Lindsay Ell on returning to analog pedalboard treasure to make the most guitar-forward music of her career

Lindsay Ell
(Image credit: Jessica Crans)

Nashville country-pop star Lindsay Ell has gotten a real-world education in guitar since playing clubs as a teenager in her native Canada, where her six-string skills led her to link up with veterans Randy Bachman and Buddy Guy.

But after moving to Music City, the chops she showcased opening arenas for star slingers Keith Urban and Brad Paisley took a backseat on her albums and singles, which played more to her songwriting and vocal talents. That all changed when she went into the studio with Jay Joyce, a producer known for his work with Eric Church, Cage the Elephant, Coheed and Cambria and Halestorm.

“The stage is where I’m most at home, and so it only makes sense that my recorded music matches that,” Ell says. “And I guess it’s just taken me 30 years to find that.”

Her latest single, Right On Time, the first song from her collaboration with Joyce to see release, brings her guitar to the forefront without abandoning her ear for confection-sweet melodies and infectious rhythms. 

“[Jay] has one of the most brilliant brains for really looking at an artist and figuring out what they need to do and what they need to say, and bringing that out in the music,” she says. “And so I’ve recorded the most guitar-forward music that I ever have in my life.”

Sessions with Joyce for the official follow-up to 2020’s Heart Theory, due in fall 2022, coincided with her return to analog amps after a spell using Fractals. She used her time during the pandemic to explore gear and try new pedals, and even design her signature “Klon clone” Etana overdrive with Siren.

These days, she runs her Fender Stratocasters into a Ceriatone Overtone Special amp and a Vox AC-30 in stereo, with three gain stages on her pedalboard – a Wampler Ego Compressor into a Ceriatone Century Professional Overdrive into her Etana into a Vertex Ultraphonix – plus a smattering of extras like an original-era Electro-Harmonix Memory Man. And she’s putting it all to work on a club tour this summer during the lead-up to her next release.

“I love playing arenas – there’s nothing that tops playing a full arena with thousands of screaming fans,” she says. “But guitar tone-wise, being able to play dirty, sweaty clubs and just turning up your amp loud and feeling it in the room… it’s really fun.”

  • Right On Time is out now via This Is Hit, Inc d/b/a Stoney Creek Records.

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Jim Beaugez

Jim Beaugez has written about music for Rolling Stone, Smithsonian, Guitar World, Guitar Player and many other publications. He created My Life in Five Riffs, a multimedia documentary series for Guitar Player that traces contemporary artists back to their sources of inspiration, and previously spent a decade in the musical instruments industry.