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WHEN MUSIC POPS, WE TURN IT UP

PopBytes interviews the Indigo Girls!

PopBytes interviews the Indigo Girls!
December 5, 2006 MICHAEL KNUDSEN

good morning! can i just say this is one of my favorite posts ever? i’ve been so excited to finally toss it up here on popbytes! the indigo girls are for sure one of my favorite bands – having seen them around twenty times live (most recently here in los angeles) i’ve got IG collectibles galore – i can’t even think of one song i don’t care for – i simply love them! i was thrilled to be able to get in touch with them recently and hit up amy ray & emily saliers with a few questions i prepared – stuff like this is the reason i run this site! so without further adieu let’s get to the interview…oh and yes make sure to check out their website and myspace page to hear some of their latest songs!

PS i’ll be back on later today – i’m heading out the door in a bit to do something cool which i’ll totally fill you all in on later! i just didn’t want to jinx myself by spilling the beans early…

1 – I know you both write songs separately – but how separate? Like is there ever a time where you guys have helped each other out in terms of lyrics? Do you show a song in progress to each other and try things out or do you complete the song and then show each other?

AMY RAY: We write totally separately. We don’t even consult each other during the process. Sometimes we will over hear each other working on something during sound check or in our dressing room and we will give encouragement, but neither one of us wants to jinx or stunt the other’s process. This creative space is one of the main contributors to our long relationship. Once we get to the arrangement stage, we might give advice – only when asked – about the shape of the song. For example, the chorus structure, whether the bridge works and things like that.

EMILY SALIERS: We write pretty separately. Every now and then we might ask each other about the structure of a song (i.e. whether or not the other thinks a chorus should be added or a verse sung on top of another one), but generally, we bring the songs to the arranging process complete. Sometimes we’ll go back and write a bridge or another part of the song, but we do that on our own with our own songs.

2 – You both have always championed such great social causes – I was curious what’s the most important issues to you both at the current moment – and who you’re really lending your voices right now? I would like to feature something that is both really important to you and bring some ‘blog’ attention to the matter! Lord knows there are so many things to be paying attention to right now!

AR: Our ongoing and most consistent work is with a group that we helped start with some amazing Native activists called Honor the Earth. HTE gives financial grants and exposure to existing front line Native environmental groups that are doing work to sustain the ecosystems that we all share plus to create cultural and community sustainability. We are very focused on replacing the current destructive energy policy with one that supports and develops renewable energy. We help tribes that want to develop wind and solar power and we fight like hell to get rid of nuclear energy and its waste. We have a web site where you can see all our victories and grants: www.honorearth.org. We have fought against every conceivable corporate and government policy that destroys the environment and we have helped communities that are doing the hard work in the trenches. We have done whole Honor the Earth benefit tours and enjoyed the support of many other musicians, such as Bonnie Raitt, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ani DiFranco, Jackson Browne, David Crosby and others.

ES: We work with a group we helped start called Honor the Earth that raises money and awareness for Indigenous environmental groups and communities in North America. Right now, we’re working on energy justice issues, supporting wind and solar projects on Native lands to get green power on the grid and shift our nation’s current energy paradigm. Their website is honorearth.org and there are links to various things we’re working on which can be found on our website – www.indigogirls.com

3 – Do you both have a stash of old material that you borrow from? Like are there songs or pieces of songs on your new album from things previously written years ago? Do you revisit songs or lyrics you didn’t use before?

AR: Yes. I love to borrow from unused songs. I never throw anything away. I have written a lot of bad songs with one good line in them and I know it will find its place at some point. I record everything I am doing and go back and listen to tapes for little gems that I might want to use and then I mark them.

ES: I rarely revisit songs. They seem to have a certain shelf life and then they’re history if they never get recorded or used for anything. I work on a batch of songs over a period of time, say 1 -2 years, and if one of those songs doesn’t get worked on for awhile, I’ll pick it up again and try to finish it. It’s just a matter of when I feel particularly inspired to work on a certain song in progress.

