Interview with Amy Ray

One of my favorite Murfie podcasts is the Amy Ray podcast. Not only did I have a great chat with her in the basement of The Frequency, surrounded by walls that are covered in thousands of band stickers, paintings, and initials, but I stuck around for her show—and it was rockin’! We even got her song “Glow” on video!

Here’s a transcript of that podcast from May 2012. Read on!

INTRO: This is Kayla here, with your Murfie podcast. I’m pleased to say that I got to meet Amy Ray when she came to town. You probably know her as part of the Indigo Girls, the award-winning folk-rock duo from Georgia. Now, she has a solo career to go alongside that, and a rockin’ new album called Lung of Love. Here’s a clip from the chat that we had before her show at The Frequency.

[MUSIC: “Glow” by Amy Ray]

Kayla: So I’m talking to Amy Ray right now, at The Frequency in downtown Madison. Welcome to Madison, first of all.

Amy: Thanks, I always love bein’ in Madison—always, always.

Kayla: Awesome. So you’re here debuting your new CD—you’re on tour for that. And for the past ten years, about, you’ve been going solo; so what’s that like after two decades with the Indigo Girls?

Amy: Well actually, I still do both, so it’s like, I started going solo around 2000 and just interspersing it with Indigo Girls stuff. And so, I mean, at first, it was kind of crazy because we Indigos were playing kind of big places and then when I started doing solo, I started just doing small clubs like The Frequency—which I’m still doing. So, it was kind of at first like I adjusted, and just learned how to— We drive ourselves, you know, fix my own amp, fix my guitars, you know, whatever needs to be done. And so, for me it’s like kind of, extremely DIY [laughs], is what it is, and Indigo Girls are extremely the other way. So, it’s like this great sort of thing that I just go back and forth between, and it gives me perspective on both things.

Kayla: Awesome. So, is it different putting out music nowadays, compared to the earlier days when you got started?

Amy: Yeah, ‘cause when we started, it was still, like, ’85. I mean, we started in ’80, but we were putting out music starting in ’85, and we were just out of high school. And we were doing cassettes—like how you made your friend mix tapes, we would make our little cassettes of our songs, and we did like a little vinyl single, and a little vinyl EP, and LP. Yeah, and college radio was a really big deal then, so that’s what you wanted: you wanted to get on college radio—and you still do, but now it’s harder. And um, you just had like a network—like in each city, you sort of had this network: you had the record store, the indie art paper, the college radio station, and the venue, and you tried to get all those things to kind of stick together. And that’s still what you should do, but like the difference now is that we have so many great tools—Facebook and Twitter and all these things—and ways to record music, and ways to get music out there, and everything’s cheaper. It’s either like, a really great thing, or it can be a really bad thing, but I think personally I like to look at it as a really great thing, cause I think it’s like tools that we can use to sort of get music out there, and cross-pollinate more, and share with our friends, and have music take its place as more of a community thing.

Kayla: Yeah. The Internet’s amazing, it really is. So, I know that you do some work to help independent musicians. So, do you have any advice for independent musicians?

Amy: I mean, depending on what kind of music you’re doing— But if you’re doing like pop, very like, almost like American Idol sort of pop, like Lady Gaga kind of stuff in a way, that path is still very much about image, and record labels, and you know, all the celebrity stuff, and that’s a different path—nothing wrong with it, it’s kind of like the Madonna path; it’s a whole different thing. And for my path, which is more songwriting-based, and kind of more grassroots, the same things are still true: which is that you gotta play as many shows as you can play, and have people see you, and you’ve gotta get your music out there to people to listen to, and everything’s gotta be grassroots, and you gotta put posters up and you gotta do interviews and just, all the ways that you can get the word out there about your music—but the most important thing to do still is tour. And I mean, that could mean just touring Wisconsin, or just touring the Midwest. What I would say is work in concentric circles: like, start in your town, and work out. And just try to cover, you know, a weekend here and there, until you build up crowds in each little city as you go. So try to build a crowd in Milwaukee, try to build a crowd in Chicago, you know, Minneapolis, and then just keep working out from there. And if you’re writing songs, spend as much time as you can as a songwriter, too, because that’s what’s gonna define you and make you different from other bands.

