If you haven’t yet experienced the “Power Of Two”, then June might be your chance. The wildly popular folk duo of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, better known as the Indigo Girls, embark on a six month nationwide tour that kicks off this month.
“It’s kind of a crazy schedule right now,” says Saliers. “Amy has been in the studio recording a solo record, I was in Canada for three months, so what we’ll do is write each other emails discussing what songs we want to do, then we start practicing, and then head out and play the shows.”
Their summer tour schedule is jam-packed with dates-36 performances between May and October. But Saliers says the tour is set up to allow the duo some time to regroup and take a breather every so often.
“We go three weeks at a time, so there are little holes in the schedule, but it turned out this summer got pretty busy,” she says. “It’s a combination of shows we’re doing with a symphony, full band shows, a tour with Joan Baez. It’s a lot and we’ll certainly be tired by the end of it, but it’s all we’ve ever known. We don’t go out for months and months at a time, we take breaks, come home, reenergize, and we’ve gotten used to living life that way when it’s time to tour.”
On this tour, the girls have two stops in Florida-one in at Pensacola Unleashed, and the other on Saturday, June 1 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. And with Florida being a state the duo doesn’t often get to play, Saliers says they are both looking forward to the dates in the Sunshine State.
“We don’t get to play in Florida all that often, so when we do we’re really excited about it” Saliers says. “It’s a very interesting state, and the fans are really full of energy and life, and we always look forward to playing in Florida. It’s really kind of like a separate country unto itself.Â It’s a hard thing to articulate, but over the years you just get a vibe about places, and we know that playing Florida is going to be different than, say, the Portland, Ore. area.
“We used to play a bar in Pensacola years ago, so it’s cool to come back now playing different venues. You collect your memories, get a vibe for the place, reflect on how often you get to play the area, and all those elements add up to make it a place that you look forward to returning to.”
And with June being Pride Month, Saliers says The Indigo Girls try to take part in as much as they can to participate in the celebrations.
“We try to play as many Pride festivals as we can because we want to be part of the community and celebrate,” she says. “We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”
The Indigo Girls are also known for their political activism, especially in regards to gay rights and the LGBT community. For most musicians, their fans are connected to them through the artist’s albums and live shows. For Saliers and Ray, however, their activism within their fans’ communities adds a whole new level of connection between artist and fan.
“I think it does deepen our relationship with the fans who are interested in those issues, and for me and Amy it makes it more than just playing shows,” she says. “Early on we realized that we wanted to be active in our communities with issues that concerned us and it became a very natural thing to marry the music with that. It deepens the level of the whole experience for us.”
Saliers also understands the impact their music and message can have on people who are experiencing turbulence in their own lives, and find strength in music.
“People have different journeys about when they come out, some people have suffered alienation from their families or church and had a really rough go of it,” says Saliers. “It feels good to be part of a support system through music. As two queer women, if we’re a beacon of hope and strength for anyone struggling and it can lift their spirits when they’re having a hard time on their journey, it’s extremely gratifying.
“And growing up, I knew that even if it wasn’t a queer artist up there, just to see a woman onstage felt very bolstering for me as a young woman artist. So I think it’s very important for people to have an artist that they can relate to in one way or another. It’s an awesome experience if someone shares that we’ve helped them in any way, because I know other artists helped me.”
And who, you may ask, inspired Saliers?
“Joni Mitchell was, like, the one,” she says with a laugh. “I couldn’t get enough of her music growing up. She really set the bar for songwriting for me. It was her combination of really crafty musicianship, then her lyrics were incredible. I think the word ‘poetry’ is overused, but they could stand alone.
“It was her imagery and the things they invoked.”
Now, after 28 years in the music industry and a new album of original music slated for 2014, Saliers says she is still inspired and motivated to continue creating and playing music, and feels fortunate that she and Ray have had such a successful career.
“Life is inspiring, the best and the worst of it,” she says. “We always want to be viable, we don’t want to keep regurgitating the same old material. It’s a great privilege to play music for a living, and I’m blown away that Amy and I have sustained a career this long. We still have a deep friendship, we still get along, we like working with each other. It’s a miracle. It’s tough to keep that kind of thing together in this world. So while I don’t like leaving my home and my family, when I get on that stage and I’m there with Amy and the audience is incredibly enthusiastic, it’s just a beautiful experience. I just don’t take it for granted. There’s plenty of love left for what I’m doing.”