The Indigo Girls talk streaming concert, film based on their songs, doc on their career
Unlike, say, Simon and Garfunkel or Tears for Fears, the Indigo Girls have never broken up. The beloved harmony-infused Georgia duo has been together consistently over 35 years.
“We are so close,” said Emily Saliers of her duo partner Amy Ray in a phone interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We grew up together. We have a lot of respect for each other. We’ve just worked it out. We also respect each other’s autonomy.”
They have consistently released studio albums, the latest being 2020′s “Look Long,” while also pursuing their own side projects. In 2022, they remain super busy.
The pandemic has kept their regular band, some of whom live in Europe, from getting back together. So they are currently touring the country as an acoustic trio with their longtime violinist, Lyris Hung.
As a way to get the band back together remotely, they created a 90-minute concert film that began streaming on May 8. Each band member taped their parts separately while Ray and Saliers did their work in Georgia. Guest stars and friends like Becky Warren, Tomi Martin, Trina Meade and Lucy Wainwright Roche contributed vocals as well. Titled “Look Long: Together,” it's available for rental for $17.99.
They explain the origin of some of their classic songs and reveal bits of their home life. Ray, who lives in the north Georgia mountains, showed off a fancy treehouse in her backyard she built during the pandemic. Saliers, who lives not far from where she grew up in Decatur, gives her dogs and her expansive collection of guitars a lot of love.
“It’s a combo concert and conversation,” Ray said.
Among the songs they play include classics like “Moment of Forgiveness,” “Kid Fears,” “Get Out the Map” and “Ghost” as well as more recent cuts such as “The Rise of the Black Messiah” and “When We Were Writers.”
“It was a lot of work,” Saliers said, noting it took 18 months to edit it and make sure it sounded good. “We hope for a big turnout.”
Saliers had a breakthrough case of COVID-19 last August and had to cancel a few tour dates. Earlier this month, she caught a bronchial infection that Ray also got and the pair had to push back a few dates in Texas. “Bronchitis is something wicked but it’s not COVID,” Saliers said. “I feel bad postponing the shows but I’d feel worse singing badly during shows.”
She spoke to the AJC the day after the leak of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s early draft opinion that would overturn Roe. vs. Wade. “It’s very frightening,” she said. “Honestly, I’m glad my wife is Canadian. It gets to a point where you feel like you’re not welcome and you don’t know your own country. How can we stay in a place like this? For me, it’s a dark time.”
Music, of course, is her solace, her sanctuary. On some dates this year, they are pairing with other big-name artists like Brandi Carlile and Sarah McLachlan.
The Indigo Girls also appeared on “Ellen” recently in a pretaped segment playing their seminal 1989 classic “Closer to Fine” and 1992′s pensive “Ghost.” It was the first time in several years they had performed on a talk show since working the late-night circuit hosted by David Letterman, Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien during their late 1980s/1990s heyday.
DeGeneres specifically requested them to appear in her final weeks on her longtime syndicated show, which is ending this year.
“She chose us and picked the songs,” Saliers said. “She’s an icon for queer rights, comedy and television. When we were rehearsing, she came up behind us singing ‘Closer to Fine’ with us.”
They are both excited about an upcoming fantastical musical film called “Glitter & Doom” based on their songs.
“I haven’t yet seen a rough cut,” Ray said. “But the script is amazing. There is a lot of magical realism. And they didn’t just use our songs. They mashed them up. We’re happy it’s something unconventional.”
They also agreed to co-write a song for the closing credits, which they have yet to do. Saliers said they’ve only written two songs together to date: one during the pandemic and another ages ago with (R.E.M. frontman) Michael Stipe.
“We normally write separately,” Ray said, “because we have completely different vocabularies. It’s really our time to have own our creativity. We also enjoy editing each other’s songs.”
Following in the footsteps of iconic female artists such as Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette and Linda Ronstadt, the Indigo Girls will be the focus of an upcoming documentary. Saliers said they had rejected previous offers to do a doc but ultimately said yes to Alexandria Brombach. They were impressed with Brombach’s Sundance award-winning documentary “On Her Shoulders” about a woman who survived atrocities committed by ISIS.
“She’s fearless and a badass,” Ray said.
Ray was really good about chronicling and saving Indigo Girls memorabilia over the years, which she happily handed over to Brombach. Their long-time manager Russell Carter also kept plenty of clippings and video. “She digitized everything,” Ray said. “It would have taken me forever to do that myself.”
Not that the duo is anywhere near retirement.
“We don’t consider ourselves a legacy band,” Saliers said. “We’re a working band. We’re just very fortunate to have this long trajectory.”
Of the current song from the latest album,, Ray said the ballad “Look Long” and Saliers’ wistful autobiographical “Country Radio” have struck a chord on streaming services. Both will be on the setlist when they come to Chastain along with “(Expletive) Kickin’,” Ray’s delightful ode to her country upbringing, which has been their opening number so far this tour.
“What’s funny is Emily cusses a lot more than I do,” Ray mused.
Ray said the new cuts are getting good reaction so far from audiences that tend to prefer the classics. “They are all going really well,” she said. “You’d normally feel a little dip of energy with the new songs but that’s not happening.”