Formed in Atlanta, Ga., in the mid 1980s, folk-rock duo the Indigo Girls have had impressive staying power.
With more than a dozen studio releases to their credit, the Indigo Girls are socially conscious songwriters Emily Saliers and Amy Ray.
And after almost three decades of music making, the Indigo Girls are heading into new territory.
Realizing that they had not yet undertaken an extensive tour of the Great White North, they launched their Two North tour which began in late September in British Columbia. Their tour wraps up in Moncton on Tuesday evening, almost a month to the day after it started.
“We have always wanted to tour Canada,” Emily says. “Logistically, it is just a little more difficult than touring the United States, where we have toured extensively and successfully for a long time. You get sidetracked when you have something working for you. But that being said, it was time for us to broaden our experiences and our horizons. Amy and I became very set on seeing your beautiful country from coast to coast.”
In addition to the Canadian reference in the tour name, the Indigo Girls’ cross-Canada junket is also unique with respect to the performances being presented. The duo has gone back to basics for their Canadian dates, performing as a duo in a relaxed, acoustic environment.
Emily says that by stripping down the number of people and instruments on stage, it allows the two of them to inject spontaneity into their shows.
“This tour really is us getting back to basics,” she says. “This is how we started making music together — just the two of us and our instruments. The shows have been quite spontaneous so far.
“While it is understood that certain staples will be a part of our set list, we come up with a fresh set list every night at dinner but also do our best to honour the song requests that come our way. We have been getting requests for some old material that we aren’t quite brushed up on,” Emily laughs. “But if someone shouts out a song that we are confident we can pull off, we throw it into the show.”
If there was ever a study in how opposites can attract, the success of the Indigo Girls is a terrific example. As the story goes, Emily and Amy met and began performing together while still in high school. Their mutual love of music and desire to share their music encouraged the duo to obtain fake IDs in order to play licensed establishments before they were of legal age.
But while they may have had the same end goal in common, Emily says that their backgrounds couldn’t have been more different:
“Amy is definitely more of a rocker than I am. She has a punk rock heart and sensibility about her but can write an absolutely beautiful ballad. Stylistically, I am more in the Joni Mitchell vein. My songs are more narratives than anything else,” she says.
Asked if she feels the musical differences has helped fuel the creativity between them, Emily says that she is confident that it has played a part.
“There are no doubts in my mind that the differences are what have made the band,” she says. “Each of us writes songs separately from the other. We have never been able to write together. It is almost as though we repel each other if we sit down to write a song together.
“That being said, song arrangements are something that we have always collaborated on. There is a deep respect for our respective styles running between us. We share many of the same values and play music for the same reasons.”
Over the course of their career, Emily and Amy have individually pursued interests ranging from social activism to writing a book outside of the Indigo Girls. Emily says that these interests have served to fuel a different fire in each of them but ones that ends up serving the Indigo Girls as well.
“It is always good to have a fresh perspective to bring back to the Indigo Girls. You learn so much from those outside creative endeavours. They are nothing that either of us feels threatens what we do as the Indigo Girls.”
With the duo’s 30th anniversary just around the corner (2015), Emily says that she highly doubts they will do much in the way of celebrating. It is not that they are not grateful for their success or fan base, she says it is simply a matter of wanting to continue moving forward.
“We don’t have any big plans for our 30th anniversary at all,” she says. “On one hand, it would be nice to throw a party but it is far more important for us to stay relevant and be inspired to continue writing music. Amy and I are interested in finding ways to break new ground, like with this Canadian tour we are undertaking, rather than stopping to celebrate our past achievements. Moving forward is the ultimate kind of reward for us.”
Article published in the October 19, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript
What: Indigo Girls
with special guest Jeremy Fisher
When: Tuesday, Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets: $42.50 (plus service fee). Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone at 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca