indigo girl amy ray releases electric solo cd

original publish date: 15 aug 2008
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With Didn’t It Feel Kinder, songwriter and erstwhile Indigo Girl Amy Ray’s third solo release and her most ambitious to date, Ray again trades in her acoustic guitar for an electric, cranks her amp and reaffirms her position as one of the truest, most striking voices in contemporary music.

For the first time, Ray enlisted a producer for a solo album. Greg Griffith (The Butchies, Le Tigre, Loudspeaker, Vitapup), a fearless listener and multi-talented musician, worked with Ray to incorporate a variety of sounds and influences to create her unique and evolving voice throughout this record.

The album hit stores on August 5, 2008 and here is Amy to tell us a little bit about it:

By way of introduction, let me just say, I love making records. No matter how tough it is, I always want to make the next one. In fact, I am usually thinking about the next CD before I am done with the one I am working on, it’s a process I have grown into and crave. Even in the midst of collaboration, there is a solitude that goes along with making music, a loneliness that feels right. This project happened over the course of a year — a year in between Indigo Girl shows and taking care of life. I locked myself in my hotel room and wrote whenever I could. My most productive days were at the Mohegan Sun Casino and a luxury hotel in Sydney, Australia. I did a lot of driving. I drove through long nights and small towns to get home from the studio in time for the next Indigo tour. I found that WNCW lasts about an hour each way outside of Asheville and when you drive out of Georgia up 85N to get to Greensboro, you can catch a lot of college radio. I found a great Motel 8 during a snowstorm in Waynesville, N.C. I found that the YMCA in Asheville is really cool, but very crowded. Most importantly, I found that first takes aren’t always the best. Now I am adding up the receipts, compiling notes, and remembering the timeline. I am looking at the horses hanging out on the CD cover wondering what that means. Some kind of strength, some kind of kindness, I guess.

Didn’t It Feel Kinder started a year ago in Durham, N.C. — a place I find musical resonance in ever since I met up with The Butchies in 2000. For this project, I started with Melissa York, the drummer from the now defunct Butchies. Mel kept saying, “Amy, I really want you to work with Greg Griffith.” Greg Griffith is Mel’s musical co-conspirator since the punk days in NYC and he is sort of a renaissance man of all things musical. I was ready to find someone to challenge me. I knew Greg’s production work with The Butchies, but honestly was just going on Mel’s word. So we met up, we played through a few songs together — Mel drumming and Greg on Bass (keys and guitar too) and wearing the producer’s hat. Something must have clicked ’cause we set up another session, this time at Greg’s home studio in Greensboro, NC. Greg immediately raised the bar for me. I could tell he wasn’t totally familiar with my prior recordings and this gave me a sort of uncomfortable freedom. I kept thinking, “Why do I want a producer, this is just what I am trying to get away from. I just want to do my own thing and fuck up and have fun?” But as Greg’s ideas came to fruition, it just felt inevitable.

In musical terms, I didn’t even really know what I wanted this record to be. I knew I wanted it to be a wide-open vista, the prairie at twilight, a mountain road at 3 a.m., a heartbreaking news broadcast. I wanted to use every voice I had inside me, every voice I had come across and absorbed. I didn’t want to be limited by habit or insecurity or gender or place. Sometimes I sang a song right the first time, and some songs I sang over and over until I found the voice. I wrote tunes out of my range and kept them there because that was where they wanted to be. I let the songs control the experience. I couldn’t even tell you what tied them together until we were done with the final master. The common bond was something musical this time, some lesson in melody and rhythm.

Kaia Wilson always hears the meat of the song and then plays it in some punk ass way on her guitar. Melissa always wants to know what I am singing about, where the soul is. I understand the song better after she plays drums with it. These two had been with me since the first solo record and I knew I needed what they had to offer. Greg’s bass playing was as integral to this CD as his production. His confidence created a stability that offset even the most fragile song. There were songs on this record that didn’t find themselves until Tomi Martin put his guitar tracks down. I knew that he would play the perfect groove for “She’s Got to Be.” But, in some cases, like “Birds of a Feather,” I had no idea where the song was heading until he played on it. I remember so vividly sitting in the control room listening to him just sort of jam to it, and then all of a sudden notes just started playing out of him and it was the song as it was meant to be. We were all just stunned.

I had been obsessively listening to a new band called Arizona. They’re like a cross between Led Zeppelin and The Shins, and throw in some Judy Garland too. They ended up living in Asheville, via Brooklyn and Atlanta, and working, sleeping, and recording at this funky studio called Echo Mountain — vintage gear in an old church in the South — a perfect recipe for me. I asked them to be the guest band on the record — do a couple tunes together as a collaborative effort. The first song we did together, “Out on the Farm”, was a cynical little number about the music business, which I knew they could bring to life. We worked at Echo and their engineer/producer, Danny Kadar, ran the session. I fell in love with the studio, the band, and Danny. The month before, Mel, Greg, Kaia, and I had done four days of recording down in Atlanta, but the studio was pretty cranky, so we decided to change our course and work between Greg’s home studio in Greensboro and Echo Mountain in Asheville, with Danny in charge of engineering. When we needed extra instruments or voices, we found the guys in Arizona. It seemed there wasn’t a sound we needed that they couldn’t come up with. When it came time for harmonies, I wanted to go for it, really spend time on arrangements, and not shy away from them, just as a point of distinction from the Indigo Girls. So I put it all in Garage Band and just laid down what was going on in my head. Brandi Carlile came in and brought it all together. She morphed her voice into different styles and personalities to fit each song.

We mixed and remixed, mastered and re-mastered, and after 10 months had a record of what we created, experienced, played, and sung. Life was going on while we were making this record. Nothing stopped for it, and it was good that way. It absorbed every struggle and clumsy human relationship. It took longer than we expected, it cost more than we had, and it came out far better than we could have imagined. I guess. I always say, it should be fun, but in the end I learned the value of not having fun too.


~ by Erin on Wednesday, July 8, 2009.

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