bill bodkin speaks with Emily Saliers of the famed folk-rock duo …
The soundtrack to fall at the Jersey Shore looks to be scored by The Indigo Girls. Tomorrow at The Pollak Theater at Monmouth University, the famed folk-rock duo will perform cuts off their new record, Beauty Queen Sister, as well as their classic catalog. Their largely acoustic sound have become a favorite in the area, as this is the duo’s second performance this year at the Shore.
Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin spoke with Emily Saliers about their upcoming performances, New Jersey and the new record.
Pop-Break: You new record, Beauty Queen Sister, was just released on October 4. This is your first studio album in a few years. How do feel about this record — any nerves, butterflies, excitement?
Emily Saliers: Yeah, we are excited — no nerves for sure. [laughs] We’ve been doing this such a long time. You work hard on a record. Amy writes her songs, I write mine. We wrote a lot of them and practiced them when we were on tour in Australia. Then we went to Nashville for two and a half weeks and recorded with a group of fantastic players. We couldn’t have done it without them. We worked with Peter Collins, who’s produced a lot of our records. We’re both very passionate about our music, and even though we’ve been doing this for such a long time, you still put your heart and soul into it. So we’re excited about it. It’s kind of like going back to school in the fall — you get those butterflies in your stomach, but you’ve done it before, so it’s just a new chapter.
PB: You guys are now an independent band again. With the release of this record, was there any fear or trepidation about not having a label’s promotional “machine” behind it? Or is there more freedom being independent?
ES: No, there’s nothing lost for us not being on a label — in fact, it’s quite liberating. We do have a distribution deal with Vanguard Records and we love them. They help promote the record; they’re just fantastic, a great, great label and group of people. Besides that, this our first studio record in a while, but it hasn’t been that long. Over the holiday season [last year], we put out a holiday record, and the summer before we put out a double live CD; so we’re actually able to be more prolific and productive because there’s no one there we have to get permission from. We don’t waste any money, it’s all in house. We have all the relationships developed over the years with promoters and we have the same agent, same management team. All that stuff is in place so when we want to create, we just create.
PB: Going back to the record, how do you think Beauty Queen Sister stands out from the other albums in your catalog?
ES: If you look way, way back at Rites Of Passage or even Come On Now Social, we had a bit of a kitchen sink going on. We had huge budgets, we could invite people from all over to come in and play and we took our time — by other artists standards, not too long, but for us, a couple months to work on a record. Now we’ve gotten back to more of our organic roots — a very straightforward record. We had a bass player and a piano player, and Luke Blue on violin and mando[lin], Allison Brown on banjo. Basically, what it is, is like cutting it live. Amy and I have done our homework, so we know the songs and work on some production ideas beforehand, so then if anything shifts in the studio, we’re ready to go. So I think the result of having to work quickly is not having to belabor over production ideas. It hits you in the gut, you move on and you have a bunch of world class players in a town like Nashville, which is very inspiring for me. It just lends a sort of immediacy and directness to the record. It lets the songs shine through.
The songs [on this album] are like little travelogues. I think of someone who I love like Jackson Browne. It’s not like his records were drastically different, but each marks a certain place in time. I look at our career that way.
PB:: What place does this album mark for you?
ES: I think it marks, I hate to say middle-age, because I can’t believe it. But I think it definitely comes from our life experiences. You don’t see the world the same way you do at 45 as you when you’re 25. That being said, I still think the content is relevant to the younger audience because Amy and I have always been inspired by the voice of youth and youthful energy and idealism and social attitudes. In terms of the approach of lyrics, it’s a little less overwrought than when I was 25 writing songs.
PB:: Speaking of the voice of the youth, are you seeing new fans coming out and discovering you, or do you see a sea of familiar faces only at your shows?
ES: There are new audience members discovering us, and I don’t know how it’s happened. One thing that thing happened was this is the next generation of fans. The first generation of fans had kids and they [the kids] grew up with the music around them. I suppose some of its word of mouth. The other thing is because of our political and social activism and some of the youth are fired up by that and want to be involved and are active. I think we are still speaking to things in our lyrics of things that are sort of intergenerational, I think, like philosophical questions like, ‘Why are we here?’ ‘Why is there war?’ These are things general problems that we have to face together not as 16 year old versus a 45 year old.
PB: Recently, the band has been touring the East Coast a lot more frequently. Less than six months ago, you guys performed at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, N.J.. Now tomorrow, you’ll be playing the Jersey Shore again at The Pollak Theater at Monmouth University. Why so much love for the East Coast, particularly our region of the Jersey Shore, recently? What reception have you received from our area?
ES: I think it’s excitable — there’s a lot of energy and it’s very immediate. That Stone Pony show was incredible! Everybody there was super cool and nice. It’s just a neck of the woods we can return to and receive a warm reception. I don’t know why I’m just grateful for it. I tend to think people are more alike than they are different so we get pockets of fans with tremendous energy. But you know it’s JERSEY! Come on, it’s in your face and it’s wonderful.
PB: What else does the band have on tap for 2011/early 2012?
ES: Well, we’re working on making some cool, low budget videos for the album. We’re thinking of doing a series of live stream shows, live performances online and fans can find out about that at indigogirls.com. We’re going continue to tour to support the new record. We’re really excited about the new record. And this band that’s opening up for us, The Shadow Boxers, they’re amazing. They’re going to big someday. They’re super-inspiring and they’re going to open up on the road for us this year. Then in the new year they’re going to be our band. We’re going to learn a lot of new songs together. To our audience they’re incredible, you really shouldn’t miss them. The songs are good they have really cool energy. It’s cool for us and our crowds to discover new talent.