Amy Ray talks new Indigo Girls album, going digital, and being a new mom ahead of 6/21 Charlottesville show
The Indigo Girls have been an important part of the folk music scene for 30 years, and their new album, One Lost day, and their new nation-wide tour, are ready to remind you of this fact.
With a 9.0 rating from Paste Magazine, One Lost day, out now on Vanguard Records, is set to keep the bar high for the goddesses of folks, and in a recent conversation with GayRVA, guitarist, songwriter, and Indigo Girl Amy Ray gave some details on the album’s production and their new adventure into the digital realm.
The Girls, Ray and Emily Saliers, hadn’t worked together on a record together in about five years, though both had solo projects and personal events which can be heard on One Lost Day.
“A lot of life has happened, and a lot of the songs for me had been written over a big span of time,” said Ray in a phone interview last week. She said it was hard to really narrow the new album to one theme or story.
“It’s everything from mass incarceration to relationship songs… it covers a lot of territory,” she said. “This record for us was as much about the process making it – learning how to dig in again and arrange songs together.”
While the messages behind the songs might harken back to issues they’ve covered before, The Indigo Girls entered new territory in the studio this time around. This was their first real venture into almost entirely digital recording.
“I worked in Garage Band [digital recording software] on one song on the last record… Peter Colins (their old producer,) didn’t work that way,” Ray said. “But that production was done more in person. But with Jordan [Hamlin], she’s young, and that’s how she works.”
Ray said they would send Hamlin tracks and she would pop them into her production software. They would bounce tracks back and fourth through emails and build a frame around the early demos. “It was fun to work that way,” said Ray, who noted the digital experience saved them a lot of money and time. “And by the time we were in the studio, we had a really good idea of the arrangements.”
For recording artists who have been around for more than 25 years, the entire digital process was new. Ray said she still produces her solo albums on tape, “Analog all the way,” she said with the vigor of an old-thyme southern country star. “The thing that was scary for us… was Jordan recording a framework… and then using that for record… it was backwards in a way. Even though its to a click track, so many things move around with us, we can play in tempo, but a lot of things happen.”
Luckily, and through Hamlin’s talent, the final product worked out. They were able to use a lot of the early demo elements despite the new format. “We had to take a leap of faith,” Ray said, saying they had to respect Jordan’s vision entirely.
“In order to work with her we had to let go at times and let her do her thing, and we did’t always want to do that.” she joked, saying she actually prefers the additional set of ears a producer provides in the creative process. “It was good for us… It helps me and Emily bridge our differences at times.”
In keeping with the digital theme, the Girls plan to release music videos using snippets from fan’s recording the new songs at home and posting them online.
There still a lot of the project up in the air, but Ray said the Girls were excited to bring the fans into their process.
“They way our audience is, its already such a community,” she said, admitting they don’t get a lot of radio play and they count pretty heavily on word of mouth. Ray said the system used to be a bit more direct, with fan forums and people passing bootleg tapes between each other. Now, with Facebook and Twitter, the two musicians realized they had to dive in and modernize.
“This time, we said “we’re making a new record, lets start at the beginning and do it right… not just do our thing in private. If we wanna keep community, this is how we do it. For us,” said Ray, who promised a mess of behind-the-scenes footage coming out later this year. Friend and filmmaker Kathlyn Horan flew out from LA to their studio to specifically capture these special moments.
Ray was excited to talk about her new record, but she was even more excited to talk about her now 1.5 year adventure with motherhood. Ray and her partner of 13 years, Carrie Schrader, had a daughter, Ozilline Graydon, not too long ago with the help of a close male friend.
“I love it, I can’t even articulate how much I love [motherhood],” Ray said. Her and Schrader had been talking about it for years. “I’m super happy… we have fun together. It’s awesome.”
I’ll be at (le) Poisson Rouge,NYC for theSecond Annual Feminist Ball!Friday, March 13!Willie Mae Rock Camp’s Harsh Crowd is gonna be there too!
Posted by Amy Ray on Thursday, March 12, 2015
Saliers has 2-year-old as well, but they’re still not sure about bringing the kids out on tour.
“I watch at home and she has such a good time at home, and I’m like “do you really wanna be in a hotel room every night?”” Ray joked.
You won’t hear much about Ozilline in the new album “because [motherhood] is so new, and for me it takes a while for information to make it into a song,” she said.
But the death of her father shortly before the birth of her child did inspire some of One Lost Day.
“To have the kind of loss and gain at the same time,” Ray said. “There were songs I was working on that I finished after going through that experience – so my daughter’s in it in a way, in that kind of ‘loss of innocence,’ which I was able to see more clearly because of having a baby.”
While certainly not the first tour since the last album, Ray and Saliers had slowed down some. The Girls played some gigs with symphonies and spent a good chunk of time getting ready for the nearly year-long tour they’ve already embarked on. Expect the upcoming show to feature tons of new tracks, many you’ll hear for the first time.
They’ve listened to fans for this new tour as well – Ray said there are about 4 or 5 songs they are relearning with their new band after many many requests.
“That’s what the internet’s for!” Ray joked, saying she often finds chord charts for older songs online, transcribed by someone else. “It’s incredible… I can’t find my lost chord chart for something and there’s someone whose charted it out for me… accurately as well!”
Americana/country legend Mary Chapin Carpenter is on the tour as well, someone Ray called an old old friend. “There’s some guitar tunings we cribbed from here,” Ray joked. “We love her as a person, we love her as a musician.”
Indigo Girl Amy Ray was featured on NPR’s Mountain Stage to help promote the release of her new country/roots album, Goodnight Tender. You can hear her NPR performance of the song “Duane Allman” here – here’s what NPR had to say about the performance: “Growing up in Georgia, The Allman Brothers were one of the very [...]June 9, 2014
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