After picking up the phone and a quick "hello," Lindsay Ell's first words to me were, "Girl, I'm so sorry."
The Nashville based country music singer, who is opening up for Brad Paisley at Saturday's TaxSlayer Center concert, had missed my scheduled call earlier that day in mid-February, which isn't all rare for busy musicians.
But, Ell took it upon herself to reschedule for later that day. She texted me and left me voicemail and told me to call her on her cellphone anytime so we could make up the interview and "catch up." In my experience, that's a pretty rare move for a busy musician.
Ell and I had last talked in April of 2016 ahead of her CMT's "Next Women of Country," tour stop at the Adler Theatre.
A lot has changed since then for Ell, a native of Canada who started playing shows when she was 10 and moved to Nashville when she was 20 to try to make it in the music industry.
Almost a decade after moving to Nashville, in Aug. 2017, Ell released her debut album, called “The Project.” It debuted at No. 1 and confirmed her place as a rising star in the industry.
For Ell, who had waited a long time for that kind of success, said it was "a big moment." On the phone, she told me that the years of "waiting and working hard" inspired her songwriting and her approach to professional and personal life.
The first song on her album is called “Waiting on You" and the last is titled “Worth the Wait.”
“It feels like it was 16 years in the making, but it also happened right on time,” Ell said.
Ell and I talked a lot about her process of recording "The Project." She teamed up with Kristian Bush, who is one-half of Sugarland, to make the record and, before they recorded anything, he gave her a rather unusual homework assignment.
"He asked me what my favorite record of all time was and I said, 'Continuum' by John Mayer," Ell said.
Bush then told her to go home and record the whole album by herself from beginning to end.
Ell, a self-described guitar nerd, did just that. And she said "it changed everything."
"I learned so much about how John Mayer plays guitar and how I play guitar," she said.
She put all of those lessons into "The Project." And, it worked.
Ell and I also talked about what she had learned from Brad Paisley, her songwriting partners and how she stays positive. I'm glad we made it happen.
You can hear our full talk — including a snippet of that voicemail Ell left for me — in the latest episode of my podcast, called Worst Town in America. It's available now on SoundCloud or YouTube.
And, by the way, Ell said she plans on releasing her version of "Continuum" in a few months.
You can see Lindsay Ell perform with Dustin Lynch, Chase Bryant and headliner Brad Paisley -- known for hits such as "Remind Me" and "Letter to Me" -- on Saturday at the TaxSlayer Center, formerly the iWireless Center, in Moline. Tickets cost between $29.99 to $129.99.