Lindsay Ell and her "Criminal" co-writers wrote the singer's first Top 20 hit backwards. It started with a guitar lick.

Then came a verse, then fragments of a chorus ... eventually, they got to the title, but the name they started with and what they ended up with were very different.

"It was, like, 'Plane to Boston,'" Ell reveals. "I had that guitar lick idea first, and then we had portions of the verse ... and we had fragments of the chorus, but we did not come up with the title 'Criminal' until the very end. And then it was like, 'Well, what else will rhyme with 'Criminal'?"

Not much, as it turns out. But Ell, Fred Wilhelm and Chris Stevens stuck with it long enough to get words like "typical." "Criminal" is actually the oldest song on Ell's The Project album, written long before she started working with Kristian Bush as a producer.

“The day we finished ‘Criminal’ and I walked out of the writer’s room, I knew it was something special and that was at a point of my career where I was still writing things that were all over the place," Ell, the newest Taste of Country RISER, says. "When I listened to the demo of 'Criminal' I was like 'I don't know what this is yet and I don't know where it will live but I know it's right. It just feels right."

The writing process for songs on The Project has been satisfying for Ell on a number of levels. "Criminal," a love song at its core, lightly represents a more fearless emotional divulgence. The Ontario native is more comfortable writing from her own experiences now.

"I feel as an artist I can sing them easier and fans believe me more when they know it’s real," she says in her RISERS interview. "I connect with myself better as an artist knowing that alright, this is something that I’ve lived. This is something that I’ve gone through and I’m going to tell you about it and hopefully you can listen to it and be like ‘I know what that feels like, too.'"

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