The Indigo Girls' album Come On Now Social was one of the best albums of 1999, and is also one of the best albums of the duo's career. Currently on the latest leg of their tour in support of the critically acclaimed disc, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers should be coming to an outdoor venue near you this summer. I recently spoke to Emily, and here is what she had to say.
Gregg Shapiro: I'd like to begin by congratulating you, and Amy, of course, on the Gay and Lesbian American Music Award you received in the "production category" for the song "Trouble" from your album Come On Now Social. Is there anything that you'd like to say about the GLAMAs?
Emily Saliers: We haven't had a lot of experience with the organization firsthand, actually. I'm just aware of them and I think they do a great thing. I think that any time that you take note of the work that gays and lesbians and bisexuals and transgendered people are doing in culture and in the arts and the media, that it's a good thing. Advancing ourselves in the evolution, and working against homophobia and celebrating ourselves and our art and our contributions to society; I think that's what GLAMA does. I feel good about that.
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GS: The Indigo Girls do a stunning cover of "Broken Blossoms" on the wonderful Dusty Springfield tribute disc Forever Dusty ( R&D ) . Can you tell me how you became involved in the project.
ES: Rebekah ( Radisch, the project's producer ) is a very good friend of ours who we've known for years and years. We are Dusty fans and have listened to her over the years. We love her voice and her interpretation, so it was kind of daunting to be doing a cover of a cover song that Dusty did. We tried to pick one that was a little more obscure. We went in there and tried to give a little bit of a retro flair. We actually had a lot of fun. Those vocal harmony "woo woos" in the background, we've never done that before. Amy sings about as high as I've ever heard her sing on a recording. It was fun to do something totally different and do it for Rebecca and do it for a good cause.
GS: The Indigo Girls are also on the Woody Guthrie concert tribute disc 'Til We Outnumber 'Em ( Righteous Babe ) . You perform the song "Ramblin' Round" as a duet with Ani DiFranco. Can you tell me something about that experience?
ES: We all love Woody because he's a true folk singer. Folk is music of the people. That's really Amy's and my roots. We feel compatible and in sync with his whole message and philosophy. And just to be at an event like that ... we're both huge Ani fans, and we got to sing with Pete Seeger. It just blows your mind. We were feeling like we were a part of this whole generation of expressions of folk music. To be singing with a contemporary like Ani was a thrill, but then to be singing with Pete Seeger, one of our folk mentors, was amazing. It was that kind of event.
GS: I was fortunate enough to be at both nights, in Chicago, of the Suffragette Sessions multi-performer concert you did two years ago. Now that there is no more Lilith Fair, do you think there will be a time when you and Amy will revive Suffragette Sessions?
ES: Yeah, we definitely will. I don't think we're going to be able to do it this year. We talked about doing it, then we just got too busy. We've got our Honor The Earth in October, and by that time, it will be a year and a half of touring on this record. We'll definitely revive it. It takes a lot of organizing, as you can imagine. Getting people's schedules in line. You have to have women who are willing to be paid barely anything and live on a bus together. I thought it was a great musical experience and we're going to do it again.
GS: It was absolutely unforgettable. What can you tell me about Honor The Earth?
ES: It's a group that Amy and I helped start with some indigenous community leaders. What it does is raise money through concerts and donations and other ways and then the money goes into a fund and then different Indian communities apply for grants. They may be doing things like fighting multinational corporations who want to strip their land or do coal mining or gold mining, or there is the threat of toxic waste dumping on their lands. Or they have cultural sustainability programs, keeping the languages and their histories alive, all kinds of stuff. It's a way to support environmental efforts on behalf of native communities.
GS: Speaking of tours, you continue to tour in support of Come On Now Social, which came out last year.
ES: In September.
GS: Do you usually tour this long in support of an album?
ES: Yeah. We usually tour about a year and a half after a record comes out. It's sort of split up. We may do a couple of months of college shows and small theaters. We may do rock clubs, sometimes. Summertime is the time for the shed tour, and that's what we're doing now with a band. We do stuff acoustically. And then every touring season we do our Honor The Earth tour for about a month. We did Suffragette Sessions the last time around. There's a lot of things that we try to do and mix it up. Sometimes we go over to Australia or the U.K. It keeps us pretty busy.
GS: Are you playing any new songs on this tour?
ES: Yeah. Usually about eight to ten new songs from the record, and then sometimes Amy sings a new song that she's working on that hasn't been recorded yet. The other part of the set is a mix of old songs, some acoustic; some electric; some Amy's; some mine.
GS: This leads me to ask whether you've had a chance to go into the studio to begin working on the next Indigo Girls album?
ES: No, but we're going to release a retrospective this fall and we're going to include two new songs on that record. We're in the process of deciding which new songs we're going to pick. We've got to arrange them and then get in the studio in August and record them and put the record out in the fall.
GS: That's something to look forward to. You and Amy are best known as a duo, but you have also done work separately, as well. Will there come a time when we will be seeing solo records from you and Amy?
ES: Yes. Amy's already working on a solo record. She's got a bunch of songs and she's done some recording with the Butchies, who are an awesome band. She's in the process of recording it, it's just a matter of her finding the time to get it done. I'd like to make a solo record in the future, but I'm not sure when. We sort of feel like whatever we do individually, that inspires us, is only that much better for the Indigo Girls. Everything is moving ahead full-steam.
GS: There is a lot of buzz about the fact that Sinead O'Connor has just come out as a lesbian. Would you care to comment on that?
ES: ( laughs ) I just heard that! I can't believe it! Sinead O'Connor is a beautiful spirit made of many things. If this part of her incarnation, then I'm all for it.