After taking time off from everything Indigo… when you get back into the swing of playing and touring, do you have to go through a re-adjustment period when you feel like your fingertips are going to fall off if you have to play another note? Or, by this point, have you developed fingers of steel?
Well, if I haven’t played for a while and we get back into rehearsals, my fingers are very sore. No matter how much we’ve rehearsed when we start playing shows again, my fingers always get sore. It takes about three days to turn them back into fingertips of steel.
I just have to say that your music has touched me very deeply and I have loved EVERY concert that I’ve ever been to. My question is this: What is(are) your favorite song(s) to sing on stage and why?
Well at different times I have different favorite songs. One of my favorite songs this year of Amy’s that we played with the band was “Ozilline,” because it paid tribute to the land and to people we love and it always felt good. A song of mine that always means something to me when we play it is “Love’s Recovery,” because no matter how much time has passed since I wrote that song, it always seems to speak about something that’s happening in the present.
After selling your piano last year does that mean we are not going to hear any new music by you via that medium?
No, it doesn’t mean that! That was just a good way to earn some money for Honor The Earth. I have since bought an electric keyboard and have started playing again. I really need lessons though. I’m going to try and get some piano pointers during my time off.
What are your favorite dishes at the Biscuit and Watershed?
At the Flying Biscuit, my favorite dish is probably the spicy eggs wrapped in the tortilla. I forget what it is called. At Watershed, I truly have five or six favorites, but I’d have to lean towards the spicy shrimp spaghetti.
Emily, do you ever get embarrassed by women’s obvious attraction to you…say, women screaming and calling your name while you are on stage?
No. I think we have the greatest fans in the world. And if people want to yell things out, they should feel free.
What gives you inspiration for your amazing songs and lyrics?
Just about everything in life. I think the most important thing is to be as observant as possible in your daily life…so things like change of the weather, or good art, a good book or a good film, or personal relationships and probably, most pointedly, world events.
I am reading a biography on Virginia Woolf and I am completely captivated. I know you have read some of her stuff – what can you recommend? What an amazing life…
I have to say, as soon as you said you were captivated, it brought that feeling back to me of the first time I read about her and read her work. I would recommend reading the letters. There is a collection of several volumes of her letters. It’s called “The Letters of Virginia Woolf,” edited by Nigel Nicolson and Joanne Trautmann. There are several volumes. That’s what really got me started on her.
When you play live shows night after night, how are you able to keep the fire and energy in your singing and get totally worn out? You seem to leave so much of yourself on the stage, and we, the fans, appreciate it.
Well, we make a fresh set list every night, so we only pick songs we want to sing. That being said, we also leave room for some requests. And, personally, being able to play music is such a great gift. It continuously regenerates you. I can’t imagine ever not feeling thankful for being able to play a show. And our fans kick ass…that makes it easy.
Back in the summer of 1995, or maybe it was the summer of 1996, i saw you two perform at Newport. It was during this show that you pulled the piano out on stage and introduced a new song called “Winthrop.” I was completely moved by the beauty of that song and have always been wondering if you ever released it. What ever came of “Winthrop?”
We never released it. We chose the song “Leeds” to go on the record. “Winthrop” is just kind of floating in song limbo-land. It is possible that I will play it live again, but I’m not sure whether we will ever release it
I last saw you in Columbus, Ohio in Oct. at Newport Music Hall and I gave sully a VHS of the Joni Mitchell Tribute and misc. to give to you…did you get it? And if so, how much did you enjoy seeing and hearing James Taylor sing “River” by Joni????
I watched the show but I have to say, honestly, I can’t remember if it is the tape you gave me. My favorite part of the whole night was Diana Krall singing “Case of You.” Thanks for thinking of me.
Who would you say has influenced your style of solo’s and diddley-do’s?
I still have such a long way to go as a guitar player…I can’t say that I can name an influence. It’s just me trying to find my way.
Do you find that the songs that begin only with lyrics turn out to be your better songs? Or is it the other way around, with your melody first songs being stronger? I’m dying to know more about the genesis of “Closer to Fine” Did it begin with words or was it that opening riff…
Usually, I’ll find a chord progression that feels good, but the lyrics and the chords almost happen simultaneously. I never write just a bunch of music or a full lyric. I always work on them and change them at the same time.
How do you choose your opening acts?
