Lindsay Ell Reflects on 'Surreal' Experience of Having a No. 1 Hit With Brantley Gilbert (Exclusive)

Lindsay Ell just celebrated her first No. 1 in the United States, with her "What Happens in a Small Town" duet with Brantley Gilbert. Ell, who previously had a No. 1 with "Criminal" in her native Canada, has wanted a chart-topping single for literally most of her life, which is why she is having trouble accepting that her dream has come true.

"I have prayed for this moment ever since I was a little girl," Ell told "Like ever since I was 10 years old, I feel like I have fallen asleep praying to have a No. 1. And to wake up to be a part of this week and to have a No. 1 this week, it just feels surreal."

"What Happens in a Small Town" was also nominated for a CMA Award, for Musical Event of the Year. Although the trophy went to Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X, for "Old Town Road," just hearing her name in that category was validation enough for Ell.

"I mean, the fact that we have a No. 1 song in the country right now, I'm nominated for my first time, and we just shipped a brand new single yesterday. I just feel like everything is happening and I'm just so, so grateful."

That new single is "I Don't Love You," which Ell has hinted is written about her ex-boyfriend, Bobby Bones, reminiscent of how Taylor Swift started her country career by writing about former flames.

"Well thank you very much. I will take that," Ell said. "You know I look up to Taylor a lot for her honesty and her brilliance as a songwriter, and her vulnerability to be able to stand up on stage and be like, 'This is my story. This is what I've been through. Maybe you can relate.' And that's what I'm saying. 'This is my story. This is what I've been through. Maybe you can relate.'"

Ell spoke to Bones about the song, while speaking to him by phone on his radio show.

"It was one morning when you said something on air, that I wasn't particularly happy about," Ell recalled. "I walked into a write an hour later, and it was kind of the angry phase. But we're all allowed to go through the phases."


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Photo Credit: Getty / Erika Goldring