Indigo Girls are an American folk rock duo, consisting of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. They got their start in Atlanta as a regular act at The Little 5 Points Pub and were tangentially part of the Athens, Georgia college rock scene that included The B-52's, Pylon, R.E.M., the Georgia Satellites, and Love Tractor.
The early years
The two women got to know each other as students at Laurel Ridge Elementary School in DeKalb County, Georgia just outside of Decatur, Georgia. While attending Shamrock High School, they started performing together as the B-Band and Saliers and Ray. Saliers graduated and began attending Tulane University. A year later, Ray graduated and began at Vanderbilt University. Homesick, both returned to Georgia and transferred to Emory University. By 1985, they began performing together again, this time as the Indigo Girls. In an NPR Talk of the Nation interview Mar 20th, 2007 Emily stated "...we needed a name and we went through the dictionary looking for words that struck us and [indigo] was one..." (The name "Indigo Girls" is not related to the term "Indigo Children", as that term was popularized a number of years after the band became famous.)
Their first release in 1985 was a seven-inch single called "Crazy Game"; the b-side was "Everybody's Waiting (for Someone to Come Home)". That same year, the Indigo Girls put out a six-track self-titled EP 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 day; they had first approached him when the EP was released, but he told them their songs were "immature" and they weren't likely to get a record deal. Strange Fire apparently changed his mind.
The success of 10,000 Maniacs, Tracy Chapman, and Suzanne Vega encouraged Epic Records to look for other women singer-songwriters; Epic signed the duo in 1988. Their first major-label release, also titled Indigo Girls, which charted at #22 on the album chart, included a new version of "Land of Canaan", which was also on their 1985 EP and on Strange Fire. Also on the self-titled release was "Closer To Fine", their first hit, which charted at #52 on the pop chart & #26 on the modern rock chart. They even managed one week on the mainstream rock Album-oriented rock chart at #48. In 1990, they won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. They were also nominated for Best New Artist.
The second album, Nomads Indians Saints, went gold in December 1991 and contained the hit song Hammer and a Nail, a #12 modern rock 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. 1992's album Rites of Passage was an enormous success, featuring "Galileo", the duo's first top 10 modern rock track (#10). This was followed by Swamp Ophelia in 1994, going platinum in September 1996, and charting at #9 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
In 1995, the Indigo Girls released a live, double-CD, 1200 Curfews. They performed a duet with their culture-hero, Ferron on the track Stand Up on her CD Phantom Center and Saliers appeared on Ferron's album Still Riot. Shaming of the Sun appeared 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 high profile contribution to the Lilith Fair music festival tour. The track Shame On You received more airplay at adult alternative, top 40 & adult top 40 radio stations than any of their previous singles, although this seemed to be a peak in their crossover success.
2000 saw the release of Retrospective, a compilation album with two new tracks, and in 2002 the Indigo Girls released Become You, a full album of new songs which gained much critical acclaim and became a fan favorite. Their last Epic studio album is 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 fans' input, which fulfilled the album count obligation for their contract with Epic.
After departing Epic, the Indigo Girls signed a five record deal with Hollywood Records, a label under The Walt Disney Company. Their first Hollywood album, Despite Our Differences, produced by Mitchell Froom, was released on September 19th, 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 Jurekof from All Music Guide 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."
Ray and Saliers do not ordinarily collaborate in writing songs. They write separately. 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 of R.E.M.
Furthermore, Saliers and Ray usually write their songs without outside collaborators.
In 1990, Ray founded Daemon Records, which has signed Ellen James Society, Kristen Hall, Rose Polenzani, Girlyman, Nineteen Forty-Five, Athens Boys Choir, and James Hall among others.
Ray has put out three solo albums, entitled Stag, Prom, and Live From Knoxville, 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 her life partner and two of their friends. Saliers also co-founded the Flying Biscuit Cafe in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2005, Emily 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.
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. Amy Ray played the role of Jesus Christ and Emily 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.
Both Ray and Saliers have long identified themselves as lesbians, although Saliers prefers gay because, she says, "lesbian has three syllables!" They have never been a couple. Ray has had long-term relationships with musician Cooper Seay and feminist author Jennifer Baumgardner, and is currently in a relationship with documentary filmmaker Carrie Schrader. Because of their engagements for LGBT rights, they are regarded as icons of the movement.
The Indigo Girls have been active politically and musically. Among others, they have championed the causes of the environment, gay rights, the rights of Native Americans and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. They helped establish Honor the Earth, an organization dedicated to creating support and education for Native environmental issues. Amy and Emily 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 P!nk's album, I'm Not Dead in the song, "Dear Mr. President", which has been regarded as a political statement to George W. Bush about poverty, LGBT rights, and the No Child Left Behind Act.