By Merry Dudley
The Indigo Girls are Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, who have been described by “Rolling Stone” magazine as “the ideal duet partners.” The ladies first met in elementary school in Decatur, Ga., and began singing together during high school. Originally billed as Saliers & Ray, the pair adopted the name Indigo Gils during their undergraduate days at Emory University in Atlanta. Attending classes by day and performing as an acoustic duo in local clubs by night, they made their first stab at recording in 1985. Their first full-length LP, “Strange Fire,” was produced by John Keane and released in 1987.
In 1988, the duo was signed to Epic Records and EMI Music, and they recorded their self-titled album with producer Scott Litt at Ocean Way Studios in Los Angeles. This record featured contributions from REM, Hothouse Flowers and Luka Bloom. The record was released in 1989, launching a tour that crisscrossed the country – a process that has continued without pause throughout their career. During their career, they have headlined or supported the likes of REM, Neil Young and the Violent Femmes. They won a Grammy Award for the record in 1990. Hit songs include “Closer to Fine” and “Galileo.”
Over the past 25 years, the duo has recorded 12 original studio albums, three live records and various greatest hits compilations and collections. Their constant touring and dedication to several social and environmental causes have earned them a devoted following over the years.
“We really work hard to not lean on any tried and true path in making our albums,” Ray said. “When it comes to writing new songs and working and performing with different musicians, every record and every tour feels like a completely different adventure for us.”Ray and Saliers will be playing classics from throughout their career as well as songs from their most recent release, “Beauty Queen Sister,” on IG Recordings/ Vanguard Records. “Beauty Queen Sister” is a stunning 13-song collection featuring the signature storytelling that fans have grown to love, touching on modern-world worries and romanticizing the simplicity of days gone by. That album was recorded in Nashville, where the duo reunited with producer Peter Collins, with whom the Indigo Girls worked on 1992’s “Rites of Passage” and 1994’s “Swamp Ophelia.” Alternating richly textured storytelling with moody ruminations on modern-world worries, “Beauty Queen Sister” reveals a fierce longing for a more idyllic existence while still celebrating the extraordinary in everyday living.
The Indigo Girls still amaze conventional pundits with their ability to grow and thrive, no matter what the state of the music industry is at any given point, and the duo has just announced that they’ll be working on a new studio album in the fall. As new generations of music fans discover their timeless catalog, Ray and Saliers continue to challenge themselves, performing with regional symphony orchestras and keeping up busy tour and recording schedules.
The Indigo Girls will also perform at the State Theatre in Eau Claire on Wednesday, September 9, and the Theatre@1800 at Sentry Insurance in Stevens Point on Thursday, Sept. 11, at 7:30 p.m.
Keeping it Green
Through their website, the Indigo Girls encourage fans to explore various activist groups, including Honor the Earth, which the pair founded with Native activist Winona LaDuke in 1993. Ray and Saliers have headlined tours and music events across the country with Native artists, visiting dozens of Native communities, and they have released a benefit album to support the Honor the Earth group.
“Honor the Earth is close to our hearts,” the duo said in a statement. “Our understanding of environmentalism changed dramatically by learning of front-line Native struggles to protect the earth, seeing firsthand the disproportionate impact of polluting technologies on indigenous communities and witnessing the enduring resilience, beauty and knowledge of Native cultures and peoples.
“We are deeply committed to continuing our work with Honor the Earth to increase financial and political resources for Native environmental initiatives.”
For more information on Honor the Earth, visit www.honorearth.org or find the group on Facebook.
The Indigo Girls are involved in many other grassroots movements and causes. Check out their website at www.indigogirls.com to learn what you can do to support their efforts.