Amy Ray of The Indigo Girls on gay rights, Pride and the president
The Out Front Interview before the Indigo Girls' recent stop in Colorado
June 26, 2012 | 12:00 am
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 3:17 pm)
At the forefront of the lesbian music scene, names like Melissa Etheridge and Tracy Chapman come to mind. But perhaps the biggest duo of women in the music industry are the legendary rockers Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls.
With the release of their 14th studio album titled Beauty Queen Sisters, The Indigo Girls’ first tour stop is this weekend in the Rocky Mountain State.
Out Front Colorado interviewed Amy Ray, who spoke in her signature throaty voice about touring, gay marriage, relationship “merit badges” and what she is looking forward to about her Colorado trip.
Being on tour right now, will you get to celebrate Pride at all?
I don’t know what we’re going to do. We haven’t been on tour for a while. So, we sort of have to get our sea legs back. It’ll depend on how are schedule works out. It’s still exciting to just be out West actually. We seem to hit different places during Pride touring in the spring and summer. It’s always nice, puts everyone in an extra celebratory mood [at the concerts]. It’s nice for us.
Listening to this album, it really sounded like traveling music!
I think travel figures prominently in a lot of our music because that’s what we do. We’re constantly moving and traveling around. It gives us a lens to sort of see things through. And with traveling, there’s geography and also time … which I think can be compelling sometimes.
We’ve just completed a political season of fighting for civil unions, here in Colorado. Have you been keeping up on this subject at all?
I try to pay attention to as much as I can. It’s so rapid, the pace of the change, which is cool. It’s like in North Carolina they just had a marriage referendum pass, because they put it up during the Republican primary, which was their tricky move.
And I was part of that, sort of, whole campaign [to fight it]. There are a lot of really great groups in the South that were working on that.
Although it passed, they made a lot of headway. There were a lot of counties that voted against it. That probably wouldn’t have three or four years ago. So, it was that grass roots, on the ground work that was really effective for the marriage equality groups in North Carolina. Even if they didn’t win, it changed a lot of hearts and minds.
In the past, I’ve been frustrated with the whole gay marriage movement because I’ve wanted people to pay attention to other issues, like gay youth suicide and issues around class and race in the movement … everything is linked and we can talk about a marriage movement but also be talking about other things at the same time.
So, I think our movement has evolved, which I think is great. And state by state, people are changing.
And now President Obama has come out for gay marriage.
That was huge, what he did! I mean if you think about it. The guy’s already in the hot seat and then to come out with that. I mean, wow, you’re really knocking down the barriers one at a time. First issues of race and what he’s done around class issues as well. And now issues around sexuality. It’s like, wow, you’re good. So, hopefully it resonates enough with people that he’ll win again.
It helps when you have such a strong visionary, that even when he is not effective in some ways. He’s effective in the way that we think about ourselves.
We’ve got to evolve.
With all of this talk about marriage, I have to ask, are you in a relationship?
Yeah, I’ve been with the same person for 10 years, going on 11. We’re pretty autonomous, which is why people don’t know. She’s awesome. She’s a film maker and a professor. She’s great and it’s a great relationship and we plan on staying together. We’ve [already] been through a lot.
Don’t you feel you kind of have to?
Yeah, I think most relationships that last go through a lot and you kind of come out the other side of it.
You know, you have all of those things, like little merit badges proving you’ve made it through another hurdle, or something.
Is it more of a challenge being in a relationship when you’re an “Indigo Girl”?
I think some of the challenges are very much the same as anybody has, time and money. Those are two things that couples have to tackle together.
You know the different ways you manage money and the different value systems around money. Then the different value systems around time and how you manage your time, for everybody no matter your income or job.
In our society these things have become so symbolic and you have to learn how to make them not so symbolic.
The other difficulties are geography and distance.
I could see that.
Yeah, that’s one of the things that difficult when you’re a traveling musician. It’s like, yeah this really is my job. And no, I’m really not going to retire in three years.
Like, I might have said that to you when I first met you, just to get you [laughing throatily]. But, I’m not…
Emily [Saliers] and I have been really adamant about not being gone for more than three and a half weeks at a time from our family, be it partner or just family, for family time.
Seems like you’d need grounding after a while.
Yeah, for me if we didn’t have that grounding then the music wouldn’t sound the same. It would be just going through the motions. It wouldn’t be as honest. Through the almost 30 years of touring, our audience is there. It’s just how our community, our audience, is [too]. Everybody has that understanding. It’s not always going to be perfect, but it’s always going to be real.
What does Amy Ray do for fun when she visits Colorado?
If I hadn’t dislocated my shoulder it would typically be biking because I carry a bike on the road with me. I like to take the urban trails in Denver and Boulder.
So, if I have some free time I’ll probably hike up the trail at Chautauqua. Otherwise, poking around in some thrift stores, I’m a nerd!
On the Web at indigogirls.com