it’s definitely my favorite kind of environment to write in,” Ell shares, adding that leaving the distractions behind can bring a level of clarity into a writing session.
Ell is currently writing for her next album, of which she guarantees an honesty and vulnerability will be present. A lot has happened in her life since the release of The Project, but one song that has really stuck with her since then is “Castle”. “We’re always faced with that desire to one-up ourselves in a way, like getting a faster car or a bigger house. You set a goal and accomplish that goal and five minutes later, you’re like well I’ve gotta do this now!” she shares, adding that for her own path, that has looked like getting a record deal, then getting a song on the radio, then getting a number one, and so on. Ell describes how easy it is to fall into the trap of wanting more, rather than enjoying what you’ve worked so hard to accomplish, sharing that a stand out lyric in the song is “Even if we had a house up on a hill, I bet we’d want a castle.”
While Lindsay Ell has experienced the last few years on the road and on the stage primarily, it’s easy to see that she is more connected than ever to her writing roots in anticipation for her next album. While her work ethic, dedication to touring, connection with her fans, lyrics, and musicianship are all inspiring, her passion and commitment to honesty and vulnerability in her music may be her standout quality.
*Header image by John Shearer