lifeblood: listlogs: 2000v03n126-news

ig-news-digest          friday, july 21 2000          volume 03 : number 126

today's subjects:
  [ig-news] another amy article...        ["d. schulman" <>]


date: thu, 20 jul 2000 17:53:21 edt
from: "d. schulman" <>
subject: [ig-news] another amy article...

[sherlyn's note: this message was originally sent to the indigo
girls mailing list at]

i got this from  it's really long, but something
everyone should like.


>from lavender magazine (a local gay magazine in the twin cities)

   volume 6, issue 134   july 14, 2000 through july 27, 2000

amy ray's redemption songs
by sarah petersen

amy ray, half of the popular folk-rock band the indigo girls, is keeping
herself pretty busy these days. she's currently touring with bandmate emily
saliers in support of their most recent release, come on now social (1999),
actively working to support various causes and charitable organizations, and
continuing to develop her own projects. she took a little time out of her
hectic schedule to talk to lavender about balancing her own work with that of
the indigo girls, and about
combining art and activism.

the dynamic duo
amy ray and emily saliers released their first single in 1985. since then,
they've put out nine albums, toured the globe, and watched their fan base
swell. though they've worked closely together for more than 15 years, the two
maintain very separate lives; ray runs her own record label, and saliers
recently opened a restaurant in their native atlanta, georgia. they don't
write songs together, as many bands do.

ray holds that the individuality of her and saliers feeds well into the
group's dynamic, and that the partnership is flourishing. "i love working as
a duo, and i think it's probably best for me," she says thoughtfully. "it's
always fun to do projects alone--independent projects, too, 'cause i think it
helps bring new excitement into the duo. but i think the sum is greater than
the parts, as far as we go," she adds, punctuating the remark, as she often
does, with a self-deprecating chuckle.

ray continues, "i guess the thing that makes it work is the amount of space
we give each other, and the fact that we really respect each other. we each
have our own kind of world. we write separately, and when we get in the
studio, we're in control of our own songs. i think that really helps."

photo by schaune griffin (c) 2000
amy ray (left), with indigo girls bandmate emily saliersartist/record
ray's record label, daemon records, just celebrated its tenth anniversary.

despite the demands that accompany touring with saliers as the indigo girls,
ray remains "very involved" with day-to-day operations at daemon. "i have
three people that work for me, and we [exchange] e-mail...i talk to them
every couple of days. it's constant back-and-forth about what's going on. so
i'm just one of the people who works there, basically," concludes ray with
another laugh. "when i'm
home, i do more physical work for the label, and when i'm on the road, it's a
lotta mental stuff and phone calls and working on issues."

most recently, ray helped put together the tenth anniversary tour. "i booked
all the dates," she explains. "and then another person organized the band
list. and another person stage-managed. so we split everything up between
four people. i mean, they obviously do more work than i do, because they're
there."  she pauses, then says simply, "it's hands-on for me."

when asked if the label is accomplishing everything she had envisioned at the
beginning, ray pauses again and sighs a frustrated little exhalation that
indicates dissatisfaction with the progress of a dream.   "that's a good
question. yeah, it is. politically speaking, it is. it's an activist label,
we do a lot of work in the community, and it's not-for-profit, and it's very
noncorporate"--meaning, she adds, that everything is done "from the bottom
up" and is "thought about as far as
the impact it has, environmentally and socially and everything.

"musically, it's diverse, which is what i wanted. i struggle a lot more with
distribution issues than i thought i would at this point." ray says that part
of this struggle--and another source of tension--is tied to what she terms
"acceptance in the independent community."

"it's hard," she says by way of summary, "because i'm a major-label artist
that plays in what people think of as more of a mainstream arena, and i'm push
ing a label that has punk bands and hip-hop bands and folk, and people don't
understand how to make these two images work together.   so for me, that's
the only problem i have."

ray's own listening habits are not easily summarized, even by the artist
herself. "i'd need to go look at my cd collection, 'cause i don't know what
i'm listening to at the moment," she says, only half-joking. "i've been
listening to demo tapes for the last month to figure out what's going on with
daemon.  the reason i have daemon is because there're artists out there whose
records i want to put out. there's rose polenzani, who's really important to
me, and she's a songwriter on daemon. i listen to her a lot. but there's a
lot of great stuff out there."

when the conversation turns to the upcoming honor the earth tour, ray
brightens. she's eager to talk about the project she started with saliers and
a group of fellow activists in 1993. "we're in the process of planning the
next honor the earth tour, which will be in october," she says.

