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Friday, July 19, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Q&A: Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers talks ‘Closer to Fine,’ upcoming album, advocacy

Indigo Girls, who are headlining the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Tuesday, will release a new album in early 2020. (Jeremy Cowart)
Indigo Girls, who are headlining the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Tuesday, will release a new album in early 2020. (Jeremy Cowart)

In 2016, Indigo Girls – Emily Saliers and Amy Ray – shared the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox stage with the Spokane Symphony.

During the duo’s return performance on Tuesday, Saliers and Ray will have the stage to themselves, and they’re bringing new music with them.

Before the show, Saliers shared memories of the band’s self-titled album, news about Indigo Girls’ upcoming album and combining music and activism.

Q. “Indigo Girls” was released 30 years ago. What do you remember about the writing and recording sessions?

A. It was exciting that we got signed to a major label. It was completely unexpected. “Closer to Fine” was on that first record for Epic. I actually wrote that song sitting on a porch in Vermont … When we went to the studio, we chose to work with Scott Litt because he had produced R.E.M. R.E.M. sang on the album, which was incredible, and (Irish band) Hothouse Flowers, but we were a bar band essentially and played acoustic guitars and so we wanted to be that on that album.

Q. You released your first solo album “Murmuration Nation” in 2017. Why was that the right time to release a solo album?

A. I’m kind of a slow mover. I’ve been talking about it for years and years … Something that Amy and I don’t do a lot together that I really love is R&B or beat- or rhythmic-focused, stuff like that. It’s always been my first love of music so I knew I wanted to create an album that was centered on that so (Indigo Girls violinist) Lyris Hung, when she agreed to produce it, I found the right person to bring it all together. It was timing, the right person. Because up to that point, really what we did together as Indigo Girls, it was all I wanted to do as far as making albums, then I got an itch to go off in that direction.

Q. Might audiences hear a song from “Murmuration Nation” or Amy’s solo albums?

A. Yeah, she plays one of her solo songs and I play one of mine. We’re also going to be playing a couple new songs from a new Indigo Girls record coming out the beginning of 2020 … The guy who produced it (John Reynolds) produced “Come On Now Social” 20 years ago … It’s like family.

Q. How does time spent on solo material influence the music you and Amy make as Indigo Girls?

A. It is true that there is some leaking in or crossing over because you learn new techniques when you work alone or you learn things that work in the studio that maybe you didn’t try before. For instance, there’s a ballad on the new album but I love beats and the 808 beat machine. John loves to use that and used it on this ballad … and then Amy, there was a lot of harmony singing on her solo album and she wrote a song that’s got all this really whimsical harmony stuff on it. It’s true what we do on our own, we bring some of that back to the Indigo Girls and then it’s a mishmosh and a brainstorming.

Q. Is there anything you’d like to add?

A. Sera Cahoone is opening the show and ultimately we end up singing a song with whoever’s opening the show so that will be fun. (Fans) can check out our website for what kinds of things we’re involved in. We’re going to be doing a lot of voter advocacy work. Politically, there’s always a lot going on with us.

Q. Did you set out to be an activist from the very beginning or did that part of you grow as your platform grew?

A. We didn’t set out, we were raised to be part of the community. Then when we started playing music, there were things we were naturally concerned about in our communities and we found very, very early on that we could gather people together, do benefit shows and get to know other members of the community in the spirit of helping each other out … The social work is as important as the music and fortunately, it’s great to combine those two forces.

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