Exclusive: Lindsay Ell Finds Her Voice, Showcases Female Writers On ‘The Project’

When it came time for singer, songwriter, and guitarist Lindsay Ell to begin work on The Project, her full-length album for BBR Music Group that releases today (Aug. 11), she connected with her own musical roots and chiseled out her own brand of music by taking a deep dive into the work of another singer/songwriter/guitarist: John Mayer.

Ell’s producer on the album, Kristian Bush, known for his work with Sugarland as well as his own solo projects, challenged Ell to completely recreate one of her all-time favorite albums, Mayer’s blues and soul-infused 2006 project Continuum. Bush’s challenge came with a few stipulations.

“He said I had to play all the instruments on the album and recreate the whole thing myself. I had two weeks,” Ell told MusicRow during a visit to the MusicRow offices.

Ell cleared her schedule for two weeks, secluding herself in the studio from 8 a.m. until 3 a.m. each day and painstakingly dissecting and reassembling every guitar lick, every vocal, and every drumbeat.

“I thought I knew the album, but when you are recording all these different parts and recreating them in your own voice you learn something on a different level. Fast forward two weeks and I handed him this disc. I learned so much about John’s guitar playing and my own and about how I loved to hear a band recorded in the studio. Kristian was like, ‘Now it’s time to say that with your own music.’ It was such a crazy way for a producer helping me find my own voice.”

Lindsay Ell

Ell paid homage to her studio experimentation, including one of her Continuum remakes, “Stop This Train,” on her Worth The Wait EP, which released in March. Ell hopes to release her full rendition of Mayer’s Continuum project later this year.

During a visit to the MusicRow offices, Ell offered a preview of The Project, including performances of “Waiting On You,” “Criminal,” and “Champagne.”

Ell contributed writing credits on nine of the album’s 12 tracks, collaborating with writers including Bush, Justin Ebach, Andrew DeRoberts, Walker Hayes, Josh Kerr, Travis Meadows, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne.

On the three tracks she didn’t have a hand in writing, Ell highlights work from some of her fellow top Nashville female artists and songwriters, including Caitlyn Smith, Heather Morgan, Kelsea Ballerini, and Carly Pearce.

“As a songwriter it’s hard to find other things that are what you want to say,” Ell said. “Kristian said cutting outside songs would help me complete the story and say things I didn’t know how to say. I’m so happy that I’m able to showcase some of the female artists I look up to while making this album because there are so many in this town.”

Lindsay Ell with MusicRow staff.

Ell’s unorthodox approach to making the album gave her the courage to step out of her comfort zone, and to record songs she said she wouldn’t have recorded a year ago. Songs like the relaxed, sultry rocker “Waiting On You” or the soaring, confident vocals and guitar fuzz-fueled “Wildfire.” She name checks actress Jessica Biel as she lavishes praise on her lover on pop-flavored “Champagne.”

“I probably would have looked at half these songs and thought, ‘We can’t put it on the record.’”

Now, she offers a voice and perspective that is as self-assured as her guitar playing.

“I feel like the music we recorded for the project is the closest to the music that I was playing before I moved to Nashville,” says the Canada native. “I was listening to a couple of demos that I recorded when I was 19 years old and it’s pretty similar. It’s those vulnerabilities and imperfections as artists that make you who you are. It’s like putting them under a magnifying glass to make them stand out.

“I feel like I finally made the record I’ve always wanted to make. It’s crazy how sometimes you need to wait for things or wait a little longer than you thought you would, or work a little harder.”

Lindsay Ell on the set of her video for “Waiting On You.”

1) “Waiting On You” (Lindsay Ell, Adam Hambrick, Andrew DeRoberts)
2) “Champagne” (Lindsay Ell, Walker Hayes, Fred Wilhelm)
3) “Castle” (Lindsay Ell, Abbey Cone, Josh Kerr)
4) “Good” (Lindsay Ell, Adam Hambrick, Andrew DeRoberts)
5) “Wildfire” (Lindsay Ell, Kristian Bush)
6) “Mint” (Lindsay Ell, Justin Ebach)
7) “White Noise” (Kelsea Ballerini, Josh Kear, Ross Copperman)
8) “Criminal” (Lindsay Ell, Chris Stevens, Fred Wilhelm)
9) “Just Another Girl” (Lindsay Ell, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne)
10) “Space” (Caitlyn Smith, Heather Morgan, Maggie Chapman)
11) “Always Kiss The Girl” (Bobby Hamrick, Jarrad Kritzstein, Carly Pearce)
12) “Worth The Wait” (Lindsay Ell, Travis Meadows)


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Category: Artist, Featured

About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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