When Lindsay Ell says that her bandmates and crew are like family to her, she’s not exaggerating.
“People always ask, ‘Oh, who’ve you been quarantining with’ — I’ve been quarantining with my band, really,” Ell told Country Now recently over Zoom. “They’re really the only people I see.”
In a typical year, Ell and her band might spend about 280 days on the road together, traveling from city to city and playing live show after live show. But of course, that all changed early in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Ell was forced to wipe her tour calendar clean, and the pandemic had a devastating impact not just on the singer herself, but also on the musicians and crew members whose livelihoods depend on those live shows.
“My heart has gone out to my own band and crew and my friends’ bands and crews, because we’ve all had a trying year,” she recounts. “I was grocery shopping for a bunch of my musician friends a couple weeks ago, and handing out groceries. You know, we’re all feeling it in different ways. But specifically, there have been a lot of band members and crew members who’ve just been out of work completely over the past year.”
Ell’s continuing desire to help hard-hit touring musicians and crew is a big part of the reason behind her upcoming livestream performance of the songs off of heart theory, a new album that she put out last August. In partnership with Fireplay, PRG and VYE, the #LiveRedesigned show will be a full-scale, full-band and full-production performance, employing over 250 people to work on the show. Plus, every dollar that’s raised after the band and crew gets paid will be donated to Crew Nation, an initiative to support live show crews across the country.
The livestream event takes place on Friday, February 12 at 8PM CT, and is the first chance Ell’s gotten to play through the songs on heart theory with her full band since the album came out.
“I am so excited,” Ell says about the prospect of finally getting a chance to stage this new batch of material. “Obviously, releasing an album in quarantine has its own challenges, but it was just amazing to be able to release heart theory as it was in 2020. But to be able to bring it to life for the first time with my band, I am so excited.”
Even though it’s livestreamed, the event will feature Virtual Crowd technology, giving the singer a chance to interact with fans in way she hasn’t ever been able to do before since this album came out. During the pandemic, she’s had to become more reliant on digital avenues to connect with listeners and hear their responses to the songs, but Ell says the album has still offered plenty of highlights since she put it out. One example is the 24-hour livestream album release party she threw to celebrate heart theory, during which she commemorated the project’s release at midnight in every time zone across the world.
“There were a handful of fans who went through the whole 24 hours with me, which was insane,” she relates. “That was definitely a highlight, as well as just watching fans fall in love with ‘want me back.’ It’s our single right now, and the first song I wrote with Kane Brown ever…Although I can’t see [fans] singing along live from the stage in that setting, I’ve been seeing more TikToks, more videos and stuff being posted.”
At Friday’s show, Ell says, she’s looking forward to getting the chance to spotlight other favorite moments on heart theory, too, like her powerful album cut, “make you.” That song was written about her experience as a sexual assault survivor, and in tandem with its release, the singer opened up about being raped at the age of 13, and again at 21.
The song is a powerful piece of the album, and even inspired Ell to create her own Make You Foundation to support sexual assault survivors. But due to the pandemic, she hasn’t yet at the chance to frame this story in a live musical context.
“We’re including some of my fans who are also survivors, who have reached out to me since we released ‘make you’ and since the story came out,” she explains. “I cannot wait to be able to really lift that song up and give it life, let other survivors know that they’re not alone.”
Perhaps more than any song on her album, “make you” has elevated and deepened Ell’s connection to her fans, especially those listeners who’ve been through their own experiences of sexual assault.
“Really, I think that’s the intention for music,” the singer reflects. “Music is the universal language that can connect us all together. And can sometimes take down those barriers and those walls that we put up. So it’s been really magical to see what the song’s done so far, and I cannot wait to see what it’s gonna do after [the livestream show on] the 12th.”
Though most of heart theory was created pre-pandemic, it turned out to be a fitting batch of music to release during a time when many fans were processing a turbulent year. A concept album based around the seven stages of grief, Ell chronicles her step-by-step journey through heartbreak in the record.
“heart theory was this moment for me where you’re like, ‘Okay, I need to feel every single step of that process’. It’s why I wrote the album around the seven stages of grief,” she explains. “Because, I thought, not until you can fully feel the shock, the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the testing and then finally get to that stage of acceptance where you truly are grateful — where you’ve learned, done the work, come through the tunnel and seen the light on the other side — that you’re finally ready to love again. Or finally ready to open your arms to the next thing, whatever it is.”
Ticketing for Ell’s livestream show is pay-what-you-can, beginning at $7 (in a nod to her album’s seven stages of grief.) The event will also feature a number of as-yet-to-be-announced special guests, and there will be a number of surprises for viewers during the show. Click HERE for more information.