nyblade.com: ray of sunshine: indigo girls play central park tonight
original publish date: 16 june 2009
By Stephen Schulman, the NY Blade
[link to source]
Amy Ray, the brunette half of the folk-pop duo The Indigo Girls, recently chatted with us about the band’s new album, their non-stop touring, Katy Perry and her not-so-secret fascination with American Idol.
NYB: Congratulations on your new record, “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug”—it’s your first fully independent release since 1987’s “Strange Fire.” Of all your songs, do you have a favorite that you like to perform?
Amy Ray: You know it changes from week to week. And it also changes according to who’s with us, like if we have a certain opening act and if we collaborate on something and that becomes my favorite song to do, Lately, I’ve been really enjoying playing a song called “Second Time Around” off the new album.
Where did the album title come from?
Our producer was throwing out funny ideas. I think he was like, “Gosh, the songs are so depressing. You should just call the record ‘Poseidon and the Bitter Bug.’ And he just used the character from each of our songs and I was just like, “that actually is a really good idea.”
How is this album is different from your other ones?
With this record, we did a double release and one album is an acoustic version record of the whole album, which is different from what we’ve done before. But thematically, the songs are different. We’re talking about different stuff. I think it’s probably more reflective than some of our records.
It’s so hard to say ‘cause Emily and I don’t really write together. We don’t come together and have a theme ahead of time. We write our songs, and what pulls it together is the harmonies and arrangement in style. This time, our producer Mitchell played keyboard on the whole record and really lent his musical voice to the project and pulled it together. It definitely created some cohesion that was really important.
I noticed that many of the songs are highly emotional. Do you keep a journal to recall your thoughts when you write songs?
Yes, I do actually. I keep a lyric book that I try to write in everyday, if not five days a week. I just go back to it when I work on songs. I open it up, start playing things on the guitar, look at the book and ideas start coming together in my head.
You really use your higher vocal range on the new song “Sugar Tongue.” Have you been keeping that part of your voice a secret?
I’m learning how to use that part of my range. I’m sort of a falsetto. My range is tenor, almost like a guy, and that [high] part of my voice has a certain break in it. I did that on a few other songs on my solo record that came out before this one. It’s not a strong place for me, but I like to explore. I get bored if I sit on my vocal range all the time. I’ve tried to expand a little bit.
On the first track of the album, “Digging For Your Dream” the first few chords kind of reminded me of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle.”
Oh my gosh, I never thought of that! I’ll tell Emily. She wrote that song—she’ll be thrilled.
You guys have been touring together for almost 20 years. Do you ever get sick of one another?
We pretty much live in separate towns, so when we’re on the road it’s more fun and we’re happy to see each other. We spend a lot of time separate, you know, during the day, even on the bus. We just kind of have our separate space and I think that’s kind of one of the keys. We respect each other. We like what each other does, we like the music the other person makes, so it’s rich. We have this chemistry that just works, even though we’re radically different from each other. There’s a way that it balances out.
Where do you think the folk genre is headed? I know around 10 years ago Sarah McLachlan, Ani DiFranco and some group called The Indigo Girls were really out there. Do you think there will be a folk revival?
I think we go through periods when there are amazing new female artists. We’ve been taking some people on the road with us. In the folk genre there are tons of artists but not much coverage, because there are fewer radio stations. There are fewer press outlets. But it’s out there on the Internet.
I just think the folk genre right now is incredibly rich. A lot of the younger artists don’t feel the same boundaries that older artists have. They are cross-pollinating and listening to all different kinds of music and are influenced by all the things that they are hearing. It’s exciting.
What do you think about Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl?”
Eh. I don’t know, that song is probably not a step forward in queer politics. I’ll just say that. What do you expect? It’s pop music. It’s not supposed to be delivering a political message. She’s fine in her way.
Speaking of pop music, did you watch “American Idol” this season?
I watched it ‘cause my parents follow it, and I have to keep up with it so I know what they’re talking about. Actually, I really like it. I can’t help it. When it first started, I was kind of skeptical, but a lot of my friends who have kids watched it, and the kids would participate in their American Idol contest in their own little neighborhoods. I felt like it encourages music. There isn’t enough funding for the arts in schools, and American Idol encourages that. And I love Adam Lambert. I think he’s just hands-down incredible, he’s a star!
Do you ever stop to think about your place in the LGBT pantheon? How does it feel to be a hero?
It’s flattering that you would say that; but I guess my heroes are the people in the community that are in the trenches, that are doing all the work, going door to door trying to change people’s minds about things. And the pioneers of the movement in the ‘70s and ‘80s, ACT UP, I look up to those activists. So, I’m very humbled by the shoulders I stand on.