"what it is, for people who don't know, it's a campaign we started with some
indian activists to merge our environmental activism with native american
environmental activism. so we started this campaign, and basically we raise
money and we fund already existing grassroots indigenous activist groups. and
they work on environmental issues and issues of cultural sustainability and
environmental sustainability.

"we've done three tours in the past and raised about a half million dollars.
what we do is we go out for about three weeks, we raise money and political
awareness, we usually have a couple of national focuses that are specifically
relevant to the time and the places where we go, and then we do smaller
focuses in different regions. we go to indian reservations and play and do
cultural exchange, we go to major cities and talk about the issues and raise
money, and we usually go to the white house, too, to do some lobbying."

ray is very rational, very factual, and very specific; she has clearly done he
r homework. but through the veneer of effective rhetoric shines her
trademark, tightly controlled intensity. "this year we're focusing on nuclear
issues as one of the main focuses. there's this nuclear waste transportation
act that keeps coming up over and over again in congress, and it's an act
that takes all the waste from all the nuclear power plants, most of them
being on the east coast, and ships it across the country to the west coast,
to a site on [a] mountain--it's an earthquake zone, it's on a water aquifer,
it's sacred land to the piute and western shoshone nations, and [the act was]
going to make that a storage

"the big issue with us is that, for one thing, the shipping of it is very
dangerous; secondly, when you allow nuclear power plants to ship waste,
you're allowing them to create more," she says with a short, incredulous
laugh, as if the truth of the statement were so self-evident that
articulating it might sound condescending. "that's the biggest issue. and the
third thing is that it's western shoshone territory.  during the fifties,
that's the place they used to experiment with bombs--nuclear bombs--and it's
been polluted over and over again. it's just time to give it a rest."

the other issue this year's honor the earth tour will focus on deals with
governmental accountability; this one, however, has more to do with animal
rights, another issue near and dear to ray's heart. she's been known to adopt
stray cats and dogs while on tour and find them homes back in georgia. the
animals in question are the buffalo in yellowstone park (too big to adopt
while touring on a bus).

"when they get hungry, sometimes they wander out of the park," ray explains.
"the department of livestock started this practice of shooting the buffalo as
they wandered out of the park. it's pretty bad. they're just killing 'em,
because the cattle ranchers around there are pissed off and say that the
buffalo are spreading this disease called brucellosis.

"but actually," she's quick to add, "it hasn't been proven. there are a lot
of ex-ranchers out there that are on the side of the buffalo who are saying
that it's just bullshit; the ranchers are having the old cowboy-indian battle
of cattle versus buffalo. and the buffalo are really good for the ecosystem.
they work with the plains in a certain way that allows the correct balance of
everything to exist. and cattle ranching's actually really bad for it.

"it's not that we're against cattle ranching," ray hastens to add politely.
"it's just that buffalo would actually be a good thing to have, so we're
encouraging it. the native people are thrown into this issue because the
buffalo are very important to them. they want to take buffalo and raise them.
they're willing to take the buffalo that are starving out of the park and
onto their land and raise them, and they're not being allowed to do that. a
lot of issues around the empowerment of
native people [are involved]. so we're behind that issue, too."

a logical marriage
honor the earth isn't the only cause ray has taken on over the years.  the
indigo girls album notes list contact information for a variety of causes:
the abolishment of the death penalty, pflag, youth pride, greenpeace, people
for ethical treatment of animals (peta), the coalition for the homeless, and
amnesty international. in 1994, ray assembled a group of atlanta-area
musicians (including saliers) for daemon's jesus christ superstar: a
resurrection (ray sang the part of jesus, saliers was mary magdalene). all
the proceeds went to help end
gun violence.

