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Archive for Thursday, September 23, 1999

INDIGO GIRLS: DUO WITHCAUSE

September 23, 1999

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Amy Ray and Emily Saliers met in high school and still gain musical inspiration from each other.

The Indigo Girls -- Amy Ray and Emily Saliers -- are happy they signed up for the farewell tour of the Lilith Fair, which wrapped up Aug. 31 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The duo, augmented by a four-piece band, joined a range of female artists, including Sheryl Crow, The Dixie Chicks and founder Sara McLachlan, for the summer gig that brought them in late August to Sandstone Amphitheatre near Bonner Springs.

"It's a great tour -- really well run," Saliers said during an interview at that time. "It's benefited women's groups and shelters and done so much for local communities.

"For us it's fun. It's like summer camp. Everyone gets along really well -- there's no problems. We love doing it. We get to meet and play with all these wonderful people. Lilith's definitely been a major highlight in our career. Still, it's kind of melancholy. It's sad to see it end."

The Georgia natives formed their band at Emory University in the early '80s. Their sound, a swirling hybrid of harmonies, confessional hymns and socially conscious lyrics, cemented them as one of the premier contemporary folk acts.

An early single, "Crazy Game," was released in 1986 followed by a full-length LP "Strange Fire" in 1987. The duo hit it big with its first major label release, "Indigo Girls," in 1989. The album, containing their signature song, "Closer to Fine," was produced by Scott Litt (R.E.M., Stone Temple Pilots) and featured guest appearances from Michael Stipe and his R.E.M. bandmates.

"When we were first starting out," Saliers said, "R.E.M. kind of took us under their wing. We were just in awe."

Ray and Saliers have distinct yin-and-yang personalities that inform their music and sound. Ray's influences lean toward punk rock and the Pretenders, while Saliers comes from the Joni Mitchell/spiritual school.

Saliers spoke of the differences in their approach to songwriting:

"When I sit down to write a song I like to have space and quiet. Then I can really think about my experiences, my personal relationships and my reflections of life in a particular space and time. Amy is the opposite. She writes on the road, in hotel rooms or little snippets at soundchecks. That works for her."

The duo have been longtime activists and outspoken advocates for a variety of causes. They also are openly gay, which has labeled them in the eyes of the public, according to Saliers.

"We get identified as a gay first, then women second, then musicians," she said. "It does get tiring. We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go."

On Tuesday, the duo is scheduled to release its seventh studio album, "Come On Now Social." The collection features a wide variety of Lilith artists, including Crow, Meshell Ndegeocello and Joan Osborne.

"This album is a little harder, a little more groove-oriented," Saliers said. "Our sound has become more expansive, with lots of different influences. There's a lot of world beat on this record, which you hear on songs like 'Faye Tucker.' On our next one we may do something more stripped down, a return to that earlier style."

Saliers readily acknowledged that the group's sound has changed over time.

"The songwriting has evolved," she said. "When we started out our music was more simple and really focused on that dichotomy between Amy and myself, with the emphasis on harmonies. Now I think our music is more complex. When you listen to our recent music you can really tell whether it's Amy's song or my song."

The band plans to tour the United States this fall, with an international tour to follow. They have also re-committed to the "Honor the Earth" tour, which raises money for American Indian environmental groups.

Saliers reflected on the changes in the Indigo audience over the years:

"Our audience has gotten a lot younger. I've noticed that in the last few years more and more younger women our coming to our shows and I think that's great. Our fans are very loyal, and they really connect with the emotional aspect of our music."

For now, the duo has no plans to separate.

"Amy inspires me," Saliers said. "We met in high school and we've been playing for 19 years now. We have a great time making music together."

-- The Mag's phone message number is 832-7146. Send e-mail to jbiles@ljworld.com.



Duo stacking up the records

By Journal-World staff

Here's a partial listing of the singles and CDs released by the Indigo Girls:

  • "Shaming of the Sun" (1997)
  • "1200 Curfews" (1995)
  • "Power of Two," single (1995)
  • "I Don't Wanna Talk About It," single (1994)
  • "Least Complicated," single (1994)
  • "Swamp Ophelia" (1994)
  • "Galileo," single (1992)
  • "Joking," single (1992)
  • "Rites of Passage" (1992)
  • "Back on the Bus, Y'all" (1991)
  • "Nomads, Indians, Saints" (1990)
  • "Indigo Girls' (1989)
  • "Strange Fire" (1986)

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