Interview – Indigo Girls: Amy Ray

Let us introduce you to a taste of some of the rawest, edgiest music to hitstudios lately and to pass through Indigo Girl Amy Ray’s lips.

The Indigo Girls’ bond is strong enough to accommodate and encourage creative soloendeavours and, since the majority of Indigo Girls fans are deeply devoted to theduo of Emily and Amy, there is no doubt that Amy’s first record on herown will be gobbled up by hungry fans, both established and new.
You shouldn’t be surprised that Amy chose Stag for her first solo record,saying that the word’s natural ability to conjure up images of a stag partyand gender issues seemed perfectly suitable. Amy, who with her charminglyandrogynous looks and always-forthright music, says that going solo wassomething she had to do to explore her multi-faceted tastes for the tune.

She did so successfully. Amy’s new work can’t be pinned down as one type ofmusic, which is a good thing. From Amy’s post-punk roots tosome down-home Appalachian inspiration, the songs on Stag deliver through andthrough – and for good reason.

Let’s face it, Amy’s no fool and shehand-picked a talented bunch of musicians to collaborateon Stag, including The Butchies (who will be on the Stag tour with Amy),Kate Shellenbach (Luscious Jackson), Rock-A-Teens, and the one and onlyJoan Jett, who sings one of her signature “yeah’s” at the end of HeyCastrator.

“It’s not the kind of music you’re making, I think it’s the approach you take.”
– Amy Ray’s musical philosophy.

“Joan sings this part of Hey Castrator that has nothing to do withanything,” Amy says playfully, “except for that [her part] is addressingthe punky women’s movement, the revolutionary impact and at the same timeasking, you know, if anything ever really changes, or if people just becomecomplacent. So, we’re all over the place in that song.”

“Musically, it was contingent upon what the rhythm and the drums were doingand it was very apropos for Joan to come in and play rhythm guitar on it.She’s a killer guitar player,” she says, “but because she agreed to sing onthe song, I wanted to have something showcased, and that’s why I added it in.”She also decided to add a song about suffragist Lucy Stone. I personally,have to love a woman who sings about Lucy (if you don’t know who she is,shame on you.) Appropriately titled, LucyStoners is a fine example of Amy’sinfluences shining through and including The Butchies. “You know Janny Wenner, Rolling Stone’s most fearless leader/Gave the boys whatthey deserve/but with the girls he lost his nerve/Lucy Stoners don’tneed boners/Come on girl, let’s go right now.” And she’s right – none of the musicians associated with Amy need anyassistance from white-boy boners to confirm that Stag is all about exploringsong in various forms.

“It doesn’t mean that it’s not a pure and emotional rock experience just because you worked on it.”
– Amy Ray displays modesty.

“It’s not hard for me to go back and forth whenI’m in my writing phase. I switch off pretty extremely, even in the sameroom, you know, with a mandolin that’s very traditional sounding or a countrysong to moving over to my electric guitar and just playing something completelydifferent,” says Amy of her musical versatility. “I think the biggest difficultyis probably something more technical like recording a record like thiswith a really low budget,” Amy says. The process of recording mayhave been challenging, but the finished product, while it is clearly indie,shows no signs of lacking artistry and talented approach.

“It was harder for me to go from recording with the Indigo Girls with adiscipline that was completely different, where you spend a lot of time onsomething as opposed to getting it quickly. Your discipline is that you hadto stick with it for a while. I’m not sure that’s such a good thing,” Amy says.

Because now that I’ve done this project, which was very hard for me toswitch gears to technically, because I had to settle on things and make decisionsquickly and get most of the work done before I would get to the studio.And everything was just about my own confidence and stuff. It was hardbecause I’m used to having more time, more money, I’m used to having a partner.I’m used to being in a studio that has a Coca-Cola machine [laughs] andall those little things you don’t think about. And we’re not extravagantby any means.”

While Stag has been a positive experience for her, Amysays she fully intends on continuing her work as an Indigo Girl. “Emilyand I are going to go back in the studio and make an acoustic album that’smore stripped down and quick at the end of the summer,” says Amy. “AndI think this experience is going to help me with that approach.

“It’s not the kind of music you’re making, I think it’s the approach youtake. Someone who goes back and forth really well to me is someone like SteveEarle. When he makes a country record it sounds like a punk or rock record.He’s got a certain approach; it’s a philosophy, and I love it. I would lovefor me and Emily to work more that way. I think it’s not as comfortable forher, but, I think it could be [laughs].”

Whatever the future holds for her, it’s a no-brainer to expect her to remainon the road of smart, lyrically-sound, signature Amy Ray music. “I thinkwhen I was younger, I was more eclectic about writing songs, I thoughtthat if it was emotive, that was enough. And it’s not for me. I think that’ssomething important about songwriting – it takes work. Itdoesn’t mean that it’s not a pure and emotional rock experience just becauseyou worked on it. It means that you respect it enough to make it into somethingthat someone else can understand rather than just you [laughs].”

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