Interview: Lindsay Lou, an Artist Who Pours Her Heart into Her Music

Lindsay Lou © Dana Kalachnik
Lindsay Lou © Dana Kalachnik
The self-proclaimed “Queen of Time,” singer/songwriter Lindsay Lou opens up about the songs and emotions on her beautiful new album, talks collaboration with Billy Strings and Dave O’Donnell, and offers some hard-won words of wisdom in a candid conversation with Atwood Magazine.
Stream: “Shame” – Lindsay Lou

Your ears and your heart know what they want, and you’ll keep getting better because love is going to get you where you want to be and guide you.

When you sit down with Lindsay Lou, you feel a sense of peace wash over you.

Down-to-earth and instantly familiar, speaking with her feels like two old friends catching up. Lou has worked hard on her fifth album, Queen of Time, slated to release on September 29, 2023 via Kill Rock Stars Nashville.

Queen of Time - Lindsay Lou
Queen of Time – Lindsay Lou

Queen of Time feels like a whole new beginning for the Nashville-based singer/songwriter, whose roots have grown over the years in the bluegrass and Americana worlds. Produced by Dave O’Donnell (James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Heart) and featuring collaborations with Grammy Award-winners Billy Strings and Jerry Douglas, Lou’s first full length solo release in five years – since 2018’s critically acclaimed Southland – focuses on her ability to bring a song to the table and see it blossom with a full band or guest appearance.

What a thrill it is to not be needed
What a drag it is to be all thrills
I’m a wishing well, I’m a wishing well
Check it out, here’s a moment to be still
Call it loneliness, call it what you will
I’m the queen of time, I’m the queen of time
Who are you? Who are you?
Who are you?
– “Queen of Time,” Lindsay Lou

Born in Missouri and raised in Michigan, Lou relocated to Nashville in 2015, and has found not only a home in Music City, but also a nurturing environment that has enabled her to embrace her voice and take her musical talent to a whole new level. Whether she is “picking” with friends on a front porch or in the studio, she brings a song to life and makes it her own.

Queen of Time is a particularly intimate album that finds Lou diving deep into herself and her emotions, exploring her spiritual being in depth.

“I lost my grandmother, I got divorced, and went through the pandemic, sort of had this rebirth of myself, within myself,” she tells Atwood Magazine. “There’s a lot of hope and grief, in the whole transition. Losing my grandmother and getting a divorce is very heavy; this record has a lot of emotional value to me.”

We were one long night
We were one sweet morning
We were all time
I don’t need to live forever to know
I’ll always love you
I love you, nothing else matters
We were young and free
We were loud and laughing
We were learning how to see
I don’t need to do it over
to know that I was living
I’m living, nothing else matters
– “Nothing Else Matters,” Lindsay Lou
Lindsay Lou © Dana Kalachnik
Lindsay Lou © Dana Kalachnik

Lou is one of those musicians who brings an emotional prowess to her songs and leaves audiences in awe.

Atwood Magazine caught with her at DelFest 2023. We spoke about her beginnings and what it meant for her to collaborate with Grammy Award winning producer Dave O’Donnell, as well as the strong bond between musicians in the scene.

Lindsay Lou is a true diamond in the rough – a shining star that will be heard for years down the road. Queen of Time is out September 29 via Kill Rock Stars Nashville.

A record is just a “record of time,” of where you are artistically with music and in your life. This is a record that I’m going to look back on in a big way.

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:: stream/purchase Queen of Time here ::
:: connect with Lindsay Lou here ::
Stream: “Shame” – Lindsay Lou


Queen of Time - Lindsay Lou

Atwood Magazine: Who was the first singer songwriter that made you want to do this as a career?

Lindsay Lou: They both happened around the same time. It was two women who I was in a band with called The Sweet Water Warblers. Before I was in a band with them, I was a really big fan of theirs.  It was a very transitional period of my life in East Lansing, Michigan when I was attending college. Their names are May Erlewine and Rachael Davis. Their music totally changed my life because I always wanted to be a singer and be a part of music. The way I grew up you were either a pop star or you just jammed at home with your family. I wasn’t sure if “pop star” was the thing for me, I was a punk rocker. I turned my nose up at fame and the sort of commercialism. I loved science so I went to college to become a doctor (pre-med). When I was in college I met May and Rachael along with The Flatbellys. That’s when I finally saw myself being a part of this world, the bluegrass world, making this my life. That’s exactly what I did.

You have a new album coming out, Queen of Time. Can you talk about your songwriting process and some of your friends that you called upon for this venture?

Lindsay Lou: I had about twenty songs (I recorded all of them). In the studio, was the core band that I have been touring with for about five years (Anthony da Costa/P.J. George/Alex Bice). There was a group of musicians that I recorded some acoustic songs with that formed out of the pandemic called “Superflex.” The players included Mimi Naja (Frution), Kyle Tuttle (Molly Tuttle), Royal Masat (Billy Strings). It was just a blessing to be able to record with some of my Nashville friends that played in living rooms and front porches like Maya de Vitry, Dominick Leslie, Jordan Tice as well as many others.

I had Billy (Strings) come in and record the couple of songs that he and I wrote together. He released his song “Freedom” on his record Home, which won a Grammy. I really wanted a version of it out in the world that sounded like when we wrote it. I have this voice memo demo playing it for his Mom. Both times when we were writing his Mom called him during the sessions. Billy’s phone was on the counter and I was recording it on mine, and I just loved the way that it sounded. I said to my producer Dave O’Donnell, “Hey Dave! I really want this to sound like we are playing this in the kitchen.”

