The Indigo Girls discuss their musical history, the lesbian roots of “female music”

By | September 20, 2022

indigo girls

The Indigo Ladies – Saliers and Amy Ray – have been part of queer consciousness for over 35 years, with a line of queer and feminine musicians that preceded them like Cris Williamson, Holly Close to and Joan Armatrading to the subsequent technology that features Brandi Carlile and Janelle Monae. Picture: Jeremy Cowart

“Music is an uplifting drive,” says Indigo Ladies’ Emily Saliers of the ability of music to create group experiences and encourage activism.

Definitely for a lot of who’ve ever attended an Indigo Ladies present with the viewers listening to the classics “Galileo,” “The Energy of Two” and the final word chant “Nearer to High quality,” the vibe is nothing wanting lower than a revival, and which facilities queer girls.

The Indigo Ladies – Saliers and Amy Ray – have been part of queer consciousness for over 35 years, with a line of queer and feminine musicians that preceded them like Cris Williamson, Holly Close to and Joan Armatrading to the subsequent technology that features Brandi Carlile and Janelle Monae.

When they’re requested to call their first inspirations of queer girls, there may be one they cite emphatically: Ferron.

A lesbian musician from Canada, Ferron started rocking the music scene within the late Seventies along with her self-titled 1977 album. Her data “Testimony” (1980) and “Shadows on a Dime” (1984) grew to become staples of canon of queer girls.

Alix Dobkin, pioneering lesbian musician, dies at 80

Early on, Ray says she was impressed by male musicians like Elton John and Gregg Allman earlier than discovering rocker and poet Patti Smith.

“Patti Smith kinda clicked in my head like, OK, she’s so opposite. You by no means actually know the place she’s coming from. She’s like pure artwork, as a result of (she) forces you to face issues inside your self, since you’re not fairly certain the place it got here from.

Ray additionally nods to queer punk bands like The Butchies and Staff Dresch as massively essential to her in a while.

“I’ve listened to bands that weren’t simply speaking about girls’s music and such, however (additionally) speaking about gender identification and fluidity and actually opening my eyes to being who you need to be. Punk rock actually did that in a much bigger manner than anything for me,” Ray says.

But it surely was Ferron’s music that first touched Ray on one other stage of identification.

“Somebody I actually had to consider The place am I? Who am I? was Ferron,” Ray says. “This is my individual, you understand, and I can relate on to the lyrics. story – that form of feeling.

In the meantime, Saliers cites rock band Coronary heart as girls in music who resonated along with her early on. Later, she found Joni Mitchell.

“Joni, she sounded extra like a feminine Renaissance songwriter – a creative inspiration to me,” Saliers says. She names Williamson’s album “The Changer and the Modified” from Olivia Data, the primary label of what was then known as “girls’s music”, as important to her early data of how music and the identification may collide.

However “the queen of the queen was Ferron. One of many biggest songwriters in American historical past. Amy and I completely latched onto her songwriting and her singing,” Saliers says. “She simply blew us away…I realized her songs on the guitar and simply lived by means of her music.”

The duo then discovered a big group on the Michigan Womyn’s Music Pageant, which ran from 1976 to 2015, a defining expertise for thus many lesbians that ended amid controversy over organizers’ refusal to permit trans girls within the area.

“(Michigan) Womyn’s Fest, it form of made our heads spin,” Ray says. In the meantime, Saliers remembers a gap at Michfest that was liberating. Ultimately, they stopped taking part in there due to the trans girls difficulty.

“This group is so essential to me,” says Ray. “I feel it harm folks’s emotions after we had been like, ‘We won’t play this competition if you cannot let trans girls in.'”

Ray and Saliers have spoken overtly about their struggles with internalized homophobia earlier than they got here out within the air within the early Nineteen Nineties, when kd lang and Melissa Etheridge had been making waves as profitable musicians who had been additionally lesbians. However Ray and Saliers had been unaware they had been a part of the story after they got here out.

“You form of see them as comrades (Etheridge, lang and Ani DiFranco) — girls in solidarity,” says Saliers. “I do not suppose I’ve ever been struck by an ominous, historic second right here. As a result of I feel I used to be coping with my very own emotions of self-homophobia.

In late July, Carlile, who has been absent because the begin of her profession, graced the stage on the Newport People Pageant, the place she helped Mitchell return to that stage after 53 years. The Indigo Ladies have performed a number of gigs with Carlile, and Saliers notes her affect as a lesbian which creates a bigger group. However she nonetheless sees one chasm or one other on the subject of the time period “feminine music.”

“Girls, queer artists, like Brandi Carlile, who simply exploded. What she does for queer folks is so superb to be with Cath (Carlile’s spouse, Catherine Shepherd) and along with her household and with the followers,” Saliers says. “I feel there’ll at all times be a distance between lesbian or queer singers and an enormous, huge viewers, as a result of I feel it comes all the way down to sexism and homophobia.”

From the important affect of Olivia Data to DiFranco (who proudly displayed her bisexuality) and her label Righteous Babe to Grammy winner Carlile, who collaborated with nation superstars like Tanya Tucker and Wynonna Judd, “female music” has developed. However the future is label-free, says Saliers, citing Monáe because the chief.

“Janelle (is somebody) the place you do not go, Oh, it is that or no matter. They arrive with all their humanity with out labels, and that makes me the happiest of all,” says Saliers. “We obtained so caught up within the binary. There’s a lot life that simply would not slot in that field. (Monáe) simply smashes the field extensive open…no labels.

This text initially appeared on Advocate.comand is shared right here as a part of an LGBTQ+ group alternate between Q Voice Information and Equal Delight.