A lot of our opening acts are bands or artists on Amy’s label, Daemon Records. Obviously, we believe in them. Typically, they have a CD out that we are trying to help them promote. Or we pick friends from home, or sometimes just a band we’ve heard about that we like a lot.
Haven’t seen you since Swamp Ophelia tour in UK. Any chance of British dates?
Yup. We are in the process of planning a return trip to Europe. It might happen in fall of 2001. Just keep checking the website.
Who would you like to collaborate with in the future?
I don’t know yet…things just seem to unfold naturally and we run across other musicians in our travels and make plans fairly spontaneously. But I’ve certainly always wanted to work with Stevie Wonder, the producer Dallas Austin, and Queen Latifah.
You’ve traveled all over the world, what is the one place that you love playing more than anywhere else??
That is such a hard question to answer. It’s a big world. We actually haven’t traveled all over the world, so I may discover a favorite place yet…Red Rocks in Colorado is pretty awesome, the Tabernacle here in Atlanta, and we had a very special night in Belfast, Northern Ireland that I will never forget. I can’t really think of a place I don’t love playing.
I love you and Amy. I know Amy is coming out with her solo soon! When are you coming out with a solo album?
I haven’t made plans specifically…but I will come out with a solo album at some point. And I may do it when our contract with Sony is up, two records from now.
I am a bit confused…please tell me you guys have not broken up with the band.
We have definitely not broken up the band. Amy and I love playing together even after 20 years. This was just and opportunity for Amy to express herself personally, in a way that’s different from what we’ve done together. We look at it like any good partnership…whatever helps the individual grow helps the partnership grow.
Is it petrifying or intense to be so vulnerable on stage? Do you ever feel weird knowing that the whole world has access to your deepest feelings?
I really don’t think about that. The songs are extremely personal, but there’s never been a filter between the creative process and the performance. Being vulnerable is part of being a performer, unless you are Limp Bizkit, and we just aren’t that kind of band! I do think that our vulnerability and honesty are what turns some people off to our music, but it’s really the only way we know how to be. And there’s a place in the world for Limp Bizkit, too.
What is the craziest dream you’ve had lately? Do you ever dream with music? Have you ever had a riff or a melody come to you via R.E.M.?
I have dreamt songs before, but by the time I get up, I’ve forgotten them. I had a dream recently that I was in a prison with a bunch of my friends and love ones, but we were surrounded by tremendous love and natural beauty, which is probably close to reality, but it was very vivid contradiction between the surrounding natural beauty and the prison of people within it. And I dream a lot about potato chips for some reason…I don’t know what that means!
I believe I read sometime ago you stated you were working on a book with your dad regarding faith and music/art. How’s that project going and when do you think it will be published? I’d really be interested in what you both have to say.
We’re coming to the final stages. There are many collaborators. Start looking for it late 2001. It’s supposed to be written for teenagers, and there were teenagers who helped us write our chapters.
Hello to all, my question is who is the elderly man you hear on the song “Hey Kind Friend”? Also, is the song written with anyone in mind? Thanks for the great music. Keep on truckin!
Actually it wasn’t an elderly man, it was a friend of ours, Benjamin. He was fixture in the Atlanta music seen for many years, most recently with a band called Smoke. Ben passed away last year. Amy wrote than song about some travels she had with some friends when she was in the Northwest.
Your spiritual path has changed since your religious upbringing. It is evident in your recent songwriting – how have you remained a non-cynical human being in today’s society? You are a role model for myself and many others. Thank You. I love you.
Well, I think just because you can see destruction and evil in the world, you can also wee beauty and hope. I feel blessed to have witnessed hope time and time again in different context. And I believe all things in life are interconnected and that we are on a path of learning, and because I believe it so deeply, it makes me hopeful.
Okay this may seem like a trivial question, but it has perplexed me for a very long time. I have listened and watched diligently and cannot figure out what you are singing in the background of Shed Your Skin. Y’know, the part where Amy is singing, “I’ve been looking to find you, but it’s a little too late….”. Every time I go in search for lyrics I come up empty handed (either that or folks try to tell me what Amy is singing). I could never sing it of course! Your part is WAY out of my range, but I would still like to know what you are singing in the background there. Thanks and happy holidays.
I assume you mean the really high vocal part. It is the beginning line of a song called “Gracias a la Vida,” and it’s one of the most beautiful songs ever written.
