lifeblood: songs: background: burn all the letters


emily sailers quotes from 1997-04-03: girls night out: the indigo girls interview, music central:

emily. "and then 'burn all the letters' is a song that i started writing in the studio. never done that before either a just kind of jamming."

question. what inspired that?

emily. "well a lot was our honor the earth tour, and some of the native americans that we've met. and also that whole issue of privacy, which i think about a lot."

question. that must be a big issue for you.

emily. "well, it's not so bad really, but i think about the way human beings are really interested to know every detail of everyone else's life. and then i coupled that with the injustice of having government agencies infiltrating your life, and watching you, and sometimes killing you. i just sort of tied those things together loosely in my mind, and in that song."

emily sailers quotes from 1997-06: indigo girls, lilith fair website:

"the song's about the public's insatiable desire for consumption of things intended to be private, she explains. "it's also about protecting the sacredness of a love by destroying the physical evidence."

amy ray and emily saliers quote from 1997-09: no boundaries - indigos girls cut loose, acoustic guitar:

es: "now that's a weird one because of the key change."

ar: "i'm open in eb (eb bb eb g bb eb)."

es: "i start in open d, so i play the chunka-chunk in the beginning. (when the song modulates to eb.) amy takes over the chunka-chunk and i play muted a half step up. i obviously can't play open chords."

ar: "it was a bitch to do, but it ended up being cool. guitars take on a different character when you tune them differently. the minor tunings are really sad and beautiful."

emily sailers quotes from 1997-09-25: shaming of the sun , all things considered - national public radio:

lh: the song you do, 'burn all the letters,' political story, personal story, combination of both?

es: "combination of both definitely. it started out personal and just became political. i think in a lot of amy's and my travels, we've come across a lot of activists, especially in the native american communities. started reading up on, you know, some of the united state's government involvement in central and latin american countries and thinking about the way that large power systems infiltrate personal lives. it's a love song, but also in the context of all it, the people we've met whose lives have been torn apart by infiltration, i couldn't help but think about that kind of experience and what that would feel like and that's how 'burn all the letters' started out, as a love song and then became this sort of sentiment of: we have to keep something for ourselves sacred and personal and private, and the only way we can do that is to burn the physical evidence of it."

emily sailers and amy ray quotes from 1997-12-04: indigo girls: the politics of change and song, high plains reader:

but the song 'burn all the letters' seems to be more about trying to retain a sense of privacy and the resentment of intrusion. is it hard to balance the desire to tell people about yourself and still keep some things private?

ar: "i think for her it's hard to balance. i say everything, i don't worry about it. for her that is what that song is about. it started out from a personal perspective about the invasion of privacy. i the process of writing that song she started thinking about all the activists that we know whose lives are infiltrated by the f.b.i. and their phones are tapped. they can never have a life of their own, because someone is always watching over them. then she started thinking about the lack of privacy that those people have and how it relates to her own, and the world of voyerism and the world of paparazzi and all that invasion, compared to the black panthers or wounded knee."

hpr: there is an interesting duality that comes across in that song. emily sings the chorus and you follow withthis other chorus almost call-and-response like. she sings 'burn all the letters' and you follow that singing 'someone is always watching.' it reflects the fact that you two are different but work together so well as a unit.

ar: "when she wrote that song i kept saying, 'you have to write more. i know what this song is about, but there is so much more that other people aren't going to know. you need to write more lyrics and i'll sing something separate from you.' that's what happened and that's the whole point, for it to be that duality that she was talking about. that is the lucky thing about being a duo: being able to work that way."


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