I ended up with two sets; “Freedom” with Billy Strings, “Still Water,” “Don’t Go Back,” and “Ancient Oceans.” These are acoustic songs, they wanted to live and breathe in the acoustic world. So I decided to release them as an EP last summer, “You Thought You Knew.” I kept on plugging away at the songs, as with all of my records, mirror me being put in a box. I do some rock ‘n roll, I get into some more meters but the first track, “Nothing Else Matters,” on my new album (Queen of Time), has players like Dominic Leslie (mandolin) and Jerry Douglas (dobro).

It’s like me, I want a foot in all my doors. I would be bored with myself. It’s really hard enough liking your own work as it is. I can’t live in a box and spread all over all my loves. It was like the jam last night. Were you at the jam last night?

I don’t need the world to hear me to know that I am singing…

– “Nothing Else Matters,” Lindsay Lou

Down by the river? No, I heard about it but didn’t make it down.

Lindsay Lou: It was so great! I felt this between these two worlds. I’ve made so much music with them; it was Sierra Ferrell’s band (my ex-husband Josh Rilko on mandolin, Oliver Craven on fiddle, and Geoff Saunders on bass). I say ex-husband but those thirteen years that we made music together is unnameable and indescribable. It’s such a beautiful thing. Whenever we get the chance to come together and sing, it’s so sweet. Now he’s with Sierra (Ferrell) and whenever the three of us get together my heart wants to explode, along with Oliver too. Same with The Honeydrops, I’ve sung so much over the years with Lech Wierzynski. So this bluegrass, soul, gospel world came together down by the river. We were craving out space for each other, singing so many songs that I love with these people that I love down by the river. This is what this record feels like.

It’s funny to put it that way, because stylistically it lives in all these different worlds but grammatically I went through all these transitions in my life. I lost my grandmother, I got divorced and went through the pandemic, sort of had this rebirth of myself, within myself. There’s a lot of hope and grief in the whole transition. Losing my grandmother and getting a divorce, is very heavy, this record has a lot of emotional value to me. I was so fortunate to work with Dave O’Donnell who has worked with James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, and Keith Richards. He was on the mixing session for “Touch Of Grey” (Grateful Dead) and “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” (Cyndi Lauper). He is very good at what he does, and it was touching because he reached out to me after he heard my music.

It took a year or two of him just checking in on me, every couple months, like, “Hey! Do you want to make this record yet?” until I said, “Let’s go and record a couple songs.” He is just so supportive and believes in me so much, to have someone like him in my court especially in this time of my life was special. Something wasn’t right, I’m going to step out and find my voice again, and Dave just let me be myself. A record is just a “record of time,” of where you are artistically with music and in your life. This is a record that I’m going to look back on in a big way.

Lindsay Lou © Dana Kalachnik
Lindsay Lou © Dana Kalachnik

When listeners haven’t heard from an artist for a couple of years, some don’t know where they are emotionally.

Lindsay Lou: Even though it’s been since 2018 since I’ve released a full-length, I did have three “A-Side + B-Side” singles and a four song EP, so I’ve sort or released a whole record just a couple songs at a time. All of the songs on the new record are not going to be versions of those. They’re all new songs, like “Nothing’s Working,” another tune I did with Billy Strings who he put on his record that we wrote together.  I get “demotitis,” attached to the demo version of how it sounds, with Billy playing the guitar part he had written and the me singing the lyrics I had written.

I remember our two bands were playing a gig at a theater in Wisconsin. They started to do some really shreddy metal things, with my drummer Alex doing the hi-hat really fast and Billy was doing the really metal guitar. I wanted my version of “Nothing’s Working” to embody that. Dave (O’Donnell) helped me craft that with the band. They (the band and Dave producing) really helped my vision come to life. A couple of friends have written songs that speak to my heart so I have some of those songs on the album, with some co-writes.

Sometimes with my journalism, I get caught up and want to be a perfectionist. It’s great to get some constructive criticism.

Lindsay Lou: Perfectionism is the artist’s hangup. You think that you need perfectionism in order to get better, but sometimes it stops you from getting better. You start to stand in your own way because it’s a form of fear. I don’t pontificate these things like I’m a master of these things – let that be a disclaimer. I just like to bring awareness to it, that perfectionism is sort of the artist’s downfall. Your ears and your heart know what they want, and you’ll keep getting better because love is going to get you where you want to be and guide you. Perfectionism is a downfall, and there is not an artist that I know who doesn’t struggle with that.

Lindsay Lou © Dana Kalachnik
Lindsay Lou © Dana Kalachnik

Do you have any advice for young artists in the bluegrass / Americana scene?

Lindsay Lou: Some high schoolers (who just graduated) stopped me in a coffee shop the other day and asked me if they could interview me.

They asked me “If you could tell your younger self what would it be?” It was a difficult question because you can’t really tell your younger self anything because you have to go through everything to get to where you want to be. I had to go through everything to be able to get here. I would tell myself to have faith and everything is going to be alright.

The best advice is giving people their own space for their own emotions. Emotional over-involvement hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m a very emotional person, and there’s a serious line between being creative with the human spirit and their emotions. Don’t take it upon myself. It’s one of those simple things: Don’t confuse someone’s bad day with anything that you’re doing. Realize where that boundary is and respect it. Have your own emotions and performance; don’t try to control someone else’s perspective. If you’re doing your job, you’re going to get exactly what you need.

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:: stream/purchase Queen of Time here ::
:: connect with Lindsay Lou here ::
Stream: “Queen of Time” – Lindsay Lou

— — — —

Queen of Time - Lindsay Lou

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? © Dana Kalachnik

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