The Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.
The Indigo Girls
♦ 8 p.m. March 7
♦ North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
♦ Tickets, $52-$62
♦ Visit www.northshore
After nearly 30 years, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are going strong as the Grammy-winning folk-rock duo Indigo Girls.
The social and environmental activists are touring in support of their most recent album, “Beauty Queen Sister” and headed for a March 7 concert at the North Shore Center for Performing Arts in Skokie.
We caught up with Amy Ray between shows for a chat about the new album and why she doesn’t expect to hear Indigo Girls songs on country radio anytime soon.
Question: Now that “Beauty Queen Sister” is completed and you’re on tour with the new songs, which ones are you particularly happy with?
Amy Ray: Definitely “Share the Moon.” I felt when we were working on it as a band that it all came together in a way that felt so good. I think Emily’s song “Gone” also came together in a cool way, because it’s kind of a country song and it really worked well with the country players we hired for the recording sessions in Nashville. It sounds almost like it could be on country radio. Although, that would never happen for us. [Laughs]
Q. Country radio isn’t into the Indigo Girls?
AR: No. I think it’s because we’re so … gay. You know? Well, I don’t think it’s just because we’re gay. I think if we were gay but we were apolitical and we had more of a feminine image, that people could adjust to … But we are what we are. We’re older, too. So, we have a lot of things that work against us in that world. It’s a bummer, because I love country music.
Q. How have you and Emily kept the band going smoothly for almost 30 years? Particularly in light of REM disbanding.
AR: Well, we’re two people instead of four, which helps. Those guys had a great working relationship and, musically, they’re definitely one of my favorite bands of all time. But they got to the point where they said, “We’re ready to call it quits and do other things.” And I respect that. I think Emily and I feel that if we got to that point, we’d be able to look at ourselves and say, “Okay, it’s time to quit.” But I don’t see that happening. We have a lot of activism going on, we both have individual things going on in our lives and we have our thing together. So, when we get together and do our thing, we still have fun.
Q. Has your perspective as a songwriter changed since the early days?
AR: It’s not like I’ve changed as a person, or like my outlook on activism or my general place in the cosmos has changed. It’s just that the process of living — meeting people, reading books, seeing movies, hearing music and having experiences — informs the work so much. Hopefully, your perspective just deepens and has more dimension.
Q. After so many performances, what has to happen to make a show stand out for you as something special?
AR: For me, it’s mostly about our intonation, how our harmonies are fitting together. If my pitch is really on that night and I have control of my voice, but I don’t have to think about it the whole time, and the music is really hanging together — that really transcends everything for me. Other than that, it’s whenever we have an audience that’s really engaged with us and we can feel it. If the room feels like a community, that’s a good show.
Bruce Ingram is a local free-lance writer.