Soul sisters

By |2006-07-13T09:00:00-04:00July 13th, 2006|Entertainment|

When the Indigo Girls first hit the folk scene in the late ’80s, people were hushed about homosexuality.
“They were scared to talk about it, record companies were scared to have people write about it,” says Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls during a phone interview from California. “It was kind of stumbling in the dark a little bit to find your way through it.”
After playing the college circuit, Ray and fellow Indigo Girl Emily Saliers’ audience rallied more women, plenty of whom were lesbians. Of course, it helps that Saliers and Ray are lesbians themselves. But with an industry that “waxes and wanes,” the Indigo Girls didn’t always feel comfortable being out.
“There are times when you feel like it’s OK and you can just be so out and politically everybody’s on your side and the industry, too,” Ray says. “And then there are other times where you just feel like it’s a right wing backlash, and you feel you’re struggling against a straight, white patriarchal system that’s very corporate.”
But the Indigo Girls didn’t struggle to gather a fan base.
“Slowly over time our gay audience grew to be really, really big. And in times when we’re not getting as much radio play or getting our work out there, the queer part of our audience is still really loyal and just really sticks by us,” Ray says.
When the Indigo Girls teamed with Pink for her “I’m Not Dead” album, Ray says listeners of the mainstream pop/rock rebel started tuning in to them. Pink sent the tune, which is a blow to President Bush, to the Indigo Girls. Ray says, “It was something that needed to be said.”
Pink, in return, teamed with the Indigo Girls for their September release. “It’s definitely a cross pollination,” Ray says.
With eight studio albums, the Indigo Girls, while known for their acoustic ditties, have fused rock and folk in recent years. And Ray’s aware that the majority of fans favor the acoustic work.
“Overall our audience is very open minded and will listen to whatever we’re doing and support us in our little creative struggle to evolve,” Ray says.
The album will continue in the vein of previous ones, with Ray and Saliers writing the songs separately. “We have really different ways of expressing ourselves,” Ray says. “There was never a moment when we were like, ‘We should write songs together.’ … It was never part of the Indigo Girls’ sort of vision. Our vision was more like we each do our thing and we put it together. The blend of that is what makes us who we are. We’re so polar opposites.”
Ray and Saliers have known each other for 30 years and while people have assumed they’re romantically involved, it’s never even crossed their minds. “I think if we were involved … if we were attracted to each other in a romantic way, we never would have lasted this long or have done it the way we do it,” she says.
Their stamina to continue playing music comes from their differences, like living apart and maintaining different friendships, but they also sustain a tight bond. “In a way we’re like siblings,” she says. “We have a language between us that’s just ours basically from knowing each other for so long.”

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.