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Knowing Lindi Ortega By Her 'Little Red Boots'
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Knowing Lindi Ortega By Her 'Little Red Boots'

Knowing Lindi Ortega By Her 'Little Red Boots'

Knowing Lindi Ortega By Her 'Little Red Boots'
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136949134/136949094" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Lindi Ortega's debut album Little Red Boots comes out Tuesday on Last Gang Records. She says her influences run the gamut from the pensive Leonard Cohen to the atmospheric Mazzy Star and Jeff Buckley, but her new CD serves some straight-up country. Host Scott Simon speaks with singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega, who has been described as Canada's answer to Dolly Parton.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Little Red Boots - kind of a signature for singer and composer Lindi Ortega.

Ms. LINDI ORTEGA (Composer, singer): (Singing) You're going to know me by my little red boots. Uh-huh. You're going to know me by my little red boots. Uh-huh.

SIMON: When she says, you're going to know me by my little red boots, she's not talking about footwear.

Lindi Ortega's debut album, "Little Red Boots," comes out on Tuesday, on Last Gang Records. She says her influences run the gamut from the pensive Leonard Cohen to the atmospheric Mazzy Star and Jeff Buckley. But her new CD serves some straight-up country, closer to Dolly Parton and Wanda Jackson.

Lindi Ortega joins us now from the studios of the CBC in her hometown of Toronto. Thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. ORTEGA: Thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: And in that title track, Little Red Boots, are there some echoes of "These Boots are Made for Walkin' "?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ORTEGA: You know, I wasnt really - actually - thinking about that song, but I love that song. But I wasn't thinking about it when I wrote this song. However, I have thought about possibly putting those songs hand-in-hand in a set one day.

SIMON: You - boots are kind of a shtick with you, aren't they?

Ms. ORTEGA: Yeah. I just - I have a thing for footwear, and I went to Texas one day and I bought a pair of boots. And I kind of - it started sort of my love for cowboy boots, and then it turned into a love for red cowboy boots. And I bought these red cowboy boots when I went to Nashville on a songwriting trip. People commented on them all the time, every time I was playing, so I thought they deserved to have a song written about them.

(Soundbite of song, Little Red Boots)

Ms. ORTEGA: (Singing) I've got to move along, but I'll be back again someday. Someday. Someday. Hey, oh you're going to know me by my little red boots. Uh-huh.

SIMON: How did you become a singer? Or how did you get interested in singing?

Ms. ORTEGA: My dad was a bass player in a Latino band when I was growing up. So we always had musical instruments in our basement. There was a P.A. system and there was a piano, and there was a guitar hanging on the wall. And I'd go see my dad perform sometimes, and he'd have different female Latina singers with him. And I was just mesmerized by watching them on stage, and that sort of gave me the early itch to want to do the same thing. Just the whole idea of singing for people and writing songs was something that was addictive for me, and I just didn't stop - ever since.

(Soundbite of song, Little Lie)

Ms. ORTEGA: (Singing) I told a little lie or two when I spoke to you on the phone the other night.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the first track of the CD, Little Lie.

Ms. ORTEGA: Mm-hmm.

SIMON: And there is this irresistible vocal twist in the song. Lets listen.

(Soundbite of song, Little Lie)

Ms. ORTEGA: (Singing) I didnt want to tell you, tell you. Didn't want to tell you anything you didn't want to hear.

SIMON: That fill-up at the end, didn't want to tell you anything you didn't want to - hear-uh(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: How do you do that?

Ms. ORTEGA: I don't know. I just kind of wanted to play with the melody a little bit there. I wanted to add a little bit of sass into the song, so I just sang it like that.

Ms. ORTEGA: (Singing) I didnt want to tell you, tell you. Didn't want to tell you anything you didn't want to hear. Look a little closer than the truth. Look a little closer than the truth. Look a little closer than the truth becomes clear.

SIMON: I'm told one of your inspirations is someone who's not a musician at all, but Frida Kahlo.

Ms. ORTEGA: Yes. Thats right. I'm a huge fan of Frida Kahlo, and I love not only her artwork but her as a person - I just think is an incredible role model. Somebody who had to deal with a lot of not only physical pain but also, you know, she'd gone through a lot of heartache with the men that she had chosen to fall in love with. She had a difficult life. She had trouble conceiving children. And to me, she's somebody who in the face of, you know, adversity and in the face of pain, she was able to pull through and remain strong, and have this wonderful zest for life.

SIMON: Has that feeling ever resulted in a song? Does it color everything you do? No pun intended.

Ms. ORTEGA: Yeah. I think so. I mean, there's - I think there's definitely moments in my music that are quite dark, and people pick up on that. But I always try to inject a little bit of a silver lining into what I do by either coupling it with upbeat music, or a little bit of tongue-in-cheek. I try to have a little bit of optimism, little bit of a silver lining.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. ORTEGA: (Singing) Dont you give up. Dont you give, dont you give, dont you give up.

(Soundbite of song, Jimmy Dean)

Ms. ORTEGA: (Singing) Go on and look me in the eye if you think you can. Ever seen a better dead rebel man? Hey little boy, do you...

SIMON: What made you want to do a song about Jimmy Dean?

Ms. ORTEGA: I read his biography and...

SIMON: Wait. We should explain. We're talking not about the...

Ms. ORTEGA: Not about the sausages.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Not about the singer and the sausage guy, who just died recently...

Ms. ORTEGA: No.

SIMON: ...but James Dean, the great actor.

Ms. ORTEGA: Yes, the great actor. I just I felt - after I read his biography, I just thought he had an interesting story, and I felt like maybe taking on a persona for a change in some of my songwriting. A lot of what I do is very - it comes from my heart and my experiences and stuff, and I just thought it would be a nice little challenge to try writing from a different perspective. So I was just inspired by the story, and I thought I would take on writing from the perspective of the ghost of Jimmy Dean.

(Soundbite of song, Jimmy Dean)

Ms. ORTEGA: (Singing) September of 1955, it was 24 years 'til the day I died. You know my face from the Hollywood silver screen. I was just looking for another fast ride; I didn't think I wouldn't make it back alive. And now you know me as the ghost of Jimmy Dean. I'm the baddest boy that your eyes have ever seen. And I'm the baddest boy that your eyes have ever...

SIMON: Country music has been big in - well, in Canada, as long as it has in the United States. And Hank Snow, of course, one of the great founders of what we now call country music, and so many famous people - K.D. Lang and Shania Twain, Margo Timmins, Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot.

Is there, to your mind, distinctly kind of Canadian country music?

Ms. ORTEGA: I guess there might be maybe a little bit of a stamp of being from -not like, being from the South, or not being from Texas or Nashville or living on a farm like that, or whatever. But I didn't grow up on a farm myself. So I'm not sure, exactly, how much me being Canadian comes through in my music. And I don't really know how much it comes through besides maybe some lyrical things in other artists, like Blue Rodeo and such. But yeah, I mean, I think people just are drawn to certain genres. And personally for me, I'm drawn to that genre for many reasons. But I don't really think of myself doing sort of Canadiana(ph) country music. I don't really think of it like that. I just think it's a genre of music that I love, and it doesn't matter where - who's doing it or where they're from, as long as it sounds good.

SIMON: Singer and songwriter Lindi Ortega. Her album, "Little Red Boots," comes out on Tuesday. She joined us from the studios of the CBC in Toronto.

Ms. Ortega, thanks so much.

Ms. ORTEGA: Thank you. Thank you very much.

(Soundbite of song, Little Red Boots)

Ms. ORTEGA (Singing) You're going to know me by my little red, youre going to know me by my little red, you're going to know me by my little red boots...

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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