Lindi Ortega sings hurtin' tunes like nobody else.
Lindi Ortega has fronted a ska band and sung cabaret-tinged originals, but country music is the sound that feels just right for this Toronto-based singer-songwriter. “My mom was a huge country fan, so that’s what I grew up listening to,” she says. “I wanted to go back to the storytelling way of making music.” Her latest release, The Drifter E.P. (Island Def Jam/Universal), which was produced by Ron Lopata, includes the fabulously mournful “Dying of Another Broken Heart” and the enticing, one-for-the-road “Black Fly.” It gives a small taste of this rising talent and the playful melodrama that coats her lyrics. “I feel heartbreak very intensely, so it comes out in a number of songs,” says Ortega. On “Dying of Another Broken Heart,” she sings “There’s no amount of morphine that will ever ease my pain” and “Even if there was a cure, I could not be saved,” but don’t take her that seriously. The intentionally over-the-top lyrics are meant to be endearing and humorous. “There’s so much that gets you down in life, I like to inject a little lightheartedness into everything to let people know that it’s not so bad,” she explains. That said, Ortega knows all about struggle, at least in the music business: She released her first solo album in 2001 under her first name only, a demo with the ska band Sugarkill and then another solo album in 2005, but nothing happened. “I started wondering if I was on the right path,” she admits. Just when Ortega was thinking she’d have to get a “real job,” Lopata — who produced Tomi Swick and Ashley MacIsaac — asked if she’d like to write with him. “I thought, ‘What have I got to lose?’” says Ortega, who now boasts a U.S. record deal with Cherrytree (Feist, Lady Gaga) and a full-length album due out in the fall.