clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


The Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, are unaffected, unadorned - and uncompromising. For a concert here in early spring, Ray got herself up in worn cut-offs, faded T-shirt and scuffed, untied construction boots. Saliers was outfitted in loud print pants and battered running shoes.

When the Georgia folk duo was signed by Epic Records three years ago, did the company try to glamorize them at all?

"Are you kiddin'?" asks Ray, 27, in her raspy drawl. It's well past midnight, long after their sell-out performance is over. "Aren't we glamorous enough?

"No," she continues, "the whole deal was, we sat down at the Buckhead Diner in Atlanta and they proposed the deal to us. We said we won't do anything unless you don't change the way we dress, don't make us move and don't tell us what to do with our songs."

The Indigos' music is intensely personal: filled with torment, but suffused with hope. "This world falls on me with hopes of immortality/Everywhere I turn all the beauty just keeps shaking me," writes Ray in "World Falls."

Sometimes it seems these longtime friends are still suffering the tortures of adolescence. One song on their latest album, "NomadsIndiansSaints," is titled "Girl With the Weight of the World in Her Hands."

They must have written poetry as teenagers. "The worst poetry you ever read," declares Saliers, 28, who has a degree in English from Emory University, as does her partner.

With the duo's haunting melodies and soaring harmonies accompanied by acoustic guitar, Indigo Girls concerts are a compelling blend of high school confidential and lowdown rock 'n' roll. Ray with her bluesy gutsiness, Saliers with her sweet airiness.

"When I get ready to write a song," Saliers says,"it's because I've been thinking about something a lot for a while and I really want to get it out. I don't think Amy and I have ever felt that any subject is too vulnerable to write about.

"People have asked us that before: `Are you ever afraid to sing these songs that are so personal?' But we've never felt that way." ("I've been digging too deep, I always do," writes Saliers in "Hammer and Nail.")

They were high school students the first time they tried singing together in the Rays' basement. "We were probably trying to learn(James Taylor's) `Junkies Lament,' " recalls Ray.

"It felt right from the beginning, though. I remember that," Saliers adds.

Ray admits she is the careerist of the two. "I don't like it, but I am. I hate that part of me. I mean I despise it, but I'm really good at business," she says.

"She could always convince club owners to let us play; it was great," says Saliers.

Saliers and Ray write separately - and very differently from one another.

Saliers, the more ritualistic of the duo, still returns to her parents' kitchen table to work.

Ray is more haphazard. "I write things down in a book. I usually write really late at night, about 4 in the morning, anywhere that I am."

The Indigos found their first ardent fans to be women, but they have struggled not to be relegated to the "women's music" bin.

"We just feel like we don't want to be a spokesman for any separatist cause," she explains. "Everybody's got their own journey, and we feel very strongly that ours is a universal journey."