Obviously, most of your songs derive from your personal experiences. What kind of reactions do they have on the people in your life, to whom you allude to in your songwriting?
Well, I try not to be too obvious if I’m going to say something mean! If I say something loving and the person recognizes himself/herself in it, they definitely get a kick out of it. I think it would be fun to have a song written about you. But I don’t write about things that would cause personal pain to someone, as far as exposing their personal lives.
What is the most challenging piece for you to sing or play, and why? Do you find it more challenging to play Amy’s songs or your own?
It really depends on the song. Some of Amy’s are challenging, some of mine are. One of Amy’s that was challenging for a while was “Shed Your Skin” in a verse where I had to play a guitar line and sing a different vocal part at the same time. Whenever that happens in a song, it takes me a while to get that. And then, songs where I’m playing the piano are personally challenging, just because I’m not that familiar with the instrument.
Emily- On recent albums, the Indigo Girls have taken on a decidedly more “rock” sound. Are you planning on sticking with this new sound for good or are you going to return to the folk sound heard on the older albums?
The next record we are planning on making this coming summer is going to be a return to more of our folk roots. I’m actually still in the mood to rock out, but Amy has wanted to make a folk record for a while, so we both agree that it is time to do that.
How do you plan to spend your time off?
Well, I’m going to be song writing, I’m going to be doing some co-song writing with different writers, I’d like to learn to speak Spanish, I’ll be reading, helping out with my restaurant, Watershed, traveling some…and that should about take me up to June.
Hey. The Indigo Girls are known for your harmonies. It seems like as your music evolves, you put fewer and fewer harmonies in your songs. I was wondering whether that was because you and Amy are writing less FOR each other.
Well, we never wrote for each other. Some of the songs still have a lot of harmony and I think some times the harmony, or the impact of the harmony gets partially hidden by the production on the records. When we play the songs acoustic, just the two of us, it feels to us as if there is as much harmony as ever. You can look for plenty of harmony on the next record because it is going to be an acoustic record.
Ghost is by far my favorite song, I wanted to know if you had some story to go along with it?
Ghost was actually written sort of cumulatively. I was recollecting several relationships or people I had known who had haunted me in one way or another, and I sort of gathered all of their memories into one song to create the great big “Ghost”!
Thank you for sharing your time and music with us. Is there any chance of you and Amy putting out a cd of songs that never made it on an official release? Songs such as Play It Again Sam, The Untitled Song, Don’t Give Up On Me Baby, Carry Me Away… I could go on but you know what I’m getting at. Any chance?
Probably not. Anything can happen, but Amy and I sometimes listen to those old songs and can’t stand them! I think they mark a period of time very early on in our songwriting development, and while some of our fans may be attached maybe for sentimental reasons, it’s probably not a good idea to put out a collection. We’ll just keep them were they are.
You and Amy had a lot of great guest artists on “Come On Now Social”. I was extremely pleased that Sheryl Crow made an appearance on two songs. You’ve even had legends like David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Jackson Browne joining you in the past. What draws you to invite certain artists to contribute to an album or song?
We just pick some of our favorite artists. I’m sure if Neil Young would come play on our album, we’d love to have him! Sheryl is one of my favorite contemporary artists and I love the work she did on the album. When David and Jackson were on the record almost 10 years ago, I had grown up with their music, so it was like a dream come true. We pick artists who we think can bring something special. Sometimes they’re famous, and sometimes they are not.
I know this is long, but I would love to know how you would answer the questionaire that is always at the end of Inside the Actor’s Studio (popular tv on the Bravo channel). It’s a questionaire actually taken from Bernard Pivot, a french talk show host. It goes like this:
What is your favorite word?
I love words, how can I pick one? My favorite word is love.
Least favorite word?
What sound do you love?
I love the sound of a dog’s toenails on a hardwood floor.
What sound do you hate?
The sound of siren.
What turns you on? (excites, motivates, inspires you?)
What turns you off?
What is your favorite curse word?
What profession other than your own would like to attempt?
What profession would you not like to attempt?
And, finally, if there is a heaven, what would you like to hear God say to you when you arrive?
All the people you lost are here and eventually everybody ends up here with their souls in perfectly good shape. There is no suffering here and no military.
