passport magazine.com: interview with amy ray
original publish date: 1 october 2008
by lawrence ferber, passportmagazine.com
[link to source]
The Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray isn’t one for compromise in her music or life. Wearing her progressive politics and out identity on her acoustic and electric guitar sleeve, Ray has, since the 1980s, created a supremely melodic, lyrically powerful catalog of albums with Indigo partner Emily Saliers. She’s further explored gender, sexuality, coming of age, and other personal and social issues on her dance/punk-tinged solo albums, 2001’s Drag, 2005’s Prom, and this year’s Didn’t it Feel Kinder. Born in Decatur, Georgia, Ray continues to live in the area. In addition to working on her own musical projects—a live Indigo Girls CD and new studio album are in the works—Ray founded and helps run Daemon Records, an Atlanta-based record label for indie and queer artists. On the personal front, she has spent the last five years in a relationship with filmmaker Carrie Schrader. While promoting Didn’t It Feel Kinder and recording with Saliers, Ray took a seat in the VIP lounge.
What is your most memorable experience mixing with the locals while traveling?
Probably in Cuba. We were at a songwriter’s exchange program and went outside the perimeters of the program with people playing in a Cuban punk band. We ended up going to their rehearsal space and jamming with them and spent a raucous night out on the town with them in Havana.
Have you ever had a humiliating or horrific travel experience?
I’ve had a million. You get stuck places. One of the hardest was in Mexico. I was in Mexico for a conference and we were getting on these buses and it was heavily guarded by Mexican military. We only had to travel about 100 miles through the rainforest and we ended up taking 25 hours to get where we were going because we were stopped at so many military barricades. At one point we got stopped for about six hours and we all got out and I slept on the steps of an abandoned hospital in the middle of the rainforest. It wasn’t horrific, but it was scary.
Who would you hire to design the Amy Ray airline outfits and planes?
Dolce & Gabbana. Classic. They’re not going to go out of style anytime soon. They’re Italian. Good lines. And the plane—I’d probably put Richard Branson in charge of that. I’ve always thought he was an interesting man. I really like him, he’s eccentric and in some ways revolutionary.
Which hotel room, anywhere in the world, would you like to claim as yours forever?
That’s a good one. I’d like to pick one of the suites at the Soho Grand in Manhattan. The ones that have a good view, they’re just so comfortable and beautiful. And it’s in Soho. That’s if I can claim something super posh. On the lower end I would get a Motel 8 and sit in a little chair outside the door and play my guitar.
What are three things you would pack, or hide, in your suitcase when going to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival?
(laughs) Why would I hide them? You think there would be contraband in Michigan? You know what…A mirror. I would take a mirror. I’d probably take some sex toys, but those wouldn’t be contraband. And my running shoes. People go jogging there but it’s not like the main activity. I always take time and I run off the land; “Whoah, she’s running off the land,” and I enjoy it.
What city has the best women’s music scene and can you name a few must-try bands or artists?
Because things are so internet-oriented [these days] I might listen to bands and not realize what city they’re from, but I think Portland has had a pretty good scene. Kaia Wilson [formerly of Team Dresch and The Butchies] is living there, and The Gossip play there. Also a band called Coyote Grace.
What foreign city will you move to if McCain wins the 2008 election?
Lord have mercy. I’d probably stay where I am. I’m a fighter. I live outside of Atlanta and I like to be in conservative areas and be myself. So I’d stay in Georgia.
Which destination should gays visit for political as well as tourism reasons?
Personally, I think you should visit small towns that don’t have super progressive policies but still have one or two B&Bs owned by gay people, or a bookshop or café that’s struggling. Go somewhere you’re not necessarily completely accepted and be around people you can build a bridge with. Any small town that’s more conservative, and you can show you are a normal human being and can spend money and support their tourist industry.
What place in the world is on the top of your list to visit?
Seattle, Washington. I love kayaking when I’m there. Internationally, Amsterdam. I love it. I don’t like it on the weekends because it’s like a frat party, but during the week it’s quiet and free, you can do whatever you want to do and be yourself.
Your number one travel tip?
A lint brush. Take a lint brush wherever you go.