I recently found myself hanging backstage at the Tin Angel… likely the least cool backstage in Philthy (Not because it isn’t cushy, but because the stain on the floor is more likely from Brooke Fraser spilling her holy water than from some descendent of Johnny Thunders deciding to forgo using a toilet.) However, the person I was with struck me as not-quite-saintly. I was with Lindi Ortega, country’s most delectable vixen. Dolled up in all black (including a veil), save her “little red boots” and “ruby red lips,” she resembled Anna Karina playing the part of a rebel cowgirl. “I’ve always been drawn to the rebel outlaws,” she tells me while discussing “Jimmy Dean,” a song she wrote from the perspective of the ghost of James Dean after reading a bio of his she found at a garage sale… the two certainly would’ve made a perfect pair.
But the most intriguing thing about Lindi is that, while phrases like “rebel,” “outlaw,” and “vixen” do seem suitable, she’s not nearly as one-dimensional as the villainess of a Russ Meyer film. In fact, her latest release, Little Red Boots (out now on Last Gang Records), expresses sentiments that are down-right Mozzian (that’s “Morrissey-esque.” I’m not so sure how familiar the country community is with Moz). On “Angels,” which kicked off her set at the Tin Angel, she states
All of my dear friends have abandoned me
I’m just a stranger in a strange city
How many more days must I live this life?
And on “Dying of Another Broken Heart,” which she tells me “Was written as a satire on the melodrama of heartbreak,” she proclaims
I don’t believe in Romance
And I don’t believe in fate
I don’t believe I’ll ever find my very own soul mate
However, like the Mozzer, Ortega is far from all doom and gloom. In fact, she followed up “DOABH” with “When All the Stars Align,” in which she professes to having some bit of hope, “hoping” to keep the audience from growing too melancholy. The sounds of Ms. Ortega’s songs are nearly as varied as the sentiments they express and her ten-song set sounded nearly suitable for a new location every four minutes or so (Unfortunately, I think the dinner theatre setup of Tin Angel is a bit too sterile for any of her sounds or sentiments). The sultry [pseudo] Southern charm of “Little Red Boots” would be perfect for a cabaret; “All My Friends” and “Black Fly,” odes to heartbreak and substance abuse, seem suited for the kind of place with chicken wire guarding the stage; and the upbeat animal tale of “Blue Bird” would work for an Elementary School assembly (and there’s nothing wrong with that every so often). The highlight of the set, however, was the raucous “I’m No Elvis Presley,” which she wrote in response to a critic who said that she was okay, “But nothing legendary,” which she felt to be “A tall order to expect of [her].” The song, whose chorus spouts “No I’m no Elvis Presley. So, who the hell are you?” would’ve been equally at home on My Big Fat Redneck Wedding or the stage of CBGB.
Although Lindi regularly finds herself compared to the likes of Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris (I always attempt to evoke controversy by asking artists if their work is ever assessed in an annoying manner or regularly compared to people who they actually hate, but she tells me that she’s read “Nothing annoying” and that she doesn’t “hate” anyone), she actually transgresses musical boundaries (both actively and passively) to a far greater degree than most of her regular listeners would guess. Last year, when she was signed to Interscope, she even contributed vocals to ”Good Enuff” by Philthy-resident Diplo’s Major Lazer project. She also shares with me that she actually had a surprising love of Trip Hop and the likes of Tricky and Portishead and that, for a time, she wanted to have a Trip Hop sideproject but that the genre got “over exposed.”
In addition to music, Ms. Ortega also does a bit of painting. “I mean, I don’t consider myself an artist” (you know what she means), “I do it therapeutically,” but she has sold paintings and even done some of her own album art (see: the inside of Little Red Boots). The majority of her non-musical art is inspired by Die de los Meurtos (Day of the Dead), in celebration of her heritage (and because it’s just fucking cool). “I like to paint skeletons in front of bright colours. I like the contrast. Kind of like my music. Writing peppier songs about sad things.”
Lindi’s foray into painting isn’t surprising, considering the influences that she discussed with me. “I have an unhealthy fetish for Frida Kahlo,” she tells me. The album art for Little Red Boots even includes the famous quote “I drank to drown my sorrows, but the damned things learned how to swim,” from the Mexican painter. She tells me her obsession with Kahlo stems from the fact that she (Kahlo) “Had to be a very strong woman in her time. She was a communist at a time when it was not considered a good thing to be a communist. She suffered immense physical pain, but always had a positive outlook,” and the fact that she “Stuck to her Mexican roots and always dressed traditionally,” regardless of contemporary fashions. She tells me that Frida’s husband, Diego Rivera, and fellow painter (but, at his best, filmmaker) Salvador Dali are also major influences.
In addition to a bevy of painters, Lindi, like Imelda May (who I recently interviewed for the site: http://blog.philthy.us/blog/?p=3698), also has a fondness for superheroes. She tells me how much inspiration she found in Wonder Woman. In fact, the super heroine was the inspiration for Lindi’s own little red boots: “There are a lot of things about Wonder Woman that I think are amazing. I mean, the fact that she was rescuing men and not being rescued by them.” That, and the fact that she had her own invisible plane, which is pretty fucking awesome by anyone’s standards, regardless of sex.