I could use a couple of hours to ponder those questions! These answers are just kind of off the top of my head.
I was just wondering if you ever actually read the letters that fans like me have written. I hope you do!
Sometimes we do. We can’t really read nearly as many as we used to.
Hi Emily. I am interested in becoming more active in the gay/civil rights movement. What profession do you see as having the greatest impact on this movement? How would you suggest getting involved?
I would call the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF). They have an office in Washington and they are just a really well run group with outreach to communities all over America. They can certainly best describe where the need is. I always look to them when I have question about what is going on in the gay community. Thank God you want to be involved!
Rumor has it that the Indigo Girls’ deal with Epic will soon be fulfilled. Will you guys stick with Epic or go indie?
We have two more records left, so it could actually be a few years until the deal is up. And we will most likely go indie, but a lot can change in a few years and I don’t really want to cross that bridge until we get to it.
I read in a magazine that you are an owner of a restaurant called “Watershed.” Could you send more information about this endeavor, especially the location?
It is located at 406 west Ponce de Leon Ave. Decatur, GA 30030. The phone number is 404-378-4900. The food focuses on freshly prepared rustic fare…something your mamma may make, only better! And we have an incredible wine list, with over 50 wines served by the glass. It is a very laid back atmosphere. I have three other partners who own it with me.
My question is this: have you ever written a song about Amy? Or vise-versa? I’ve always wondered.
No, we never have. Wait! Actually, we did a long, long time ago. Amy wrote a song. It was called “Tuesday’s Children” and it was about our experiences playing in a bar. She wrote that over 20 years ago!
So what are your thoughts on the new President?
Ugh. You know, if there’s two things I am cynical about it is politics and the media. Until he actually takes office and makes good on themes of reconciliation, I’ll remain cynical and continue to work as hard as I can as a citizen to protect the rights that I cherish, and promote equality for oppressed people.
Kia ora and hi Emily – do you have any plans to come to New Zealand in the future?
Well, we are making plans to go back to Australia and hopefully we can include New Zealand. It is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It depends on tour routing and economics, probably.
You mentioned a while back that you were interested in learning some more about music theory. Being a classical cellist who studies music theory, I was curious to know if you have pursued this any further. If so, what sparked your interest and…. do you need any tutoring?
I haven’t pursued it any further…we just got off the road. And I’m not actually sure how I will pursue it, unless I can do it via computer because it is so hard to fit a class into such a short period of time off. But I think that theory will be a helpful tool for me to express myself in more of a fleshed out way, musically.
In your song, “Cold Beer and Remote Control,” what are you singing about? Is it society’s apathy towards important issues and people not wanting to get involved or is it your need to kick back and relax and take a break from your busy lifestyle? Both? or Neither?
It’s definitely not about needing to kick back and relax! It’s a song about a person who feels despondent, and wants to be removed from what he sees as the futility of reality.
What goes into the making of an IG show, and what’s a typical day in the studio like?
Well, at show usually we get to sound check in the afternoon, and we check our guitars and our voices over the sound system and make sure everything’s okay, and then we eat dinner together along with the crew, and we make a set list, and then we play the show and then we get on the bus and drive to the next town.
A day in the studio can vary from one day to the next. We might work on instrumental parts, getting a good drum track, getting a good vocal performance, putting pieces together, bringing in other musicians to play or sing. It takes a lot of concentration working in the studio. It makes me sleep very well!
You seem to have a strong belief in God, have you ever had “religious” and or “spiritual” difficulties around being gay? If so, how did you come to terms with it? I won’t even try to express how much your music means to me… please accept my heartfelt thanks and my prayers for you to have a life full of love, peace and contentment.
Thank you. I have never had spiritual struggle with being gay. I think those that do suffer from years and years of spiritual misinterpretation, and that god created us to love each other. When two people love each other consensually and with respect, it doesn’t matter if they are of the same sex. In time, the evolution of gay rights, for lack of a better term, will make us look back and wonder why there was such hatred and homophobia. But I sincerely doubt we will get to that point of understanding during my lifetime.
I know what a strong influence Joni Mitchell has been to you over the years. With that in mind, I was wondering if you have met her yet and if you have what was your reaction was. It would be great to hear you do a duet.
I would love to work with Joni! For sure! I’ve never met her. I’ve seen her in concert. And I don’t think I want to meet her unless it happens naturally.