For a group that has been constantly touring for 25 years, the Indigo Girls are excited to be travelling across Canada — and doing it the way they started out touring: driving in a van from small venue to small venue.
The renowned American folk rock duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers are hitting the stage of the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook on Friday, Sept. 27.
Emily Saliers spoke to the Daily Townsman last week, in advance of the ‘Two North’ tour which kicks off in Vancouver. She spoke about the upcoming Canadian experience, the evolution of music over a 25-plus-year career, and the Indigo Girl’s political activism.
“This is the first comprehensive tour of Canada and we’re very excited,” Saliers said. “Just touring in a van and playing from town to town. It’s like the way we started out in the States, small venues, in a van, stripped down, just the two of us, playing our instruments and singing our songs.”
There is certainly a different vibe between the two countries, and Saliers can appreciate the difference.
“What I like about the musical experience in Canada, first of all, is the way Canada supports its own music,” she said. “Canada is also very, very passionate about music. People are so passionate about their festivals, and just seem to absorb music.
“I’m loving getting to know the different parts of the country, how the west is different that the east and the landscapes and all those things,” she added. “It’s a very rich and new experience, and it’s quite a big deal to have a country so close to our own that we can begin to discover anew.”
Saliers and Ray first met in elementary school in Georgia. After several instances of performing together, they banded together for good as the Indigo Girls in 1985, and released their first full-length album — “Strange Fire” — in 1987. Signed to Epic Records in 1988, their second LP “Indigo Girls” brought mainstream success. Since then, they have released 11 more albums, the latest being “Beauty Queen Sister” in 2011.
Throughout their career, the Indigo Girls have built a reputation as high intensity performers, with powerful two-part harmony and musicianship and thought-provoking songwriting — a great live act to see.
“We love playing live,” Saliers said. “This tour is just going to be me and Amy — that’s the way we started. It’s much more intimate than having a big band or playing a big venue. It’s going to be fun to bring out a bunch of old, middle and new songs along the discography. We totally feed off the energy of people in the room.”
Both Saliers and Ray Do the Indigo Girls haver some new music to showcase?
“I’m hoping, because we haven’t played a lot of these towns, that there’s going to be new music for some of the crowd, even though it’s already been recorded,” Saliers said. “But whatever new music we have we’ll likely play.”
She said that there has been an evolution in the Indigo Girls’ songwriting processes. “The one thing that has stayed the same is the reason why we write music. It comes from a very personal place, and also a lot of reflection on what’s going on in the world around us.
“So as much as the music, the lyrics, are important to us, and part of who we are and what we do, I think as time went on we tried to pick up new instruments to texturally make it more interesting for ourselves as well as for people who are listening to the music. When you pick up a new instrument it leads you to a new song. The songs that were written on those instruments would not have been written on guitar.
“I also think that when we first started, when we first got signed, we were holding very closely to what we did. We didn’t feel as free and secure to experiment, because we wanted to make sure that a major label wasn’t take us far away from what we really were. So over the years we’ve relaxed, and now we’re much more open to experimenting, trying different players, different sounds. But some of the records are as organic or more organic and simplifed than even our earliest ones, and some of them are more produced. It just depends on how we want to treat the songs at the time we go into the studio.”
Of course, the Indigo Girls’ progressive activism is part and parcel of their brand. Saliers said that both she and Ray were raised to realize that they were part of a community, and not just living for themselves. From the earliest stages of their career, they were playing in support of local community groups, to raise both funds and awareness.
“And as years went on and we met tremendous activists, we became mentored by them, we learned how to become effective activists because we believed in the grassroots approach,” Saliers said.
“I’d like to see people be citizens and active, just because that’s how we make the world a better place, to put it simply. But I don’t think it’s everyone’s — or the artist’s — responsibility.
“But we’ve seen the way that music can galvanize whole social movements, how music can ease people’s troubled spirits, quite literally save lives. I know the way music feels to me when I need it to energize me or just make me aware. Amy and I, we believe in the power of that, and we believe in a lot of different causes, and we just marry the music with the causes, and that’s just part of the fabric of who we are.
“We can’t separate ourselves from the things we believe in, and expressing them through the music or through the concerts.
The Indigo Girls play the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. Jeremy Fisher is the opening act. Showtime 7 p.m.