Daughters of Atlanta, pioneers in music and activists on a variety of social issues, the Indigo Girls have done their city proud. With the upcoming release of “Beauty Queen Sister,” the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers is about to hit the road, including a benefit show in Atlanta for Party at Ponce on Oct. 1 and a tour stop at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga., on Oct. 6.
The first single from the new album, “Making Promises,” is already winning praise as a download and an official lyric video on YouTube. We caught up with Amy Ray to talk about the music, the activism and their hometown.
Shannon Hames: Your fans really respond to your acoustic shows and recordings. Why do the fans feel so strongly about your live performances?
Amy Ray: I don’t know. I hope it’s not because we haven’t captured what we do live on our records. When you do a lot of harmonies, there’s something about the way that happens live – you’re just riveted. A live harmony has a certain effect on people. People like to sing along. Folk music lends itself a lot to a live setting.
Since your fans are so hungry for the live music, why are you girls so cool about letting your fans record your live shows?
In our early days, that’s how it worked for us. People made tapes of our shows and shared the tapes with friends and got the word out. I mean, why not? It spreads the music around and gets people interested in coming to hear you. It’s not like records are selling anyway.
It’s just fear that keeps people from wanting their shows recorded but I think it only does good. If someone brings in professional recording equipment and then tries to sell our bootlegs, we shut them down right away.
What we believe in is trading them and making them available to people for free.
It’s about music, not money.
Yes. If it’s all about money, it’s kind of pointless and it won’t last.
Where’s the mandolin on the new album?
Ah! No, it doesn’t exist very much. I didn’t play much mandolin on the new record because Luke Bulla played fiddle and mandolin and he is a masterful mandolin player. Anytime there was mandolin to be had, I had him do it. I have a solo album coming out in mid-winter and I played mandolin on that.
You are an activist to your core. What things about the world are you currently trying to change?
Wow. There are so many things but… we were involved some in the Troy Davis case.
That was my next question. He was executed last night (Sept. 21) and I wanted to know your thoughts.
I’m bummed because I thought that when the Supreme Court gave him a temporary stay at the last minute that something would change. I am leaning towards the side of he is innocent of this particular murder but I can’t be sure.
But I can be sure of one thing, which is that I’m not sure and I think that reasonable doubt is way too strong in this case to be giving him the death penalty. I’m disappointed in our justice system and how it worked…
There is something in me, in my spirituality and in my spirit that feels that it is wrong for the state to kill… It is not the high road and that’s the road that we should always be taking. I don’t believe it will give the family (of the murder victim) any peace. Maybe it will. I hope it will. But I doubt it will.
We are also involved with Amnesty International. We love them and the NAACP as well. We work on environmental issues with a group that we started called “Honor the Earth.”…
It’s all tied together for us. It’s all about shifting the paradigm of human welfare, public welfare, and environmental welfare.
What’s on your iPod right now? What are you listening to?
The Replacements was the last thing that I was listening to. I just started listening to, the Belle Brigade… Then, there’s another artist that I love, Lindsay Fuller. She is a killer songwriter and I listen to her a bunch. It rotates between old and new.
Who’s been your favorite person to collaborate with and I hope you say “Joan Jett.”
Yes! We sang “Crimson and Clover” with her at Madison Square Garden. That was kind of like a moment in time. That was one of my favorite moments ever. And yes, she sang on one of my solo records. I love, love, love her. She had a very big impact on me.
We collaborated with a band a while back. They’re from Atlanta. They’re called Three5Human. That was also one of my favorite collaborations. Currently, we’re playing with The Shadowboxers a lot. They’re also from Atlanta. I love them.
Where do you hang out in Atlanta?
My favorite place to hear music is The Earl. But to hang out, I like to go to Taqueria del Sol or my favorite Indian restaurant is a place called Panahar. It’s actually Bangladeshi food. I really love Buford Highway. I grew up here so I love it all.
Who is your celebrity crush?
Hmmm. Johnny Depp. I love Johnny Depp. I’ve always loved Johnny Depp and I always will love him. And Angelina Jolie.
Are we talking Johnny Depp as a pirate or Edward Scissorhands or …
Every role he’s played. I love everything he’s done. “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” is my favorite. I just love him.
Top photo: Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (Publicity photo)