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Group Members: Amy Ray
All Music Guide:
While they came into prominence as part of the late-'80s folky singer/songwriter revival, the Indigo Girls had staying power where other artists from the same era quickly faded. Their two-women-with-guitars formula may not have seemed very revolutionary on paper, but the combination of two distinct personalities and songwriting styles provided tension and an interesting balance. Emily Saliers, hailing from the more traditional Joni Mitchell school, boasted a gentler sound, was more complex musically, and leaned toward the abstract and spiritual. Meanwhile, Amy Ray drew heavily from the singer/songwriter aspects of punk rock, citing influences such as the Jam, the Pretenders, and Hüsker Dü for her more abrasive and direct approach. Throughout two decades of music, they managed to garner respectable mainstream success and maintain their rabid core following.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers first took the name Indigo Girls while living in Atlanta in 1985, although they had been performing together since the early '80s, at times under the name "the B-Band." In 1986, they recorded an independent self-titled EP and followed in 1987 with the full-length Strange Fire -- only 7,000 copies were pressed, however, and very little interest was generated. Things changed quickly in 1988 when, in the wake of the success of Suzanne Vega, Tracy Chapman, and 10,000 Maniacs, the duo seemed to fit nicely into "the next big thing." Appropriately, Epic Records was quick to sign them.
Indigo Girls, released in 1989, was an excellent national debut. A guest vocal by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe ("Kid Fears") gave them initial college radio credibility, and the single "Closer to Fine" was a hit -- buoyed by those strengths, the album eventually broke the Top 30 and earned a Grammy for Best Folk Recording that year. By the end of 1991, it achieved platinum sales. Strange Fire was reissued in the fall, with a cover of "Get Together" replacing one of the original tracks. The follow-up, 1990's Nomads Indians Saints, didn't fare quite as well. Although it was nominated for a Grammy and eventually reached gold status, the material wasn't nearly as strong. A live EP, Back on the Bus, Y'All, was released in 1991 while the women regrouped; it, too, was certified gold and garnered a Grammy nomination.
In spring of 1992, the Indigo Girls made a comeback with Rites of Passage, which debuted at number 22 and went platinum by the year's end. The album showed an increasing diversity and some of their strongest songs to date. Almost exactly two years later, Swamp Ophelia was released and entered the charts at number nine; it went gold by the end of the year. A double live album, 1200 Curfews, was released in 1995 and the much awaited follow-up to Swamp Ophelia, Shaming of the Sun, followed in 1997. The duo's next effort, Come on Now Social, appeared two years later.
Released in 2002, Become You was stripped down in comparison to the orchestration of the Girls' more recent work, and 2004's All That We Let In was generally regarded as their strongest album in years. A rarities set appeared the following year, marking Saliers and Ray's 20-year anniversary as Indigo Girls, as well as their last release on the Epic roster. Shortly thereafter, Saliers and Ray signed a five-album deal with Hollywood Records, although the songwriters only released one record -- the Mitchell Froom-produced Despite Our Differences, issued in 2006 -- before Hollywood dropped them from its roster. The Indigo Girls took to their website to assure fans that the band would move onward, and 2009's Poseidon and the Bitter Bug marked their first independent release in over 20 years. Released in 2010, the double-disc Staring Down the Brilliant Dream featured live performances from shows between 2006 and 2009, and the duo wrapped up the year by releasing a holiday-themed bluegrass album, Holly Happy Days. Issued in 2011, Beauty Queen Sister, the Indigo Girls 14th studio album and the fourth to be released on their own IG Recordings imprint for Vanguard Records, reunited them with producer Peter Collins, who helmed the duos earlier albums Rites of Passage and Swamp Ophelia.
The Indigo Girls are an American folk rock music duo consisting of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. They met in elementary school and began performing together as high school students in Decatur, Georgia, part of the Atlanta metropolitan area. They started performing with the name Indigo Girls as students at Emory University, performing weekly at The Dugout, a bar in the Emory Village.
They released a self-produced, full-length record album in 1987 and contracted with a major record company in 1988. After releasing nine albums with major record labels from 1987 through 2007, they have now resumed self-producing albums with their own IG Recordings company.
Outside of working on Indigo Girls-related projects, Ray has released solo albums and founded a non profit organization that promotes independent musicians, while Saliers is an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry as well as a professional author; she also collaborates with her father, Dr. Don Saliers, in performing for special groups/causes. Both Saliers and Ray self-identify as lesbian and are active in political and environmental causes.
Recording and touring 
Early years 
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers first met and got to know each other as students at Laurel Ridge Elementary School in DeKalb County, Georgia, just outside of Decatur, Georgia, but were not friends because Saliers was a grade older than Ray. While attending Shamrock High School (now Druid Hills Middle School), they became better acquainted, and started performing together, first as "The B-Band" and then as "Saliers and Ray".
Saliers graduated and began attending Tulane University. A year later, Ray graduated and began attending Vanderbilt University. Homesick, both returned to Georgia and transferred to Emory University.
