onlineathens.com: Amy Ray passes time with mini-tour
original publish date: 12 aug 2009
by beth jones, onlineathens.com
It’s been a busy year for Amy Ray. As half of the iconic duo Indigo Girls, Ray spent much of the spring and summer crisscrossing the country in support of the pair’s March release, “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug.”
When Ray learned she had a few well-deserved weeks off before gearing up for a new set of tour dates with the Indigo Girls this fall, how did she decide to pass the time?
A trip to St. Kitts? Some couch time catching up on the first two seasons of AMC’s “Mad Men”? Maybe a bike trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway?
Nah. The Georgia native just wanted to keep on rocking. She’ll launch a seven-date mini-tour with her solo band at Athens’ 40 Watt Club on Friday.
“We missed it on the last run-through,” Ray says of the Classic City.
Ray and her band – which includes Melissa York (drums), Kaia Wilson (guitar), Greg Griffith (bass) and Julie Wolf (keyboardist) – traveled late last year in support of “Didn’t It Feel Kinder,” Ray’s third solo release, but the closest they came to Athens was the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta.
“We wanted to do another round,” Ray said. “I had a gap in my Indigo Girls schedule, and we really enjoy playing, so we just wanted to do another baby tour of shows. I think at this point we decided we want to go out every now and then and just play shows and have fun. Not necessarily to promote the record. It’s more like we’re kind of a band now, and we just want to do it.”
Ray’s solo shows draw smaller crowds than the auditoriums and pavilions the Indigo Girls can pack, but the smaller numbers suit Ray fine.
“It’s definitely a much smaller show,” Ray said. “Which is totally like great and intimate, and I love playing in clubs. I don’t have this desire to be at a level where I’m playing a big space.”
While they may be smaller in number, fans at Ray’s solo shows can get every bit as frenzied as, say, an Andrew W.K. crowd, particularly when she launches into “Lucystoners,” a rock anthem that takes sharp aim at the male-dominated corporate music industry and misogyny in general.
“The crowd that comes out for the solo stuff, I mean they rock,” Ray says. “Obviously, they like loud music and stuff that’s more rock ‘n’ roll and electric. They’re going to be a little more boisterous sometimes.”
Then again, Ray adds, the crowds aren’t that different from the fans who turn out for the Indigo Girls’ harmony-heavy sound.
“I still see older people there and younger people,” Ray says. “And you might have slightly more of a punkier edge sometimes, but it’s still a pretty good mixture of people. I’m surprised, sometimes a mother and daughter will come. It’s pretty sweet.”
As Ray’s solo band has toured the country and taken to the road, the songs off “Didn’t It Feel Kinder” have evolved.
“I definitely think we’re really tight right now,” Ray says. “We’re able to have fun and kind of stretch out and do certain songs, you know, with an extended ending or this or that.”
Ray acknowledges the daily grind can keep even the biggest music lovers too pooped to hit the clubs, but she thinks it’s important to carve out the time, if not for her show, then for another one.
“You get really busy, and you sort of think, ‘I don’t have time to go to that show,’ but it’s one of those things that can take you to a different place and kind of clear your head, so you can be the person you want to be.”
Ray says she feels lucky to be playing music, whether it’s on stage at the Classic Center as the Indigo Girls or in the 40 Watt with her solo band.
“It’s good,” she says softly. “Really good.”
More on Amy Ray
► Ray frequently visits area vegetarian and ethnic restaurants on tour. Before the Indigo Girls’ 2008 show at the Classic Center, Ray mentioned that she’d managed a visit to both The Grit and The Taco Stand.
► Occasionally, Ray’s solo work will find its way into the Indigo Girls’ lineup. Ray and Emily Saliers recorded a new version of “Driver Education” for “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug.” The song originally appeared on Ray’s 2005 solo album “Prom.”
“I always wanted to do it with Emily, too,” Ray says. “I wanted to do a version with Indigos that had more of a perk kind of harmony in the chorus. It was fun to do.”
► Ray tends to form long-term relationships with musicians. She’s played with Saliers for more than two decades, and she’s also had a longtime collaboration with Melissa York and Kaia Wilson, who play in her solo band.
“I’m not sure I’m easy to get along with,” Ray says. “I think I pick people that can get along with me, is more like it. I like change a lot. But there are some things I like to have consistency in.”
► While she doesn’t go so far as to say Michael Jackson’s work influenced her own music, Ray admitted she was a fan of Jackson’s “Thriller” and “Off the Wall.”
“I spent a lot of time listening to him when I was younger.” she says. “It’s like a thing you go through.”
Saliers, Ray points out, counts The Jackson 5 as one of her early influences.