more recently, ray and saliers traveled to havana, cuba, in march 1999 as a
part of music bridges, a songwriting workshop and cultural exchange that
aimed to transcend political barriers through art.  ray thinks that music and
activism are a natural combination. "for me, they work really well together.
i mean, we have a very fluid sort of existence. when we go on tour--not in a
political way, but just our regular tours--the concerts are just musical. we
just play our songs. i
wouldn't say it's a super political experience, except that it's socially
infused--the lyrics are--and i think there's a feeling of community there,
and that's pretty political now, i guess," she acknowledges with a rueful

ray goes on, "we do voter registration in the lobby, and we have a resource
table. we are very clear when we do benefit tours that it's a benefit tour,
and it's going to be a political experience if you come, and your money's
going to go to this and that. so we feel like we have a balance, an informed
balance where people are aware of what's going on so they can either support
it or not support it. so, i feel like it works. for me, activism and
music--they're like the same thing."

touring has become a way of life for ray. she and saliers performed at the
lilith fair two years in a row, and in 1998 assembled a collection of
noteworthy women musicians for the suffragette sessions tour. the lineup
included kate schellenbach (then of luscious jackson), josephine wiggs,
thalia zedek of come, lisa germano, jane siberry, gail ann dorsey, and
others. all remained on the stage throughout the show and took turns playing
each other's songs. the idea for the tour (originally titled the "rolling
thunder pussy revue") was hatched by ray and friend ani difranco, though
difranco did not end up rolling with the revue.

"ani--i don't know what happened, she couldn't make it or something. she was
in the planning process and always talked about it with me, but couldn't do
it. and we changed the name..." ray begins to mumble a bit, "...'cause some
of the artists didn't want to use the word 'pussy' in the title, so, you
know...i gave in on that one." she laughs.

until another pussy revue (by any other name) starts rolling, the indigo
girls have plenty to do; their current tour continues, and they're scheduled
to play the michigan womyn's music festival in august. "i'm totally excited,"
ray says. "the butchies are playing, too, so we're going to play together and
everything. i'm excited. it's gonna be fun!"

she describes the festival as "just a wild time"; for years, citing a desire
to promote humanism over separatism, the indigo girls publicly refused to
play festivals that excluded men--or anyone else. but they relented two years
ago when the organizers of the michigan festival called and asked them to
play, and the indigo girls were "overwhelmed" by the energy they found there.
it was such a positive experience that they phoned the fest's contact people
and asked if they could play at the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration. the
coordinators immediately scheduled them for the opening night ceremonies.

the honor the earth tour starts up in october. "actually, minneapolis is
going to be one of the dates," ray notes, "because we're working with prairie
island, with the nuclear power issue there.  "i'm doing a solo record, but
it's not going to be out until late winter, next year. i've only done three
songs. i gotta get to work on

ray describes the solo album's sound as "not different from me, but it's
probably different from the indigo girls. it's gonna be kinda punk...." she
trails off briefly, then begins again in a more definite tone. "it's
electric. it's a little more low-fi, 'cause i can't really afford to do a
blown-out record. and i don't really want to, either," she adds positively.
"i've got a really low recording budget, and i'm doing it at different
studios, small studios at friends' houses and things like that, and playing
with different punk bands that i like. so we'll see. i have no idea what it's
going to sound like. kind of like crazy horse meets the butchies.

"do you know that band? the butchies?" she asks, as excited as any fan.
"they're out of north carolina. they're three women that play kinda punk

indigo girls aficionados need not fear, however. "we're working on putting
together a retrospective that'll come out in the fall. we're going to record
a couple of new songs for it in august. we have a dvd coming out of this
great show with our band that we recorded in denver at a club. epic's
rereleasing some of our earlier releases, and we've gotta write liner notes
for those. so we've got all these little projects going on."

for more information about the indigo girls, point your web browser to
ffi about honor the earth, go to
ffi about daemon records and recording artists, go to

copyright 1997-2000 lavender media, inc. all rights reserved.

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