villagevoice.com: possibly 4th street 17: interview with indigo girl amy ray
author’s note: much to my annoyance, the folks at the village voice have taken the videos of amy performing off the site. hopefully, i can locate them somewhere else and will post them at a later date. in any case, here’s the interview….
Much more than merely the dark-haired half of the Indigo Girls, lifelong Georgia resident Amy Ray also serves as activist (enough causes that to list them all without causing a run-on sentence would be near impossible), not-for-profit record label owner, and solo artist. And not to suggest that her day job is all that restrictive, but when singing alone, Ray’s lyrics unblushingly blossom and, even when playing an acoustic on a beautifully tranquil late afternoon in Central Park, her music rocks noticeably harder.
With Ray in town to play, fittingly, a benefit to celebrate the release of Didn’t It Feel Kinder, her third solo album on her own Daemon Records, we journeyed to the northernmost reaches of Central Park for a couple of songs and some conversation about openness, activism, life as a Southerner, and the costs of each.
Possibly 4th Street : Number 17 (Part Two) : Amy Ray
Who: Indigo Girl Amy Ray.
When: Around 6 p.m. on Monday, August 4, 2008.
Where: In (for the interview) and around (just north of) Central Park’s Conservatory Garden, “the only formal garden in Central Park.”
Where was that again? Fifth Avenue and 105th Street.
If you’re feeling worldly . . . The Garden is divided into three sections: the north (or French Garden), the Central (or Italian Garden) and the south (or English Garden).
Other highbrow neighborhood attractions: The Museum of the City of New York and El Museo del Barrio (closed for renovation until Fall of 2009)
Songs performed: “Cold Shoulder” and “Stand and Deliver.”
Tell me something that you’ve never ever done before in your life.
Jumped out of a plane.
Tell me something you’ve done once and one time only.
Ridden in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon.
The name of a book that you’ve read at least twice.
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.
A movie that you’ve seen at least three times.
Do you own a rake?
A lot of musicians, especially city dwellers, do not own rakes.
I own a rake.
Please do not cast consternation upon my question.
That’s a really silly question [laughs].
And who’s your favorite Beatle?
Oh, John Lennon.
You know, in all the time I’ve been doing this no one has ever said Paul.
Oh [the sound, not of silence, but sympathy]. People are afraid to love him. He’s a great songwriter but people are afraid to love him.
I want to ask a question about the lead track from your last album, Prom. “Put It Out For Good” suggests a turning point. And there’s a lot of people who lead full, happy lives and have full, happy careers, but for a million dollars they couldn’t tell you where the turning point was in either. Did you experience a specific turning point in your life and is that what the song’s referring to?
That song refers to a turning point in sort of my early, like, high school years where I sort of switched from being . . . I mean, I was very, like, involved. Class president, you know. All that kind of stuff. But I really shifted from being a little more conservative, as a person, to letting my inner beast kind of come out. And that’s what song was about. It was my senior year.
And what was the trigger?
I think it was just that moment where you break away from your parents, you know. And the trigger was I had fallen in love with a girl and I probably started drinking and smoking pot [laughs]. You know, it was like I was letting myself be free in some way, and I was hearing music. You know, like I think I heard Patti Smith that year. I may have heard the Pretenders. I think I was hearing things that were sort of synching with me better than what I had been listening to before, and I was just feeling that thing, you know. And Emily [Indigo partner Saliers] had just graduated the year before and was at college and I had gone to see her and we had played in New Orleans on Jackson Square and I just felt this, like, ‘Yeah, I’m really going to do this’ kind of thing, you know. Not ‘I’m going to make it,’ but ‘I’m really going to do this.’ It had nothing to do with making it.
We’ve done a few busking sessions for Possibly 4th Street, and I would think the Indigo Girls are more likely buskers than most other bands. Did you do it for long? Did you do it often? Were you pretty good at it?
We didn’t do it that often. We were pretty good at it. We did it in Jackson Square. We did it in Washington Square. Actually our car was in the garage and we didn’t have the money to get it out so we busked for the money and got it. And we did in Atlanta, at Piedmont Park during the Arts Festival, we would go busking. And I went busking by myself a lot there. But it wasn’t for the money. It was just for the fun, actually. It makes you better because you have to project more and you have to like, you know, learn how to play and sing basically.
Was it different, dynamically, busking with Emily as opposed to busking by yourself?
Yeah, I mean, it’s always easier when you have someone with you because, you know, there’s another person there and you can look at someone. They’re just another warm-blooded creature beside as you’re trying to attract other people. It’s nice. And it attracts other people. People are more drawn to two people playing than one person playing because it’s very embarrassing for one person to go listen to one person, because you have to be the first that’s willing to do that