by Jess Dooley
Modern folk pioneers, The Indigo Girls have established their brand of charming melodies and universal sentiments for the past three decades. Forming in their hometown of Atlanta, GA in the late ‘80s, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers first caught mainstream attention and subsequent success in the early ‘90s with their platinum-selling and Grammy winning self-titled album.
From there, the duo would use their influence to advocate for multiple environmental and social rights (both for the LGBTQ and Native American communities), and the disestablishment of the death penalty. Their efforts earned them a lasting reputation as activists.
Naturally, it is this aspect of their career that evokes the most passionate response from Ray. When asked for her take on the overwhelming amount of celebrities championing causes, Ray asserts, “Whether or not an issue becomes a fad, if it’s an important issue and the facts are there and the community behind it and basically a lot of grassroots support, I think it’ll win out over the trendy aspect.”
But The Indigo Girls are, first and foremost, touring musicians. Currently, they can be found opening for Joan Baez—fellow folk chanteuse and activist—before embarking on a summer headlining tour. Ray admitted to their interest in supporting Baez and coming back to Philadelphia stating that, “The last time we played the Mann was eons ago. I love the Mann Center specifically, I don’t know why. So when I saw we were getting to play there because we’re opening for Joan Biaz, I thought, this is great!”
For several eons to have passed since they played a venue, several more could account for the strength and duality the two singers possess when playing together. Fans can associate the softer, airier vocal aesthetics with Saliers while Ray provides gruffer vocals and an edgier, rock-tinged guitar style.
“There were definitely times where Emily’s voice was a stronger than mine and I stronger than hers,” Ray remarks wistfully. “We’re very different from each other, so there’s definitely a duality. But I think we see that as a strength, we don’t try to push our music in a direction. We write separately and when we go into the studio, we just bring everything together. Ultimately, it’s always better than what it started out as and if not, we recognize that and change the course.”
It is indisputable that this outlook has served them well with longevity and will continue to prevail. But for live examples of The Indigo Girls’ prowess, head to the Mann Center on June 20th.