Country Music

How Lindi Ortega Found Her Light

Lindi Ortega and her red boots are back.
Lindi Ortega and her red boots are back. Kate Nutt
Lindi Ortega is known for two things: a musical style that intertwines Dolly Parton’s country with the sound and soul of Amy Winehouse, and wearing bright red cowboy boots.

Ortega’s favorite color became part of her signature style during her first tour across the Midwest for her debut album, Little Red Boots.

“I thought to myself, ‘They might not remember my name or anything, but they’ll know I was the girl in the red boots,’” Ortega says.

Four albums and seven years later, the Canadian singer-songwriter will bring those boots to Phoenix on Sunday, April 1, in support of her fifth studio album, Liberty.

On the album, Ortega dabbles with a new style of spaghetti western and southern-soul country music that was inspired by her fans, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, and the late singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

“All the songs are tailored to a theme, which is a character that traverses from the dark into the light,” she says. “… It’s basically written for people that are going through any kind of struggle.”

Liberty’s first single, “The Comeback Kid,” highlights the album’s essence and the idea of recreating yourself. “You took my life and wrecked it / But I’ve been resurrected / Oh, the comeback kid,” Ortega sings.

“People would come up to me after shows and say that some of my songs helped them get through hard times in their life,” she says. “And I figured, instead of them having just a song here and there on my record, why not make an entire record for that purpose?”

The three-concept LP chronicles a journey of exploration and struggle. The first third of the album, titled Through the Dust Part I, digs into the shadows, with songs like “Afraid of the Dark,” and “You Ain’t Foolin’ Me.” They capture a somber mood of being lost, with a gothic country feel.

Part II follows, with “The Comeback Kid” and “Darkness Be Gone.” There’s a sudden twist of rock upbeat country — and a lighter tone. The final third of the album finds that sought-after brightness.

“I wanted the record to end positively because I wanted it to be inspiring for people that are going through any sort of struggles,” Ortega says. “I want people to be able to see themselves in the songs and identify with the songs in a way.”

Ortega introduces a new concept to her music at the end of Liberty with “Gracias a la Vida,” or “thanks to life.” It’s sung completely in Spanish, and inspired by Ortega’s own Mexican roots and Arizona singer Linda Ronstadt.

Staying true to her country roots while still exploring southern soul, rockabilly, and blue genres, Ortega says half the fun of creating the album was being able to dress her songs up with different instrumentation and musical styles. And then, of course, watching it all come to fruition.

“In this record, I challenged myself and thought, ‘Why not?’” Ortega says. “I’m making this record, [which is] meant to be inspiring for people, and I wanted to inspire and challenge myself to do things that I’ve never done before.”

One thing she’s not changing up? Those red boots.

Lindi Ortega is scheduled to perform at the Musical Instrument Museum at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 1. Tickets start at $27. For more information on tour dates and tickets, visit the MIM's website.

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