March 30, 2007
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers brighten a stellar weekend with their Cleveland appearance
As part of the NCAA Womenís Final Four weekend, Coca-Cola is bringing the Indigo Girls to Cleveland for a concert on April 2, in between game play on April 1 and 3.
Judith Godare, a fervent fan of the band, interviewed Amy Ray for the Gay Peopleís Chronicle.
Judith Godare: Congratulations on 20 years and the release of Despite our Differences. Looking back from the BBand, the first name you and Emily Saliers played under, to the Indigo Girls, did ever imagine you would be where you are today?
Amy Ray: No, we didnít think about it. We take one day at a time. Small steps and try to have fun. Itís surprising to us, and our main goal is to have fun and enjoy it all.
JG: Can I ask what the BBand stood for and how did you come up with the Indigo Girls name?
AR: I donít remember what BBand stands for. We were in high school at the time. Itís a similar situation with Indigo Girls. We needed a name that looked professional, so I looked in the encyclopedia and found indigo. Emily liked it, so thatís what we went with.
JG: What do you think made the Indigo Girls stand out in the 1985 era and stand the test of time to 2007?
AR: Good question. A lot of what we started with was based on performing for the people of the community, our friends, our neighborhood and college friends. Because of our exposure in the community experience, thatís what it is for us. Over time, our songs and music have gotten better, people kept coming back. We are connected with the people.
JG: The True Colors tour features four hours of performances by Cyndi Lauper, Erasure, Debbie Harry and the Dresden Dolls, with other artists to be added. Is it true that the Indigo Girls will be part of this tour? Will you be playing in Cleveland?
AR: One show in Las Vegas. Itís an amazing opportunity.
JG: After the success of the collaboration with Pink, are there any plans for more guest appearances on other performers' albums, or having other performers on your albums?
AR: Sure . . . Weíve always done that, sometimes they are friends or sometimes they are more popular. We really like playing with our friends.
JG: Being a guitar player myself, it amazes me that you and Emily write your songs separately, yet when your CD comes together, you get that Indigo connection. How do accomplish such a balance off of one another when youíre usually not in the same room and you are not aware of what each other are writing?
AR: Time . . . Weíve been together a long time and spend a lot of time together. Itís not an instant connection. We spend a lot of time on the arrangements deciding if we will play in the same key or different positions of the same chord, or tune to one another, whatís going to fit best with the guitars, such as the banjo, ukulele or the violin. We challenge each other. Thatís what makes it fun. We put together three to four arrangements for each song and then listen to it in the studio where we usually make a few more changes.
JG: Your songwriting is like listening to a well told story. Thatís a complex talent to master. Did you study storytelling as a song writer? Who is your biggest inspiration for your writing?
AR: I get my storytelling critiques from reading other peopleís stories. I took creative writing, but itís a process. I study what other people write and how they write it and as you go, it gets better over time. As far as my inspiration, itís endless. Ricky Jones, Steve Earle, the way they tell a story, Iíve learned a lot from those guys.
JG: Hollywood Records has a really diverse group of artists. Which are the ones amongst your favorites?
AR: Los Lobos and the Polyphonic Spree.
JG: In 1990, you founded Daemon Records and you have also put out three solo albums, entitled Stag, Prom and Live from Knoxville, through Daemon. You have toured with both the Butchies and your band the Volunteers. Will you be touring with the Butchies or the Volunteers in Cleveland?
AR: Not anytime soon. The Butchies are no longer together and the Volunteers are people we put together at the time of the tour. Itís not one set group of people, but more of a group of people put together for the tour.
JG: What is your least favorite thing about being an accomplished musician?
AR: Being away from home.
JG: And your favorite thing?
AR: I enjoy the cities and in certain cities there are favorite things to do. Touring is our way of seeing our friends in different places and experiencing different things. We have friends in Cleveland and I donít know if youíre aware of it or not, but Cleveland truly has that rock-n-roll vibe. So we get to enjoy what the spirit of each city brings. Also making a living at what it is you like to do and meeting other musicians, playing with other people and the camaraderie of it all draws me together with the people.
JG: What would be the most concrete advice you can give to an upcoming musician?
AR: It depends on their field. Iím a songwriter and the biggest regret is I didnít spend as much time writing and I wasnít as disciplined in writing. You need to spend at least a couple of hours a day doing what you want to do . . . Itís really important. Be as good as you can be.
JG: [The Indigo Girls made an appearance in Boys on the Side.] Are we going to see Indigo in any more films?
AR: Probably not, it was a great experience, but I donít think I would do it again.
JG: In the near future do you see a tour that would include the Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, Ellen DeGeneres and other lesbian artists maybe at a womanís festival or concert venue?
AR: I donít know. We play Michigan every now and then and itís a lot of fun. I like to bring in other artists as I love the diversity of creating an open venue. We donít tend to tour with other big names--we like to bring our friends . . . but it would be an awesome thing to do.
JG: Since you write about such strong topics that are so close to your heart, it has to be mentally and emotionally overwhelming at times. How do you stay centered and focused?
AR: Both of us work out and exercise every day . . . thatís the main thing for me.
JG: Because of my work as a graphic and web designer, I always look forward to seeing your CD covers because they are so unique, especially the covers for All That We Let In, Swamp Ophelia and now Despite Our Differences. Do you have a hand in the design of your covers or make suggestions of how you want your CDs represented?
AR: Yes, we donít actually design it, but All That We Let In had a comic book feature that I love. They usually capture what we want. We find people who we trust and let them do their own thing.
JG: What about the design of the Tshirts?
AR: Sometimes we have specific ideas in mind. We use a couple of people that we love and they submit 10 to 15 different designs, then we pick four to five final ideas.
JG: Do you pick your own clothes for the concerts?
AR: Yes. Weíre not a celebrity dresser. Itís usually something that we wear every day.
JG: Do you choose the songs to perform?
AR: Yes. Every night at dinner we set a list that is different every night. It changes show to show. We tend to go with the phases of certain songs. We like to change it up a lot. We all work together, itís a team environment and we take each otherís advice.
JG: Do you and Emily ever get to stay and enjoy the city you are in after a concert? What are some of the things you like to do after performing?
AR: We pretty much go to the next city of the tour. We usually get to the city we are performing in a day ahead of time. We like to do different things from each other. I like comic book stores, parks and woods to go hiking. Emily likes to have a good meal. Weíre like sisters, we been together so long. We usually separate after the performance.
JG: Cleveland is hosting the NCAA Womenís Basketball Final Four on April 1 and 3. Are you basketball fans and will you be able to stay for the national championship game on Tuesday, April 3?
AR: I canít stay. Emily is a huge fan and will be going to the game.
JG: What's next for the Indigo Girls?
AR: Weíll be on tour for a while, we have a lot of shows, and then maybe in the fall weíll start working on another album.
The Indigo Girls will be performing at the Tower City Amphitheater, 351 Canal Road, on April 2, with special guests Three5Human and Mick Boogie. Doors open at 5 pm, and tickets are available from www.livenation.com or.
Judith Godare owns JG Creative Web and Print Media in North Ridgeville, Ohio, online at www.jgcreative.net.†