4 – Like in one of my favorite songs ‘Watershed’ – how do you both feel about choosing your path as musician and really sticking to it? It’s hard to explain but for example you haven’t tried to be actresses. Some people these days can’t seem to pick a path and stick to it – I admire you both so much for just being musicians – and amazing ones. It’s like doctors are doctors and the indigo girls are musicians – no if ands or buts about it – I hope I’m making some sense here! It’s just like it feels people are always searching for this or that and I think or at least it appears you are both so content with your roles in the universe? Gosh I’m getting all deep here!

AR: I am content with this role but always feel frustrated with how many other things I want to do. Solo projects, activism, community service, family time, teaching, preserving the land, etc. I think of the IG’s as one aspect of my life but it really doesn’t define me as far as I am concerned. I just feel really driven with this as a vehicle a lot of the time. I feel lucky that it’s worked out so well and just never take it for granted, but I also know that life is bigger than this and limitless in so many ways.

ES: I think it’s a blessing to find a path, a vocation you really love and be able to stick to it. It’s not so much a matter of principle for me. I just feel fortunate to have found guitar, been able to write songs, and then to have found Amy. The way our path unfolded is remarkable to me. But there was never a question in my mind, after I graduated from college, that this was the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I think it’s okay for musicians and actors to branch out into other fields. Just seems like a way to expand one’s creativity. And then there are people who search their whole lives for satisfying paths of one kind or another and don’t ever really find them. My heart goes out to people who struggle like that.

5 – Since my website is a lot about what is hot & upcoming – who are you both listening to these days? Do you happen to listen to Lily Allen or Amy Winehouse? They are both two of my hot listens right now plus how about those sassy Scissor Sisters? I was also curious if you both listen to Tori Amos – She is tops along with both of you! I always say on one side sits Tori and the other side is occupied by my Amy & Emily! Or besides music – Are there any films you recently saw and enjoyed? I’m sure it’s quite busy being on the road though!

AR: Love Tori Amos. I listen to a lot of demos and underground stuff and stroll through Myspace a lot finding good music. I like the new band – Arizona, I do like the Scissor Sisters too. I love the label Kill Rock Stars, especially the new release by Bitch. Oh yeah, and The Coup – Pick A Bigger Weapon.

Films – there’s a lot out there right now that I want to see, but haven’t had time.

ES: I love The Weepies. Charlotte Gainsbourg is a new find, and I never get tired of Mary J. Blige. I haven’t heard of the artists you mentioned. I’ve always loved Tori’s music. I think ‘Little Earthquakes’ is one of the best records ever. I haven’t been able to see a lot of films recently, and I don’t think there have been that many great ones. I enjoyed ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and would like to see ‘The Last King of Scotland.’

6 – Finally I wanted to say – I absolutely love the new album and I was curious on anything you might want to say about your label jump from Epic to Hollywood – I don’t care for all the reasons ‘why’ but more in terms of does it feel invigorating – or is the label simply a business outlet for your music? And are there any early plans for your next album?

AR: It does feel invigorating, but you have to keep the music up front.

No label can work miracles these days, so you just have to tour and write and be yourself and muscle through things. I am excited about record and feel like we have done a good one.

I don’t really dwell in it though. I like to keep on truckin’ and be in the moment, which is usually the next song for me.

We are lucky to have gotten another deal, so I am super happy about that, but I always know we’re gonna be alright regardless. The new deal is like icing on the cake to me. We have had so many great times and opportunities already, I don’t want to be greedy about it. I want to make music no matter what and that’s where I put my energy.

ES: I feel grateful to have a new label that seems very enthusiastic about having us on board. It’s definitely invigorating to have a new team and to have worked with Mitchell Froom on the record. After all these years, it just feels nice to know that we can still be out there touring and making records. It’s the best job in the world.