Patience is a virtue, and Lindsay Ell’s patience has finally paid off. She says her debut EP on Stoney Creek Records feels like it was years in the making, but after hitting her stride as an artist – and a woman – the end result was Worth the Wait.
Comprised of six heart-on-her-sleeve tracks and produced by Sugarland co-founder Kristian Bush, Ell’s Worth the Wait EP is the modern-country calling card she’s been working toward her whole life – from her childhood in Calgary, Alberta; through her time opening shows for blues legend Buddy Guy; and even with attention-grabbing singles “Trippin’ On Us” and “By the Way.”
“I’m so proud of it,” Ell beams about the project. “I’ve really found my sound, and I’ve never felt about music the way I do now.”
Tastefully bluesy, emotionally charged and full of empowering themes, part of the reason Ell’s new music feels so special is the growing up she’s done in the past few years.
The young star has traveled the world with The Band Perry and Luke Bryan, showcased her multi- instrumental dexterity as one of CMT’s Next Women of Country, and is currently trading guitar solos with Brad Paisley on his 2017 Life Amplified World Tour. Plus, she and country radio personality Bobby Bones have gone public about their relationship, and that combination of experience and openness has brought Ell’s creativity to a whole new level.
“I’ve gotten to a point in my life – professionally and personally – where I’m just more open and more vulnerable, and I’m not afraid to talk about it in songwriting,” she explains. “I’ve kind of touched on it before, but I’ve never really gone that deep, and that’s what country’s all about. I think fans love to hear the truth and be able to say ‘I know what that feels like, and I’ve been through that before.’”
Crediting Bush with pushing her to examine the kind of artist she wanted to be, Ell says “You can tell when it clicks into gear.” Bush gave her a deceptively simple task before getting to work on Worth the Wait – to record her own version of her all-time favorite record, note for note and completely alone. For Ell that record is John Mayer’s Continuum, and after locking herself in a studio for two weeks straight, she had a musical epiphany.
“It helped me realize that I love music when it’s great, and simple,” she says. “When it’s great, it can stay simple – it doesn’t need to be that complicated. ... The coolest thing about Kristian was he was like ‘OK, we’re gonna put you in a studio and we’re gonna surround you with musicians. We’re gonna record a live band and that’s gonna be the record.’ It isn’t rocket science, even though for the past few years of my life I tried to make it rocket science. He just cared so much about what I needed to say at this time.”
What she needed to say was also simple – that there’s more to her artistry than guitar shredding. Well known for her prowess on the fretboard, Ell was adamant about giving fans more, often downplaying her virtuosic guitar picking even though female lead guitar players remain a rarity in the country music format. She’s always felt like a student of total-package artists like Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow, she says – thrilling performers who are also revealing songwriters, generous with the personal details they share. Now that she’s opened herself up to the world, she can finally hear the resemblance to those heroes.
“I feel like it shows a more mature, more adult sound,” she says of Worth the Wait. “I feel like I’m in that transition from college to whatever the rest of your life leads you to and, especially as a woman, you’re discovering who you are and accepting some of the things you did not want to accept a few years ago, seeing the beauty in those weaknesses.”
Taking a less-is-more sonic approach that mixes country realism, rock muscle and blues vulnerability while leaving plenty of room for crisp, newly-confident vocals to shine, Worth the Wait is focused on growth – both romantically and as a person.
“Waiting on You” reveals the optimism that let her new love blossom against all odds, while “Criminal” delights in the lusty, invincible feeling of falling head over heals. “Space” takes a stripped-down look at long-distance relationships – whether physical or emotional – and “Still Standing” laments a faded-but- still-lingering love. “Worth the Wait” is full of romantic and personal affirmation, while “Stop This Train” – one of the Mayer tracks Ell painstakingly recreated – shows her worldly side.
With Worth the Wait, Lindsay Ell has turned a creative corner and found a new world of artistic possibility, and it’s all based on truth. She’s laying her heart and soul on the line, and says the future looks brighter than ever.
In fact, the title of her debut EP could not be more appropriate. It takes time and determination for an artist so honest and self-assured to emerge, and for this rising star the finished product was indeed worth the wait.
“I hope fans listen to this EP and know that this sound is ‘Lindsay,’” she says. “I’m standing in my own lane and it’s scary as all get out, but it’s really empowering because this is where I’m at and this is what I want to sound like. I’m not chasing anything else, I’m just walking my path.”