One half of the Indigo Girls, spoke with us from her home in Atlanta before the duo's stop in Bloomington later this week. Emily Saliers is currently pulling together her first solo album, derived from a mix of electronic beats and organic instruments. We spoke with her about the album, safe spaces and role models in the queer community.
NUVO: You know I have to ask. How’s the solo project coming?
Saliers: It’s going great. There are nine songs. The writing is almost done. Lyris Hungis producing it. And we are setting a goal of getting in the studio in August and making it in New York, putting together musicians. I’m probably going to have to do a crowd funding thing to afford it, honestly.
Saliers: Yeah, probably so. It was kind of a weird decision to make but I really want to make the record I want to make and it’s not cheap to do that so Ill do a crowd funding thing … As I understand it people don't mind getting involved in those projects. I am trying to look at it as patrons of the arts … (The higher costs are anticipated due to the studio she wants to use in New York and the musicians she wants on the album. She also hopes to take a full band out on tour. Not cheap by any means.)
NUVO: You have been roles models and iconic figures in the LGBT community and have mentored young musicians. What kind of mark do you want to leave, as musicians and with the influence that you guys have?
Saliers: I never think about leaving a mark honestly. It’ still so — I use the word alive — nothing comes from nothing, like music comes from what’s come before it and what happens after will come from now, drawn from the past. It’s just something that — it’s not repetitive, but it draws from past influences then it grows from the collective conscious and all that deep stuff that I believe in … It’s just a matter of helping out and being inspired by each other, and not putting any barriers because of any sort of success, or age or genre. Its just if the music is good let’s all help each other get out and get it out there. I don't think about a mark, but I do think about “pass it on.”
NUVO: Tell me about the experience with Michigan Womyn's Fest. [The festival controversially and publically banned trans women from attending and performing. Indigo Girls and many other performers pulled out of the event in protest, and festival organizers ended the fest in 2015 after almost 40 years.] How do you tackle the divide in the feminist landscape over trans issues when you are playing these spaces that are meant to be set aside as safe?
Saliers: Well it was very complex and very sad actually, particularly for Amy [Ray, the other half of the Indigo Girls] who had been part of the festival for over a decade. We have incredible respect for Lisa Vogel, who ran the festival. There are people who believe that the experience of being born a woman is absolutely unique and needs it own space. I think it’s fine for women to create that. I just think for us we couldn't play when it wasn't all inclusive, no matter what you called it — a policy or intention or whatever. it just came down to us not being able to be at peace in our souls being apart of something that wasn't all-inclusive. It was a difficult decision, it was painful, it was complicated, but in the end we believe in inclusivity. Those are the places we want to play. As much as Michigan has given to us and to so many others for so long.
NUVO: You played at the Indiana State Fair not that long ago — a place with everyone from all walks of life and the political spectrum. How do you tackle playing in spaces like that?
Saliers: These are great questions. You know, I just believe that in a a very simple way we are more alike than we are different. If you hear a song that is of a more political bent and you are not of that political bent it’s going to turn you off. But for the most part music can really bring people together. When we are in an environment like that we play songs with full joy and full passion. It just brings people together. I think that we are sensitive to the fact that people are different, but right now in this country with the political separations that are so frightening to me, I think that music is one of the few forces that can bring people together. So when we play with a mixed crowd like that, we do just do our thing. And I have never had an experience where I didn't feel like there was something about just the core, the joy of the music bringing people together rather than separating them in their ideologies.