“[Bridges plays] an older musician and you could tell he had his moment in the sun and he's still doing it and then he's playing this bowling alley for these people that aren't really there to watch … and then he sort of ralphs out the back door,” she explains, laughing.
“I had a moment where I thought, could that be me? I legitimately asked myself if I could be that person. The idea of it kind of scared me a little bit. And I thought, maybe I could be.”
As a musician who’s been on and off the fringes of both Canadian and American country scenes her whole career, Ortega knows the ups and downs of the business. She was signed to a major label, then dropped. In an interview a couple years ago, Ortega told us that radio programmers “don’t feel [her music] has an audience for their stations. And anything that kind of does break the mould seems to be looked at as an anomaly.” Last year she was nominated for three Canadian Country Music Awards, and took home an award forroots artist of the year — even the national country music body isn’t sure how to label her music.
So Ortega created the idea of Faded Gloryville as a state of mind, one where you “let those feelings of disenchantment and jadedness or what have you, get the better of you.”
“You could live there forever, or you could learn from it and take those things and sort of re-assess what your path is and what your goals are and move on from there.”
With Faded Gloryville, Ortega’s fourth full-length, we have her answer: she is nowhere near Faded Gloryville, the jaded, fictional place. The new album is both heart and soul; country, blues, rock and everything in between. She sings of picking up, moving on and telling it like it is.
Ortega tapped four names for the album’s production: Dave Cobb, who produced her last album, Tin Star, and has been working with Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell; Colin Linden, who produced her Polaris longlisted album, Cigarettes & Truckstops; and the Muscle Shoals duo of John Paul White (formerly of the Civil Wars) and Ben Tanner (from Alabama Shakes).
Faded Gloryville is nearly divvied up neatly in threes: the first trio of tracks Ortega did with Linden ("Ashes,” “Faded Gloryville,” “Tell it Like it Is”), with layers of guitar-playing and a hint of country twang. The three she did with White and Tanner (“Someday Soon,” “When You Ain’t Home” and the Bee Gees cover of “To Love Somebody”) turn more soulful, more southern. The soul of Muscle Shoals creeps in, and White lends his vocals to “Someday Soon” and “To Love Somebody.” The following three tracks, Ortega did with Cobb: “he really captures sort of [what] I like to call the barn-burners of the record,” she says. The final and 10th track, “Half Moon,” is a little love song to the sky, which Linden produced.
Faded Gloryville will be out Aug. 7 on Last Gang Records, but you can stream it in advance above. Read on for a track-by-track guide to each song with Ortega, below.
“I'm gonna put it like this: there was a person who was, I guess somewhat famous, and I was sort of starstruck and we had a thing and it's definitely one of those moments when you have ideals, when I was talking about ‘Faded Gloryville,’ an ideal about something and then it totally implodes. And I was standing in the aftermath of that, I guess, and I envisioned it like looking at old sort of burnt up pictures from a house fire, like looking at the memories of what happened ... and the idea of standing in the ashes of it really stuck out to me. So the whole thing was a bit of an illusion, it was a bit of smoke and mirrors.”
“I just kind of thought of [‘Faded Gloryville’] as a place. I figure, when everybody starts off with a dream or a goal, there's ideals and it’s kind of romanticized, and it doesn't always work out the way you think it's gonna work out. And it really is about sort of re-assessing what you're gonna do at a point when you start to understand that it's not happening the way you expected it to. So it's just this little town, Faded Gloryville, where you visit. And I always like to say that you have to pass through Faded Gloryville to get to paradise, or what your version of paradise is. And some people sort of bypass Faded Gloryville altogether, and those are very fortunate, lucky people that get to do that. Or maybe not, maybe they miss out on some of life's lessons that that would have taught them. But I think most of us, most human beings, go through there.”
'Tell it Like it Is'
“That's more [about] when people try to play the cat-and-mouse games and they don’t call for two weeks and that kind of silliness. That's me just saying forget that, that's not the way to do it. Life is short, tell people what's up. and forget all this silliness. Just say it man, it's so much better when you just say it.”
“So that's one of the ones that I wrote with John Paul White. It's a bit of a realization. A relationship that you’re not happy with and it's not necessarily like I'm gonna leave you, but it's the intent. So they're thinking about the intent of leaving them and it's kind of this sort of dissonance of whether its actually going to happen or not. And a lot of people [have] sort of been in that situation: I want to leave this person, and they talk about it, but it doesn't actually really happen and they just keep talking about it. It's kind of up to the listener to decide whether that's an empowering song to actually make it happen, or if they're gonna stay [laughs].
“I'm hoping that it'll inspire people to be like, yeah, some day soon is tomorrow [laughs]. Some day now.”
'To Love Somebody'
“We did a Bee Gees cover of ‘To Love Somebody,’ which is a really cool, soulful song. It's been covered before, really amazingly, and I feel like maybe it was crazy of me to take it on but I think [White and Tanner] did a really excellent job with it. And they really brought out the soulfulness and that Muscle Shoals vibe.”
'When You Ain’t Home'
“That was written with a guy named Brice Long in Nashville. I think it was kind of raining that day when we wrote it, and I'm a huge fan of weather so I always like to implement it in my music. I love songs like ‘Stormy Weather’ [breaks into song]: ‘Don’t know why, there's no sun up in the sky, stormy weather.’ I love sort of equating feelings to weather, and having that metaphor. I just sort of did that with a song about how whenever the person leaves you, it's a rainy, dreary day, and when they come back it's sunshiny and nice.
“It's very simple, but I find when I was listening heavily to soul music and a lot of Solomon Burke and Etta James and Otis Redding and what have you, all of those people. Aretha Franklin. I realized that soul music is very straight-up lyrically. It tells it like it is.”
“I have a friend that I write with and he's a real quirky fellow, and when we get together it’s not your typical Nashville write, we don't go sit in the office in a room and pick a time. We hang out as friends and we sit down there and we just happen to pick up guitars 'cause they're around. And he came by, and I said [laughs], I said, ‘Could I have one of your cigarettes, I'll give you some weed [laughs harder].’ And that's how this song started. And we thought that was really funny and we started to think of a funny little enabler relationship of friends that hang out in this crazy little neighbourhood in front of the 7-11 and do bad things.”
'I Ain’t the Girl'
“That's a funny story. Without getting too detailed, I went on a date with a fellow who was very much about status and money, and he drove a Mercedes-Benz and he was trying very much to impress me with these things. And I'm just not the kind of girl that that stuff really impresses me, but he was so persistent. Like we'd drive to a restaurant and he'd have to park right in the front window. That really gets it for some girls, some girls are like, 'I love that stuff.' I don't care. And I say that in the song.”
“‘Run Amuck’ is about somebody that just is kind of off the chains a little bit, not in a good way, but letting their addictions and their insatiable appetites for bad things get the better of them. The chorus: ‘When you run with the devil, you burn everything you touch/ bridges and money and everyone you love./ When you run with the devil, he's gonna press your luck./ Still you run, run run amuck.’ That basically says everything you need to know about the song.”
“I was at Dollywood, and I was coming home — I was with my parents, they’d visited Nashville — and it was a long drive, it's quite a hefty drive from Dollywood back to Nashville. And it was a beautiful night, and I just remember sort of staring out the window and the moon was like a perfect crescent, and it was hanging in the sky. And the phrase ‘Half moon hanging in the sky’ just stuck in my head.
“It's basically about seeing yourself in the moon and showing half of yourself, the way the moon does, but knowing that the full thing can shine, but you're just sort of showing half of it.”