redandblack.com: An open chat with Amy Ray
original publish date: 14 aug 2009
by marie uhler, redandblack.com
A sit down with Amy Ray, one half of the Indigo Girls, will result in a honest, open conversation about love, respect and music.
How often have you played in Athens? Do you have a favorite venue or memory from this city?
I have played there a lot, primarily with the Indigo Girls–we played there a lot. We have a long history there. When I think back on memories, I think of the Taco Stand and the Grit. The food. It is always about the food! I would go to the 40 Watt and the Caledonia Lounge to hear bands. I have a lot of great memories of just being there and listening to the music.
How do you think events in and around your life affect and shape your music?
On this record, there is a song called “Who Sold the Gun” that was definitely inspired by Virginia Tech and the goings-on in Iraq. I basically just heard about that and watched the news; wrote some notes and it just all came out. I write a lot of stuff in lyric journals and then I refer back to those journals.
You know, the majority of the record is a lot about camaraderie and love and identity; how you identify yourself in the context of gender, activism and community.
Do you know anything about Bellafea? Do you get to choose your opening band? Or if you could choose any band to play with/open for you, who would it be?
I got hooked up with [BellaFea] because we were going to play together at Chapel Hill and I found them out through Myspace, loved their sound, and so now we are doing a few shows together.
I just did a few gigs with Justin Vernon-Bon Iver. That was a pinnacle. He opened for us, but we could probably open for him. I’d been dying to play with him for a year and half. He was a fan of the Indigo Girls and for me that was a big experience.
I always wanted to play with The Distillers. They are like a very true rock and roll band, but they broke up before I was able to play with them. So maybe in my afterlife, we’ll play together in some rock n’ roll heaven. They are very punk rock, founded by a woman, full of loud rock and roll.
This new album brings some new faces to the mix. Who is our favorite artist to collaborate with?
I don’t really have a favorite–they are all like a family. I discovered one of them through my Indie label [Daemon Records], their name is Arizona. I love their music and the records they make. They are made up of 12 guys and are a cross between Led Zeppelin and The Shins. The person that sang all the melodies was Brandi Carlisle – a great singer.
The whole process felt like a family affair. We actually wrote and recorded at a bunch of people’s houses, and a studio in Asheville. It was awesome. It was a solo album but it wasn’t a solo project. A lot of people came together for this one.
Any advice to musicians trying to make it while staying true to themselves?
I just think like there is a lot of stuff that has changes in the industry and the Internet has made things really different. But to really have a long career and to be in touch with yourself and feel your music in that organic way, you have to spend time with your music – playing gigs. We used to play in the dorms all the time at Emory. Spend a lot of time writing; it will stick with you if you write and develop something unique to yourself. Those things always hold true no matter what is going on in the world or Internet or any other new media.