Amy Ray Goes to the Prom

AE: Every one of these songs – “Blender” and “Driver Education” to name a coupl– rocks as energetically as say, the new Green Day, yet because of Clear Channel stranglehold on the airwaves, they may never be heard by the mass audience they deserve.
AR: (laughs) They probably won’t.

AE: As an artist who operates and records her own independent record label, how do you get beyond that?
AR: We just say we’re going to do college radio. We’re going to try to get it on a couple of rock stations. It probably won’t because I’m gay and I’m female and I’m forty, which is a big three strikes against me for rock and roll stations. Radio play is icing on the cake for me when I finish a record. The great part of it is feeling really proud of the experience of playing with Kate and Jody and Donna and Nineteen Forty Five, people that I really admire and I’m even nervous to play with at first. Just having gone through that process is a big deal to me. And then I get to go out and play the songs live; that’s the fun part, playing in clubs and having a band. The radio and the fact that it will never be a big record like Green Day, that’s life and that’s my choice.

I choose to go down a certain path. I choose not to try to appear straight, when I’m gay, and to make a certain kind of music that is not as acceptable from women. I just hope that in the spirit of The Distillers or some of these great female-fronted bands, that radio would recognize some of it. It’s not just–there are a lot of women making great rock and punk music. Somebody’s got to break some ground and you hope you can help do it.

AE: I recently interviewed Lea DeLaria about her new jazz vocals CD and we talked about how Starbucks, of all places, has become a venue for people of a certain age to discover music that they wouldn’t otherwise hear on the radio or MTV. Do you think there is a place for Prom on the counter at Starbucks?
AR: Probably not (laughs). I don’t want to dis Starbucks too much, I have so many friends who work there and they have great benefits and stuff. And every time I say something about how we should go to our local coffee shop instead of Starbucks, they’re all like (angrily) “Amy!” (laughs) I agree that it is a place where you are going to hear stuff that you’re not going to hear on the radio, and that’s a good thing. But at the same time, it’s this whole world of lifestyle marketing.

Starbucks markets this certain kind of music that creates this interesting atmosphere and community within their shops, but it’s all in the name of profit. It feels funny to me. Indigo Girls were asked to do a couple of things and I said no. There was one thing that we were included on–I think it was love songs picked by Sarah McLachlan–and that was cool. It was one of Emily’s songs, so she had the say-so on that. I still haven’t figured out that piece yet. I think that that company (Starbucks) is the lesser of evils as far as companies go, in a big way. But it’s still wiping out interesting little community coffee houses in certain areas. I don’t necessarily believe that if you’re really good you’ll survive that. It’s hard to survive in hard economic times.

AE: And finally, because of the album’s title, did you, in fact, attend your high school prom?
AR: Oh, yeah. I was very involved in high school (laughs). That’s what’s so weird. I was a real black sheep, but I was president of my class and I went to the prom, whether I had a date or not. I had a boyfriend for a few proms, and then, my senior year I had a girlfriend, but I didn’t take my girlfriend to the prom. It wasn’t that far along yet. I think we went “alone” and met up there. Yeah, I went, I was involved. I went to the football and basketball and baseball games. I played sports and was really active. It was still that high school time, where everything’s hard (laughs).

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