If you’re thinking about attending an Indigo Girls concert or have in the past, you know that you should always expect the unexpected. The band wants to make sure that fans never see the same show twice.
“We’ll throw new songs in. I’ll be working on something and throw it in or we’ll do something with the opening band. We try to keep it fresh by just having a musical experience.”
Band co-founder Amy Ray says there are certain songs that fans have to hear and that the band has to play but those, she adds, are never a chore.
“There’s certain songs that just… We like doing them. They were the most popular and everyone knows the words. It’s fun. We tried to play a show one time without playing ‘Closer To Fine,’ it just felt so weird, not doing that song that we didn’t that again after that. Because that’s the one that everybody knows.”
Another hallmark of Indigo Girls’ shows is that the duo often shares the spotlight with its opening acts. This is a carryover from the duo’s club days when friends would invite Ray and musical partner Emily Saliers onstage for a few numbers.
“Some of our friends would say, ‘Hey, y’all want to get up and do a song,’ so we used to do that too. That turned into, if we were playing a regular show, having friends open up. Or, when some of the bands that gave us breaks early on, like R.E.M., Hothouse Flowers, then bands in Atlanta like Drivin ‘N Cryin, all these bands that used to have us open for them and it really helped us out a lot. So, we definitely took our cue from that as something that’s important to bands and helps bands a lot.”
Ray says that today, with music being available in a wide variety of mediums, it may be easier for acts to get noticed but the always elusive staying power still comes down to one primary factor.
“There’s still no replacement for playing gigs. And getting out there and touring and creating a following that way. That is the only way, as a singer-songwriter, to make a lasting career. You can have a one-hit YouTube thing but you still gotta get out there and play for people because at some point—unless you can create a hundred videos in a row that are amazing—you have to have some way of making a living and playing live is how we do it.”
The Indigo Girls are scheduled to return to the studio later this year to work on the duo’s first album since 2011. But there hasn’t been a lot of downtime. There have been the tours and Ray has had an active solo career, recently releasing the album Goodnight Tender. Her first country album.
“I’ve made a bunch of punk records and rock records before that by myself as a side project. But I’ve always wanted to do a country record. So, finally, I had the right material and the right players. So, I just did it. It’s very traditional country with some gospel and bluegrass in there and some mountain music.”
In April she turned 50 and, at the end of last year, became a mother for the first time.
“My partner and I have been together about 12 years and we’ve been talking about it ever since we met. So, we finally did it—with a good friend of ours who’s the father. She’s six months old and it’s totally awesome. I love it. It’s very busy. I have this whole new life. It’s kind of a crazy life but I love it. I was ready for it.”