Lindsay Ell is speaking out about the valuable lesson she learned after being discriminated against because of who she chose to love.
In June, Ell was unexpectedly dropped from a Sacramento show less than 24 hours before she was supposed to hold a free acoustic performance for her fans. The reason? A CBS-owned radio station, 105.1 KNCI, canceled the appearance because Ell’s boyfriend, country radio personality Bobby Bones, hosts a syndicated morning show that airs on iHeartMedia’s the Bull (92.5 FM), which happens to be one of KNCI’s local rival stations. (The station has since apologized.)
The 28-year-old musician, visiting PEOPLE Now to discuss her new album The Project (currently sitting at No. 1 on the Nielsen Soundscan Current Country Albums Chart), spoke about how the situation gave her a whole new outlook on life in the public eye.
“That whole thing showed me the army of fans that I have, and the level of support and love that was happening on Twitter throughout the whole day,” she said. “[Your] personal life should be your personal life and people can talk about it as much as they want, but then your career should be your career.”
“I really think that as a musician and as a songwriter and as an artist, music should always be judged on its own merit,” Ell continued.
“I never wanted that whole thing to happen in Sacramento. I never wanted anything like that to happen, and all I wanted to do was just apologize to my fans. They felt I was going to show up at this show, and so I just wanted to let them know that I wasn’t gonna be there — not [because I] didn’t want [to].”
Although Bones, 37, “was worried he was going to ruin my career because of his position in radio,” Ell reveals the couple decided to finally go public with their relationship because “happiness is so important.”
Having spent the summer on the road with Brad Paisley as the opener for his Weekend Warrior Tour, Ell says distance only makes the heart grow fonder.
“Any long distance relationship is not easy, but we have an amazing FaceTime relationship – we sit on FaceTime a lot throughout the day,” she joked about how they keep the spark in their relationship while being several hundred miles apart.
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The “Waiting on You” singer added of Bones’ support: “For once, I have a boyfriend who understands exactly what I’m going through. His schedule is almost busier than mine is – probably busier than mine is, actually – and so it’s amazing to have someone who understands and motivates me more than I’ve ever had.”
Of course, there is a little downtime on the road — and Ell says her tourmate Paisley makes the most of it.
“He’s a huge prankster. I’ve always been looking around my back to make sure he’s not going to prank me today. A few things have gone on,” Ell admits. “He put a Photoshopped version of Dustin Lynch on this naked man’s body wearing a Speedo. He’s a Photoshop connoisseur. His attention to detail is insane!”
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But on a more serious note, she says, “It’s so inspiring for me to watch an artist at this level of his career … he’s so good at everything he does. He makes sure everything is in his vision. It’s so motivating to watch.”