The evolution of the Indigo Girls
Renowned singer-songwriter duo the Indigo Girls, featuring Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, has been performing together for 35 years.
The two met while attending the same elementary school in Georgia. They have racked up hits like Closer to Fire and Galileo while producing 15 albums and earning accolades and fans all over. The Indigo Girls is the only duo to have Top 40 titles on Billboard in each of the last four decades. Still going strong with recording and touring, the duo is releasing a double live CD and triple vinyl album recorded with the University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra in June. Saliers is on lead guitar but can play many instruments, including banjo, piano, mandolin, and the ukulele.
Andrea Valluzzo spoke with Saliers about their May 16 concert at the Ridgefield Playhouse.
Andrea Valluzzo: Who were your musical influences?
Emily Saliers: My first record was The Jackson 5. I loved everything they did. I was totally in love with Michael [Jackson]. Stevie Wonder was a huge influence, and when I discovered Joni Mitchell, she became my biggest influence.
AV: You and Amy have been performing together a long time. How has your music evolved?
ES: When we first started, we were pretty folk, maybe folk-pop, and then as time went on, Amy picked up an electric guitar and started doing some rock songs. As we tried different instruments, they coincided with listening to a lot of country or bluegrass. Over time we just broadened the scope of our musical inspirations in terms of genres.
AV: What themes/stories are you embracing in your music now?
ES: We are always writing about social issues. Amy on our latest record, One Last Day (2015), wrote a song called Rise of the Black Messiah, which deals with mass incarceration and racial oppression. There are topical issues that come up and there are simple love stories. … I’m a sucker for love songs. It’s always a mishmosh between topical social issues and interpersonal relationships.
AV: What’s the songwriting process like?
ES: Amy writes her songs, I write mine. We always arrange our songs together before we go into the studio. For me, usually I find a chord progression I like that feels good. Some lyrics will waft down from who knows where. I started using voice memos in my phone to record ideas so they don’t go away. We have a bunch of ideas and snippets always at our disposal.
AV: Can you tell us what the show at the Playhouse will be like?
ES: We are excited to be playing here and very excited that Michelle Malone is opening the show. She is a fantastic performer and has a new album [Slings and Arrows]. I am sure we will perform some songs together — we have a long history together, I think people can expect there to be some collaboration. We always do a mix of old songs, in-between songs, and new songs. We make a fresh set list every night.