Indigo Girls Biography

This US duo comprises Amy Ray (12 April 1964, Decatur, Georgia, USA; vocals/guitar) and Emily Saliers (b. 22 July 1963, New Haven, Connecticut, USA; vocals/guitar), who had met aged 10 and 11 while at school in Decatur, Georgia, USA. Soon they started to perform together, initially as the B Band, then Saliers And Ray. Their first cassette, Tuesday’s Children, mainly consisted of cover versions. They changed their name to Indigo Girls while at Emory University in Atlanta. Their early releases were on their own label, J. Ellis Records, named after an English teacher on whom they shared a crush. These commenced with a single, ‘Crazy Game’, in 1985, followed by an EP the following year, produced by Frank French of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. An album, Strange Fire, produced by John Keane, featured re-recorded versions of their strongest early songs, ‘Crazy Game’ and ‘Land Of Canaan’.

Ray And Saliers signed to the major Epic Records in 1988, and their first release for the label featured guest appearances from, among others, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and the Irish band Hothouse Flowers. Indigo Girls was produced by Scott Litt, and included Saliers’ composition ‘Closer To Fine’, later recorded by the UK’s Wonder Stuff. The duo toured heavily throughout the USA to promote the album, in addition to playing support dates to Neil Young and R.E.M. Indigo Girls achieved gold status in September 1989, and the duo won a Grammy Award as the Best Contemporary Folk Group of 1989. Strange Fire was reissued towards the end of that year, but with an additional track, ‘Get Together’, made famous by the Youngbloods.

In addition to playing an AIDS research benefit in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1989, the duo was also asked by Paul Simon to perform at a fundraising event in 1990 for the Children’s Health Fund, a New York-based project founded by the singer. The same year’s Nomads*Indians*Saints included the excellent Emily Saliers song ‘Hammer And A Nail’, which also featured Mary Chapin Carpenter on backing vocals. Litt was once again recalled as producer, with R.E.M.’s Peter Buck also guesting, but the album lacked something of its predecessors’ impact. Rites Of Passage repaired much of the damage, with a full musical cast including guest vocals by Jackson Browne, the Roches and David Crosby, drums from Budgie (Siouxsie And The Banshees) and production by Queensrÿche veteran Peter Collins. The album included a cover version of Dire Straits’ ‘Romeo And Juliet’.

Touring and vacations preceded work on Swamp Ophelia at the end of 1993. The sessions saw the duo swap acoustic for electric guitars for the first time on ‘Touch Me Fall’, and while touring they took a break to appear in a new recording of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, with Saliers as Mary Magdalene and Ray as Jesus Christ. Their late 90s albums Shaming Of The Sun and Come On Now Social explored a more electric direction but broke no new ground, although the duo’s songwriting remained as dependable as ever. During this period Ray also set up the non-profit label Daemon Records.

Following the release of Amy Ray’s solo album Stag in 2001, the duo returned to their acoustic roots on Become You. The Indigo Girls then set off on a small-venue tour, accentuating the intimate nature of the best of the album’s tracks. The 2004 release All That We Let In upped the pop element in the duo’s sound while retaining their trademark lyrical snap and bite.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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