indie-music.com: 5 questions with amy ray
What has influenced you most musically and why?
There are so many ways to answer that question. I guess I’d have to pinpoint an “aha” moment when I really knew where I was headed. That would be a record called “Candy Apple Grey” by Husker Du. It had already been out for a while when I heard it in college. I’d already been into The Clash and was influenced by that whole approach, but the Husker Du record had acoustic instruments in it. That’s when I knew that what I was doing had punk-type possibilities.
Growing up, I’d listened to Southern rock and hippie rock – The Allman Brothers, Neil Young, the Jefferson Airplane. At age 15, I was listening to Elvis Costello, Patti Smith, and Rickie Lee Jones.
I heard The Clash my freshman year in college. I took my cue from that kind of rhythm guitar playing. I always liked The Rolling Stones, but I was never personally able to tap into that blues-based rhythm thing they did. The Clash showed me that chord playing could express a lot of things I felt.
There was a great music scene in Athens, Georgia, when I was in college. Even before we were old enough to get into the clubs, we kept up with it. Barbecue Killers, Kill Kenny Cats, Pylon, Drivin’ & Cryin’ – great bands.
What is your all-time favorite piece of musical gear and why?
My 335 Gibson, definitely. It’s a 1969 guitar. Somebody hotrodded it, put humbucking pickups on it. I bought it that way. I’ve only had it about six years, but it’s my favorite guitar. I like to play through the back pickup especially. My second favorite is a 1942 Martin 018.
What was the best show you ever played and why?
That would really be hard to say. I do remember a show in Portland, Oregon, on the tour for my previous solo album, “Stag”. It was packed and the audience was really engaged. That’s when a show is fun to do.
When the Indigo Girls play a club like the Chicago Metro, we can count on the crowd being engaged like that. It’s just a bar. It’s dark. I couldn’t even tell you how it’s decorated. We like that place. The Greek Theater in Berkeley is like that, too. We always like to play there.
Looking back, is there anything you would do differently in your career?
Earlier on in my songwriting process, I wish I’d had more of a process. You really have to work on that. When I was younger, I had that romantic notion that the muse just inspired you. On the other hand, I don’t think in terms of a formula – “Here’s where the bridge goes, this worked on that other song” – that kind of thing. I don’t really like the commercial side of songwriting. When I talk about craft, I mean focusing on what each song needs, where it wants to go.
How do you keep your chops up?
I exercise my fingers. I play scales. Before an Indigo Girls tour, I get out our old records and play with them. I’m not a great guitar player. I use it in support of the overall thing I do.
After this Indigo Girls tour, I have a little time off and then I go on a tour to support “Prom”, my new solo album. I’ve lined up some great musicians for that.
What’s the latest on the activism front?
We’re still working a lot with Honor The Earth. One of our main projects right now is wind turbines on reservations that want them.
We also make the public aware of alternatives to the Bush administration’s push for nuclear power. There are much safer energy sources.
Anything you’d like to address to the typical Indie-Music.com reader?
Support independent music. I still learn so much from unsigned bands. There are as many good ones now as ever. I check them out all the time.