By 1985 they had begun performing together again, this time as the Indigo Girls. In a March 2007 National Public Radio Talk of the Nation interview, Saliers stated "we needed a name and we went through the dictionary looking for words that struck us and indigo was one."
Their first release in 1985 was a seven-inch single named "Crazy Game", with the B-side "Everybody's Waiting (for Someone to Come Home)". That same year, the Indigo Girls released a six-track Extended play album named "Indigo Girls", and in 1987 released their first full-length album, Strange Fire, recorded at John Keane Studio in Athens, Georgia, and including "Crazy Game". With this release, they secured the services of Russell Carter, who remains their manager to the present; they had first approached him when the EP album was released, but he told them their songs were "immature" and they were not likely to get a record deal. Strange Fire apparently changed his opinion.
Epic Records (1988–2005) 
The success of 10,000 Maniacs, Tracy Chapman, and Suzanne Vega encouraged Epic Records company to enlist other folk-based female singer-songwriters; Epic signed the duo in 1988. Their first major-label release, also named Indigo Girls, which scored #22 on the album chart, included a new version of "Land of Canaan", which was also on their 1985 EP album and on Strange Fire. Also on the self-titled release was their first hit "Closer To Fine" (an unlikely collaboration with Irish band Hothouse Flowers), which scored #52 on the popular music chart and #26 on the modern rock chart. They even managed one week on the mainstream rock album-oriented rock music chart at #48. In 1990, they won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. They were also nominated for Best New Artist (but lost to Milli Vanilli who eventually had that award revoked).
Their second album, Nomads Indians Saints, went gold in December 1991 and included the hit song "Hammer and a Nail", a #12 modern rock music track; it was not as successful as their first, which was certified platinum at about the same time. The Indigo Girls followed it with the live Back on the Bus, Y'all and 1992's album Rites of Passage, featuring the song "Galileo", the duo's first top 10 modern rock music track (#10). This was followed by Swamp Ophelia in 1994, which went platinum in September 1996, and charted at #9 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
In 1995, the Indigo Girls released a live, double CD, 1200 Curfews. Shaming of the Sun was released in 1997 followed by Come on Now Social in 1999. Shaming of the Sun debuted at number seven on the Billboard charts, driven by the duo's contribution to the Lilith Fair music festival tour. The track "Shame on You" received more airplay on adult alternative, top 40 and adult top 40 radio stations than any of their previous singles, although this seemed to be a peak in their crossover success.
Retrospective, a compilation album with two new tracks, was released in 2000 and Become You followed two years later. Their last Epic studio album was All That We Let In, released in 2004 with an accompanying tour. On June 14, 2005, they released Rarities, a collection of B-sides and rare tracks partially decided by fan's input, which fulfilled the album count obligation for their contract with Epic.
Hollywood Records (2006–07) 
After departing Epic, the Indigo Girls signed a five-record deal with Hollywood Records. Their first (and only) Hollywood album, Despite Our Differences, produced by Mitchell Froom, was released on September 19, 2006. John Metzger from MusicBox Online described Despite our Differences as "the most infectious, pop-infused set that the duo ever has managed to concoct. In fact, its melodies, harmonies, and arrangements are so ingratiating that the album carries the weight of an instant classic." Thom Jurek from Allmusic wrote: "part of an emotional journey as complete as can be. More relevant than anyone dared expect. It's accessible and moving and true. It's their own brand of rock & roll, hewn from over the years, that bears a signature that is now indelible. A moving, and utterly poetic offering."
The Indigo Girls contract was terminated by Hollywood Records during their 2007 tour to support the album.
Independent work (2007–present) 
Following their break with Hollywood Records, the Indigo Girls announced their next record would be released independently. Poseidon and the Bitter Bug was released on March 24, 2009, from IG Recordings, the Indigo Girls' label, and distributed through Vanguard Records. This album is their first fully independent release since 1987's Strange Fire, and their first two-CD set since 1995's live album 1200 Curfews; the first disc has the 10 tracks accompanied by a backing band, and the second includes the same 10 songs with only Ray and Saliers on vocals and acoustic guitars, and an additional track. On June 29, 2010 Indigo Girl's 2nd full length live album 'Staring Down the Brilliant Dream' was released on IG Recordings/Vanguard Records. This was followed up on October 12, 2010 with their first holiday album 'Holly Happy Days'. Indigo Girls' thirteenth studio album 'Beauty Queen Sister' was released on October 4, 2011 (IG Recordings/Vanguard Records).
Ray and Saliers do not ordinarily collaborate in writing songs. They write separately and work out the arrangements together. There are a few exceptions, mostly unreleased songs from their early, pre-Epic days: "I Don't Know Your Name" and "If You Live Like That." "Blood Quantum," which appears on Honor: A Benefit for the Honor the Earth Campaign featured Ray's verses and chorus and Saliers's bridge. Finally, "I'll Give You My Skin," which appears both on Tame Yourself (Benefit People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and on the Indigo Girls release Rarities, is a collaborative work by Ray, Saliers, and Michael Stipe which is doubly rare, as Saliers and Ray usually write their songs without outside collaborators.
