lifeblood: listlogs: 2007v10n050-news

ig-news-digest          monday, june 25 2007          volume 10 : number 050

today's subjects:
  [ig-news] toronto globe & mail amy inteview  [sherlyn koo <sherlyn@pixelop]


date: mon, 25 jun 2007 15:27:32 +1000
from: sherlyn koo <>
subject: [ig-news] toronto globe & mail amy inteview

hi folks,

you can read this online at:


ps - there are a couple of ig pix from toronto pride at the bottom of this page:

- --begin forwarded article--
a fine balance
the two musicians have always struggled with how to make sure their activism
doesn't hurt their music, and vice-versa

guy dixon

globe and mail update

june 23, 2007 at 5:01 pm edt

musicians are our conscience, but those who are both activists and musicians
have a hard job not letting the message of one undercut the other. folk-rock
icons the indigo girls, activists to the core, know this all too well. there's
simply a point where activism has to be set aside to concentrate on the music so
that both voices can live.

"it's good between us, in that way, because we completely agree with each other
on that," said amy ray, the dark-haired, slightly edgier half of the atlanta
duo. "we spend a significant amount of time on our songwriting and away from
activism. and we play a lot of shows that have nothing to do with activism. most
of our touring is just touring. [but] we can't help being activists along the
way because we see everything through that lens.

"so the way we run our business, the way we tour, choosing not to have a big
corporate sponsor for the tour, things like that, these just go along with what
we do." they may be self-aware, but there has been a stigma that has followed
the indigo girls throughout their career, from their emergence as down-home
rockers (associated by approximation to rem and the 1980s athens music scene) to
their continuing influence on younger socially conscious songwriters. the two
gay women (ray uses only the terms gay and queer throughout the interview) have
never been a couple, but have been friends since they were young girls, and are
playing the massive gay festival pride toronto today. it's a natural for the
band, which plays two or three pride festivals a year.

but can it also be a barrier at times, putting more emphasis on labels placed on
the band rather than letting the music be heard on its own terms?

"yeah, we're seen in a certain way. i mean, look, we're 40-year-old queers
playing folk music. and in our whole career, we've been seen as the folky indigo
girls that are gay. it has really run the gamut from people being really
insulting about it to praising it. but it identifies us in a lot of ways.

"it's not really up to us what our identity is," ray added. "we'd love to just
sometimes transcend anything and be considered good songwriters, or just have
our music talked about. but in our lives, we spend a lot of time doing activism.
we're very out. we sing about it.

"we expect our audience to be active and engaged in the community, and there's
still a civil-rights movement happening around queer issues."

every city and region is different, and ray feels there is a high level of
tolerance in a city like toronto. but "where i come from in georgia, in a rural
area outside of atlanta, there's a very different learning curve about what it
means to be gay and what gay rights is."

however, ray said there is often a misconception about the south: it is the
birthplace of the original civil rights movement after all, and there is a
strong progressive undercurrent, which is one of the reasons she has never left.
also, she's a fourth-generation southerner, third-generation georgian. so it
runs deep.

but ray and emily saliers have to make their living on the road. despite two
decades recording music, record sales don't support them. their record label
will give them an advance to produce an album, but touring is essentially their

"we wouldn't be able to take six months off and be okay. that's kind of the way
it's always been for us though, except in the very first days of our sony deal
[under their previous label epic records, a sony subsidiary] when we were
selling a lot and a lot of records. but now we have a great audience, a good
size. we can play in theatres and some bigger venues, a great solid core fan
base and we love it. it's how we make a living."

time spent doing activist work - for hurricane katrina relief, native american
issues, the environment and gay rights (see for a much better
sense of the wide variety of their activist work) - isn't necessarily time away
from earning a living.

as ray said, the band continually makes connections with younger, underground
bands also involved in activism, which feeds back into the indigo girls' own
music. it's what keeps ray stimulated and in a creative mode.

inevitably, she said she can't help being a little retrospective at this point
in her career. for instance, when the band first began getting noticed at their
gigs in atlanta's little five points neighbourhood, there was a question about
how openly gay their public image should be.

"in early days, when we were first starting out and that question of whether to
come out, and whether to talk about that in the press, emily was more reticent
than i was. but i also came out sooner than she did in my life. i had a
girlfriend before she did."

ray came out in high school, while saliers came out in college. ray was always
seen as being a little more outspoken, but over time, the issues changed.

"sometimes we'll feel differently about corporate sponsorship or being involved
with corporations. we have different comfort levels around that. she's a little
more flexible. and if i had my choice, we would be completely independent, not
on any record label, putting our own stuff out, lower the ticket prices [for
shows]. everything would be more punkier, for lack of a better word.

"but she feels differently than i do, and i respect that. i benefit from it,
honestly," ray added.

"she sometimes keeps me from shooting myself in the foot. and we've found ways
to compromise that i'm comfortable with. i mean, we're on hollywood records,
which is owned by disney. that was hard for me. but the upside of that is we had
a lot of resources to make the record, and we have a resources for our activism.
we just try to find a balance."

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