High Five

Lindi Ortega’s music city

Lindi Ortega’s perception of Nashville, before she moved there almost two years ago, was decidedly time-warped, like something out of a movie.

“Somehow in my mind I thought it was going to be an old, dusty Western town with cowboys everywhere and Dolly Parton singing in the parade down the street,” she says. “Yeah, it was quite different than that.”

Even then, it has still inspired Ortega, a rising Canadian singer-songwriter who’s a little bit country and a little bit rock ’n’ roll. “Tin Star,” her superb new album, is largely about trying to make a name for herself in that fabled music city.


We asked Ortega, who comes to Cafe 939 on Tuesday, to tell us five reasons why she decided to make Nashville home.

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1. Musical history “Of course, all the greats in country music have gone through Nashville or live in Nashville – or pissed Nashville off. There’s a lot of history to take in here.”

2. The draw of the South “I think that’s an extension of my childhood [in Toronto]. My mom was a country-music fan and into Southern things. Nashville had a Southern charm, and I needed to be there.”

3. The food “I discovered the meat and three, which is a Southern thing. You go to these places, which are only open from, like, 10 to 3 in the afternoon. You pick out your meat, which is your main dish, and you pick your three sides, which are all down-home Southern dishes – mashed potatoes, grits, mac ’n’ cheese, fried green tomatoes. It’s a good place for a foodie.”

4. The music “There’s a constant influx of music happening, so there’s constant inspiration. I can go out anytime I want to see who’s out and about.”


5. Productivity “It’s a great place for me to be productive. When I come home from tour, my friends in the music business are constantly writing and in the studio. So while I might be inclined to sit in a onesie, eating Cheerios and watching reruns of ‘Friends,’ I see what they’re doing and it kicks my butt into writing songs.”


Lindi Ortega performs at Cafe 939 on Tuesday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $12. 617-747-2261,

James Reed can be reached at