Touring band 
The Indigo Girls have toured as a duo and with a band. In 1990, they toured with the Atlanta band, the Ellen James Society, backing them; they have also toured with side players, with one distinct group from 1991 to 1998 and a second from 1999 onwards:First touring bandGail Ann Dorsey – bass guitar (1994)Sara Lee – bass guitar (1991–98)Jerry Marotta – drums, percussion (1992–98)Scarlet Rivera – fiddle (1992)Jane Scarpantoni – cello (1992)Second touring bandBrady Blade – drums (2002–04)Matt Chamberlain – drums (2006–present)Blair Cunningham – drums (2000)Caroline Dale – cello (1999)Carol Isaacs – keyboards, accordion (1999–2007 and one show in Brighton)Clare Kenny – bass guitar (1999–2007)Caroline Lavelle – cello (2000)John Reynolds – drums (1999)Julie Wolf – keyboards, accordion (2008–present)Jaron Pearlman – drums (2012–present)Benjamin Ryan Williams – bass (2012–present)
Solo projects 
In 1990, Ray founded Daemon Records, which has signed Magnapop, Ellen James Society, New Mongrels, Kristen Hall, Rose Polenzani, Girlyman, Athens Boys Choir, and James Hall among others.
Ray has put out six solo albums, entitled Stag, Prom, Live from Knoxville, Didn't It Feel Kinder, Amy Ray: Live MVP and Lung of Love through Daemon. She has toured with both The Butchies and her band The Volunteers.
Saliers is also planning a solo album, and is co-owner of Watershed Restaurant in Decatur, Georgia, along with two of her friends. Saliers was an initial investor in the Flying Biscuit Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2005, Saliers and her father, Don Saliers, a theology professor at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, released the book A Song to Sing, a Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice. They promoted the release of the book together including several days of speaking and performing together at the Washington National Cathedral College in Washington D.C.
Appearances in other media 
Ray and Saliers appeared in the latter half of the feature film Boys on the Side, playing short excerpts from their songs "Joking" and "Southland in the Springtime," as well as singing "Feliz Cumpleaños" ("Happy Birthday" in Spanish) with the gathered group of friends during the birthday cake scene, and standing on the far side of several shots over the next few scenes. Neither had any spoken lines. The duo also appear in the 2006 documentary Wordplay, where they discuss their reaction to appearing in a New York Times crossword puzzle and then begin to solve one together.
Ray and Saliers performed onstage in the 1994 revival of Jesus Christ Superstar in Atlanta, titled Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection. Ray played the role of Jesus and Saliers played the role of Mary Magdalene. They later reprised their roles in stagings of the musical in Austin, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, and in Seattle.
They made several cameo appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres sitcom "Ellen". In the episode "Womyn Fest" Ellen and her friends are attending a feminist music festival and catch the end of a performance by the Indigo Girls.
They are mentioned multiple times in the 1995 Stephen King novel Rose Madder as well as being mentioned in sit-coms "Will and Grace" and "30 Rock".
Personal lives 
Both Ray and Saliers have long identified themselves as lesbians. They have never been a couple. Because of their engagements for LGBT rights they are regarded as icons of the movement.
Political activism 
The Indigo Girls have been active politically and musically. They have championed the causes and held benefit concerts for the environment, gay rights, the rights of Native Americans, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. For many years they incorporated a recycling and public outreach program into their road tours by including Greenpeace representative Stephanie Fairbanks in their road crew. They helped Winona LaDuke establish Honor the Earth, an organization dedicated to creating support and education for native environmental issues. After performing on the activist-oriented Spitfire Tour in 1999, Ray and Sailers joined forces with The Spitfire Agency to develop the Honor The Earth Tour, which visits colleges and Native communities, and raises money for their non profit of the same name. Ray and Saliers have also appeared at the annual SOA Watch rallies, the March for Women's Lives, and several other rallies and protests.
In 2006 the Indigo Girls were featured in artist Pink's album I'm Not Dead in the song "Dear Mr President", which Pink says is a political confrontation with George W. Bush about war, poverty, LGBT rights, abortion rights, and the No Child Left Behind Act. Returning the favor, Pink performed on the Indigo Girls' "Rock and Roll Heaven's Gate," which is about, among other things, sexism and heterosexism in the music industry.
In June 2007 the Indigo Girls were part of the multi-artist True Colors Tour 2007, on the tour's Las Vegas stop which benefited the Human Rights Campaign and other organizations that provide support to the LGBT community. The Indigo Girls performed again on the True Colors Tour 2008.
In April 2013, in response to criticism from transgender activitists, the Indigo Girls issued a statement that they would play at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, but would protest the festival's "womyn-born womyn" policy from the stage.