An interview with Amy Ray

AE: The Indigo Girls have a long history of collaborating with a variety of artists and there’s a range of guest vocalists on this live record — Michelle Malone, Brandi Carlile, Jill Hennessey. Who are some other artists you would like to work with?
[One] artist is Anthony and the Johnsons. He’s quite amazing. I think he has two or three records out now. I would love to work with him. He’s got kind of this crazy high voice and he does really cool things with it. I would love to have someone like Andre from Outkast do a couple of remixes [of our songs].

AE: That would be incredible.
Yeah, something where someone takes what you do and mixes it into something new.

AE: The Indigo Girls have covered some classic songs throughout the years, from “Romeo and Juliet” to this record’s renditions of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and the Rolling Stone’s “Wild Horses." What are some songs you’d like to cover in the future?
God, we haven’t really talked about that. I’d have to think about that. We usually take turns on these sorts of things and work with whomever we’re collaborating with or whose opening for us and we’ll do a song together. There are so many great songs. We did a cover of “Midnight Train to Georgia” and I really liked doing that. We haven’t done as much soul type stuff because it’s such a special category. I wouldn’t mind trying to tackle some R&B or soul songs in a way that’s respectful. Emily has a voice that really lends itself to that.

AE: Maybe you should cover an Outkast song.
[Laughs] I wish. There are so many great ones.

AE: You’ll be performing at the Lilith Fair again this year. Soundcheck’s John Schaefer recently posted a piece on his website where he credits the original Lilith Fair for helping contemporary women artists like Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and M.I.A “write their own story in the music biz.” How would you describe the state of contemporary women’s music?
That’s a good question. It’s so hard to tell because the industry is so broken in so many ways. If anything, the people who are doing the best right now are the people who are very independent and are inventing their own way — on an industry level or someone who’s creative like Lady Gaga and has a vision. It’s hard to get through the muck with what’s going on economically. I think we’ve come a certain distance in a good way. Lilith really did help. Rock camp for girls helped. So many little things add up to give women more attention, more tools and access, so they are taken more seriously.

I think most of the gatekeepers are still stuck in their way and not letting the revolution happen — like DIY and women and gender barriers and race barriers coming down. Things are still pretty imaged. I’m waiting for that to start breaking apart because that’s when I think women will really start to be taken seriously.

Lady Gaga is amazing. I’m a big fan of hers. But then there are also women who are just playing punk rock, straight ahead punk rock. There are certain kinds of music, like country music or Top 40, where there are a lot of women who are doing really well. But it’s sort of on different terms, very image-oriented terms.

AE: In an interview with Schafer, Sarah McLachlan was asked whether we need another Lilith Fair and she answered, “Lilith Fair isn’t a need now, it’s a want.”
Yeah, she’s [McLachlan] good. That was a good answer. I think it’s still a need, though. I mean, look at the festivals that we have and how many women artists are on those rosters and it’s not that many. It’s still a need if you look at that. But I think Sarah’s saying that because she feels that Lilith did make a lot of headway and the industry is making headway and she doesn’t want to be in the position of being a victim. It’s a stronger stance to say it’s a want but I don’t really agree with that. There’s a certain aspect that can be politicized, and that’s OK, but that’s hard to do with a big corporate festival.

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