The Indigo Girls accomplished a musical feat last week that no one else has matched.
The folk duo comprised of singer-songwriters Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, both 56, is the first tandem in history to reach the Billboard Top 200 in five different decades courtesy of their latest album, “Look Long.” It’s the Indigo Girls’ 15th album as they mark their 35th year.
The entertaining folkies called from their separate Georgia homes to reveal if they would have changed anything over the course of their consistent career. The social activists comment on “Look Long,” the civil unrest and what they find most appealing about Spokane.
Why did you decide to work again with John Reynolds, who produced your most commercially successful album, “Come on Now Social”?
Ray: When we made “Come on Now Social,” we really enjoyed working with John. We would see John whenever we return to England. We were having tea in London a couple of years ago with him, and we said that it was time to make another record together. In so many ways, John is our musical accomplice.
There’s a common thread between “Come on Now Social” and “Look Long” in terms of sonics, and there’s an old school vibe with each project.
Saliers: I definitely feel a thread between the albums. Both albums sound great. There was a lot of production with “Come on Now Social.” With this album, we all recorded live together. It’s organic or, like you say, old school. There’s a connection between the experiences. John is a very rhythmic musician who brought something to the spirit of the album.
“Bleep Kickin’ ” is a standout track since it finds you looking back at life. The song reminds me of when I look at home movies from my childhood, back to an innocent time. The tune feels like summer. What inspired the song?
Ray: That’s pretty much it. The song was like seeing a home movie, but it’s fast-paced with all these different cuts of my life. I look back to my childhood at a lake house during the summer in a rural area. I remember riding dirt bikes and riding horses. I was a tomboy who had a sneaking suspicion that everything wasn’t right around me. It was the end of the innocence for me. Shortly after that experience, I discovered how things are.
“Favorite Flavor” is a nice change-up. It’s so bouncy and quirky. It sounds like a Fountains of Wayne track.
Ray: It’s our tip of the cap to the B-52’s, our Athens cousins. Emily nailed it since it’s a song about letting your light shine.
You made like Darius Rucker with “Country Radio.” Perhaps it’ll be your first country hit?
Ray: We wish!
Saliers: It won’t be a country hit, but I think the song will resonate with a lot of people who love country music. I don’t think country radio would touch it with a 10-foot pole.
Do you ever think about how fortunate you are that you came of age as a duo in an era of artist development?
Ray: I think about it and how cool it was that we were on a record label (Epic) with Rage Against the Machine and Oasis. We started in an era with these amazing artists like the Replacements and Husker Du. We came up on the heels of some great post-punk bands. We were lucky to come along in an era when labels did support you.
I remember getting four copies of Sheryl Crow’s “Tuesday Night Music Club” before it broke. A&M just kept pushing it over the course of a year since they believed in the album.
Ray: Wow. That’s a great album. Social media and the internet can help an album spread like wildfire, but I would rather have come up the way we did.
“Change My Heart” is inspired by the great divide in America. The gap between the haves and have-nots is wide as ever, and the riots are a reminder of how far we’re apart. Since you both have made contributions as human rights activists, how disturbing is it to see that America still has a long way to go?
Saliers: It’s really disturbing. How can you not be fed up with over 400 years of racism in this country? The peaceful protests have been hijacked by people not in it for the same reason. I’m worried that people will be scared and believe that we need a commander in chief who is a law and order president. I was feeling optimistic about the presidential election, but so much depends on who he (Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden) selects as his running mate. We’re at a pivotal point. We have to come together.
You’ve made sure that Spokane is often part of your routing. Why is that, and what do you enjoy about performing in Spokane?
Ray: I think about (author) Sherman Alexie since he’s so connected with that area. He’s such a great writer. I love the Northwest. I look forward to going to Washington and Montana. Whenever we go to Spokane, I go bike riding. It’s a beautiful city. I’m so disappointed we won’t be back anytime soon.
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