Editors’ Notes “I was about halfway through writing the record when I realized, ‘Man, I'm writing these songs in order of how I'm going through this process and this transformation of my life right now, and how cool would it be to write a concept record about this process?’” says Lindsay Ell about the organizing principle of heart theory. “I'm such a nerd about many things in life—like guitar—but reading up on therapy is definitely one of those things I'm a nerd about.” Working with super-producer Dann Huff—whose studio guitarist background Ell admires, since she herself is a guitarist, singer, and songwriter—she shaped the dozen-song set around the pop-psychology framework of the seven stages of grief. Both elements help lend the album a greater sense of forward motion than more familiar framings of a breakup album.

Hits me
“I got to write this song with Tyler Hubbard and Corey Crowder. ‘Hits me’ is the way I wanted the record to sound. It definitely started from a guitar lick. It brings me back to some of my first influences, the Motown and rock ’n’ roll influences. They bring me so much joy. Although through the course of this record, I have a bunch of songs that talk about some deeper things, I wanted it still to make people dance. I call them ‘sangers.’ They're sad bangers, songs that have sad lyrics but they still make you want to move, and that's definitely my favorite kind of music to listen to.”

how good
“I'm such a Stevie Wonder fan, and anytime I can put a good clavinet on a song, I will jump on that opportunity. ‘how good,’ it's a song written in the stage of denial on the album, and yet it has one of those melodies that just makes you want to move. I was like, ‘What better of an instrument to help us voice that than the clav?’”

i don't lovE you
“I have the rule ‘best song wins,’ and so when we're making a record, if I listen to an outside song and I feel like it is something I would say but written in a way I would never say it, then I feel like I need to bring that song to life. From the first time I heard ‘i don't lovE you,’ it just struck such a chord with me. It was something that I knew I needed to cut and put on this record, and obviously, it is in the stage of denial as well.”

wAnt me back
“I loved getting to write this song with Kane Brown. This is the first time Kane and I have written together, and I have so much respect for him. The day we wrote it, I walked into the writers’ room and he's like, ‘Lindsay, I want to write a song for the women today.’ I was like, ‘Kane, you are preaching to the choir.’ We wanted to write a song that taps into that newfound confidence that we are still quick to lose sight of sometimes in life, and yet there's so much power in it. I was just really happy to have a little bit of a cheeky lyric, but also a lyric that meant a lot. I know the minute we released it, [I started] reading my DMs and Kane's fans' comments of basically being like, ‘I want to send this song to my boyfriend from high school.’”

get oveR you
“I think that in the seven stages of grief, the stage of anger is one that I don't really feel that easily. It takes me a lot to feel angry at something, but it is a feeling that we need to go through. We can't fully let go of things sometimes and move on until we let ourselves feel it.”

wrong girl
“It may seem like it's in that anger, spiteful stage of getting over a relationship with another person, but I actually wrote this to another girl, because I think in periods of transformation in our lives, it allows us to reevaluate all of the relationships in our lives with everybody and how we show up in those relationships and how people show up for us. I wrote this song about a specific friend that I wasn't going to let treat me like that anymore, and basically be like, ‘I know who I am and I know what I want and I know what I stand for, and you got the wrong girl if you think anything else.’”

body language of a breakup
“I loved writing this song with Laura Veltz and Sam Ellis. I feel like we are so good at analyzing other people's situations and telling them what they need to improve on, what they need to do better, and yet we're just not good at looking in the mirror and having the same clarity of perspective. I thought it is so just honest to write a song to the fact that sometimes we don't have the best insight into our own situation, but we have such good insight into other people's situations.”

good on you
“It's full of so many feelings of bittersweetness when you love somebody and then watching them move on to the next thing. You're so happy for them, and at the same time, you hate how happy you are for them. That's definitely the next step of letting go. It is so hard, so I just wanted to write a song to explain that feeling of being like, ‘I'm so happy for you, but it sucks.’”

The oTHEr side
“I wrote it with two dear friends of mine, Matt McGinn and Jessie Jo Dillon. We really wanted this song to feel like sunshine, like a good Stevie Wonder/Fleetwood Mac record. That feeling when you finally do realize that you are getting to the other side of this loneliness and this depression and this thing that you've been working so hard to move past, when you can wake up that first morning and feel that sunshine on your face, phew, it's an incredible moment. I really wanted to encompass that feeling of transition with the warmth of the chords and the voicings and even just the vibe of this song.”

gO to
“I wanted a song that wasn't necessarily writing about what I didn't have, because this record was all about being completely authentic to me, but it was writing about what I want to find and what would that look like and what would that be. What does that relationship encompass? I want to feel like I'm the heaven that you want to go to. That's how much I want to mean to you.”

make you
“I decided I wanted to come forward with my story when I had gone to a place called Youth for Tomorrow. I went there three years ago to help them launch their music program, and it's a campus that helps youth aged 12 to 18 who've been victims of sex trafficking and rape. I sat down at a conference table with 12 other little girls and I told them my story and then they went around and told theirs. The more I talked, the more they wanted to share, and it was just this incredible moment of showing up for each other and proving that we don't need to fight all of our battles alone. We're actually surrounded by a lot of people on this earth who are fighting similar things, and we just need to have the confidence to speak up about them, to find those people. I left that place that day knowing that it was the right time for me to share this and to talk about my story. I've tried to write songs about this and it always just ended up being too dark or too heavy. I eventually called up Brandy Clark and was like, ‘Brandy, I want to write a song about my story as a little girl and I would love for you to help me do that.’ And she's like, ‘Thank you for having the courage to want to talk about this, and I would be honored to help you tell your story.’ In a matter of hours, we had ‘make you’ written. It was so freeing to be able to put my story into a song and then be able to release it in the world when my main intention is to prove that music has so much power and there's so much healing. By releasing this story, it also helped me validate the 21-year-old girl and the 13-year-old girl within me to let them know that it's okay and I'm taking each of their hands and we're walking through this journey together and we're going out and doing good because of it.”

ReadY to love
“The full arc of acceptance is being able to look in the mirror and accept yourself for everything that you are and things that have happened to you and made you into the beautiful, messy puzzle piece that you are. It also means you're open and ready to new things and new experiences, whatever that may mean. I really wanted to end the record on a song that was so hopeful and full of that feeling of ‘Okay, I'm ready to walk towards the next thing.’ This is the full arc of shock to denial, anger, bargaining, depression, to then testing things out, and then full acceptance is being able to learn from something, let it go, and move on from it.”

SONG
Hits me
1
3:29
 
how good
2
2:42
 
i don't lovE you
3
3:34
 
wAnt me back
4
3:13
 
get oveR you
5
3:04
 
wrong girl
6
2:36
 
body language of a breakup
7
3:42
 
good on you
8
3:17
 
The oTHEr side
9
3:09
 
gO to
10
3:18
 
make you
11
4:18
 
ReadY to love
12
3:15
 

Music Videos

More by Lindsay Ell

Featured On