Singer/songwriter Amy Ray was a serious child growing up.
"Really, I was," Ray said during a phone interview from Ames, Iowa. "I was into everything from the Partridge Family to Neil Young, but what got my attention when I was in high school was the lyrical content of songs, whether it was folk, punk or hip-hop."
Ray and singer/songwriter Emily Saliers, known as the duo Indigo Girls, will play the Deer Valley amphitheater on Tuesday, July 11. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at all Smith'sTix outlets or by calling 467-TIXX or 1-800-888-TIXX.
Ray and Saliers have known each other since elementary school in Decatur, Ga., Ray said.
"Although we didn't start playing music together until we were in high school," she explained. "We both sang in the school choir. And we wanted to get ready for a school talent show. Back then, we just wanted to get together and play music. We didn't have any kind of agenda, ideas or goals."
After a few gigs together, the duo realized there was something more in the chemistry than just a couple of friends playing music. "We took things one at a time and the music progressed," Ray said. "Sure, we kept on playing because it was fun, but as anyone can tell you, I'm pretty driven, and I became more interested in getting music down on a recording."
Eventually, the Indigo Girls signed with Epic Records and found themselves playing to the folk crowd. Throughout its career, the duo has released seven albums, including the most recent, "Come On Now Social."
Though the multiple Grammy Award-winning duo's popularity seems to have reached a plateau, Ray is optimistic. "We have lost a lot of our audience during these last few years. That's due mainly to lack of radio play. Because our music isn't what's hip on the airwaves these days.
"But we can't let that stop us. Emily and I have a series of checks and balances that keep us intact. We can still afford to tour and we can still make our music."
In the past couple of years, the Indigo Girls have been experimenting more with their tunes. "Some of the die-hard fans haven't liked some of the things we've done on the new album," Ray said. "We kind of added some electric music to the acoustic style we've been known for."
Indeed, "Go," the opening cut on "Come On Now Social," is filled with electric guitars and a heavy backbeat — a far cry from earlier hits like "Closer to Fine" and "Joking."
"But the songwriting is still the most important aspect of an Indigo Girls album," Ray said. "It's hard to maintain attention with a lot of records, so we try to be as honest to the audience as we can. And this is one way of doing that."
Still, she knows the Indigo Girls' roots are in acoustic music. "It's fun to tour with a band and do a record with a band," she said. "But we'll always go back to the basics."
Another basic part of the Indigo Girls' career is political activism.
"We feel we have a responsibility as people in the public eye to raise awareness of issues that have an impact on others," Ray said while explaining the Honor the Earth campaign, which, among its many missions, calls for halting the dumping of nuclear waste in land populated by indigenous people. One such land, Ray said, is the Goshute reservation in Utah.
"I've always been involved in activism," Ray said. "Throughout school, I was involved in the student government. I've been involved with my community since I was 10. I don't know if it was the music I was listening to that sparked that fire or what. But I didn't listen to a lot of fluff when I was a kid. Like I said, I was a very serious child growing up."