If Lindsay Ell’s album The Project is a play, then each of its 12 songs are a distinguished character in the story. The album, which serves as a follow-up to her 2017 EP, Worth the Wait, is a 12-track record that reflects who she is an artist and the growth she’s experienced both personally and in songwriting.
“That’s what the EP really meant to me. It was like a collection of real songs and that I could tell fans like, this is what I want to say right now. I’m ready to start this new chapter,” Ell tells Sounds Like Nashville. Her process of recording the EP was a unique one to say the least, with producer Kristian Bush of Sugarland fame stretching her creative talents to new heights by having her record her favorite album, John Mayer’s Continuum, front to back in two weeks time. The 19-hour days Ell put into the experience find her diving deep into her own artistry.
“I thought I knew that record, but when you really need to pick apart every little piece of what you’re listening to and recreate it in your own voice, you just learn something to a different extent,” she explains. Through the process, Ell learned how to be daring in the studio, branching out into new topics and songwriting styles. “I called this record ‘The Project’ because I felt like the past eight months have been a science project. It’s really been me discovering who I am,” she says.
Fans will be familiar with tracks like “Worth the Wait” and “Waiting on You,” both of which appear on the EP, but will see a more eclectic side of the star on the sassy “Champagne” and the witty “Mint.” “Champagne,” co-written by play-on-words connoisseur Walker Hayes, finds Ell going down a road in songwriting she’s never traveled before, bringing to life the glamorous side of being woman while name-dropping Jessica Biel in the process. “They were like, “Yes, we can do that. Absolutely we can,’” she says of her hesitation to using her name in the song. “It’s like, why not write a song exactly how a woman wants to be treated?”
“Space” is another track that found the singer pushing herself to record songs out of her comfort zone, admitting she was “terrified” of cutting it, with Bush encouraging her to face her fears. “I feel like I’ve just become a different singer, a different guitar player and altogether a different artist,” she says about challenging herself in the studio. But she points to “Castle” as the most compelling song on the album, delving into society’s mentality of feeling like we never have enough “It was just so fulfilling to me to be able to write a song about society, about where we stand right now and I think it’s something that a lot of people can identify with,” she says.
And her decision to bookend the album with a song about patience was completely intentional. The Project opens with the impatient “Waiting on You,” a song that Ell believes is as autobiographical as it gets. “If anyone were to ask me, “Okay, who is Lindsay Ell? I’d play ‘Waiting on You,’” she shares of the track. “I feel like I’ve had to wait for so many things in my personal life and my career and when you need to wait for something it just makes it all worth it…and it makes you appreciate it. I feel like the project is so symbolic of a whole bunch of that in the last 16 years of my career so I really wanted to start the record and finish the record with a song about waiting.”
Though the songs all pull from Ell’s real life feelings and experiences, she hopes that when fans hear the diverse compilation, they’ll be able to find a piece of themselves in the songs. “It’s like songs, regardless of if artists write them or if artists don’t write them, should make you put to life a side of yourself,” she says. “I really feel like The Project kind of is like that. It’s a journey and I really hope that when people listen to the project that they can identify with even just a portion of it and be like, “I know what that feels like’ or “I have been there before.’”
The Project is so much more than an album for Ell, encompassing a variety of quirky songs that all relate to her life, but it also acts as a time marker in her career, one that reflects who she is now, but will carry her legacy into the future, allowing her to carve out her own path in country music. “I think that being a female, there’s like a lane that females need to kind of carve for themselves,” she details, citing Carrie Underwood, Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini as artists who’ve accomplished such a feat. “And I really needed to figure out what lane mine was going to be and what that looked like. I feel like I’ve finally found that voice. As a female, to have that strong voice and yet still be a little bit edgy at times and be able to be fun and sassy, it’s just a fine line and I feel like we found it.”
The Project is available in stores and online now.