Lindsay Ell sees it now. She was simply lost then. The "Criminal" singer says she was frustrated and not having fun. Playing music — country music — started to feel like work, which, if you know her, is something she'd never say now.

Then, she met a guy — but it's not what you think.

"At the point of my life when I sat down with Kristian Bush, I was kind of in a pretty dark place," Ell recalls. "I was really lost musically. As a songwriter, I'd find I was writing so much to what I thought radio wanted and I lost myself, a lot."

"Kristian was like, 'Forget all that. What do you like to listen to?'"

She liked John Mayer, so before they even started looking at songs for what would become The Project album, Bush (her producer on the album) told her to re-record Mayer's Continuum album. That journey is well-documented, but the struggles she was living through prior to those solitary days and nights in the studio are being revealed for the first time. Ell started to hear herself differently. She started to hear everything differently.

“It’s not until I was sitting in my studio at 2AM in the morning, playing that piano part and sitting with a mic," the 2018 Taste of Country RISER begins, "like when you’re alone in a room, with one mic and you’re singing that song — it’s heartbreaking. I was finally able to deliver emotion through a microphone in a way I don’t think I have before."

After her "homework" was complete, Ell dug into creating The Project, one of the most critically acclaimed country albums of 2017. "Criminal" became her first Top 20 hit last month. Ell's next single will be "Champagne," co-written by Walker Hayes.

Watch Lindsay Ell's Stunning One-Woman Version of "Criminal"

Watch Lindsay Ell Cover Michael Jackson

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