Kayla: Mmhmm. So, tell me about Lung of Love. I’ve heard it, but tell me a little bit about it compared to your other albums.

Amy: My first couple solo records were a little bit more punk. This one’s got a little bit more country—the punk songs are a little bit more pop punk on this record, a little more melody sort-of based, and there’s some country stuff, and there’s some Appalachian stuff, and there’s some more soul influence. So it’s kind of all over the map, but the big thing we really tried to pay attention to was melody and arrangement.

Kayla: Cool. So tell me about your upcoming plans. You told me you do your solo work, and you’re also doing Indigo Girls things, so what have you got on your plate for the next year?

Amy: We’re real excited, cause we’re going out this summer with a rock band called The Shadowboxers, and they’re actually playing with me tonight, too. And they’re gonna open the show, and then they’re gonna also be our back-up band. So we’re gonna be able to tour with a rock band for the first time in about six years, which is really fun for us. And then we’re gonna do a series of shows with symphonies, and that’ll be throughout the next year, and then we’ll make another record, and we’ll be doing some activism work on probably immigration issues, and some stuff around death penalty, and some stuff around queer activism and environmental work. So, you know, with all the elections coming up, we’ll be doing a lot of that kind of stuff, too, which is awesome, and fun.

Kayla: Excellent. So I have a few quick questions for you, from Murfie staff.

Amy: Alright, alright—I’m ready.

Kayla: So, Toni would like to know, where’s your favorite place to travel?

Amy: Oh, my favorite place to travel—I’m gonna say the Northwest.

Kayla: Hmmm.

Amy: Yeah. I love the scenery up there, and I love riding my bike up there, and I love Seattle and Portland. But you know, I hate to say not the Midwest—

Kayla: Oh, no no no [laughs]—

Amy: But I think that’s my favorite place to go, as far as when I’m touring, and all the different things that I can access from up there.

Kayla: Mmhmm. And Gao would like to know, where’s your favorite place to perform, besides Madison?

Amy: [Laughs] I love it, I love it. Well, Madison is one of the bigger places for me to perform. I’ve been playing here since ’89 or something.

Kayla: Wow.

Amy: Yeah, it’s crazy. Um, I would probably say Brooklyn, New York. There’s a venue there called The Bell House, and I’m in love with that place—I’m in love with playing there, I don’t know—they’ve got good parking, good food, good shows [laughs], you know, it’s like everything.

Kayla: That’s all you need. Ok, so I would like to know, if you were a color, what color would you be, and why?

Amy: Oh, wow. [pause] Oh, I’d probably be kind of a—oh man, that’s a hard question. You know, I hate to say it ‘cause I’m an Indigo Girl, but I do like the dark, kind of deep blue a lot—and that’s not why we picked our name, it’s so embarrassing! But I think that’s my go-to color—that, or brown.

Kayla: Mmhmm. Earth tones—it’s all about that.

Amy: Earth tones, yeah!

Kayla: Yeah, cool. So Will was wondering, what band or musician has been the most fun to play or tour with?

Amy: Oh, that’s a great question. Um, you know I’d have to go back to our old days, and say R.E.M.

Kayla:  Oh, really!

Amy: Yeah—‘cause they taught us a lot. And to get to see them play every night and stuff was pretty special. Um, that and then like the one show that I’ll never forget is we opened for the Grateful Dead one time—and I’ll never forget it.

Kayla: Oh, wow.

Amy: And it was before Jerry [Garcia] died, and it was in Oregon, which is like one of their hippie homes. And um, I have to say, that band treated us really, really well, and that still stands out as one of the most fun shows I’ve ever played in my life.

Kayla: Cool. Alright, and Corey was wondering, what is your favorite snack food?

Amy: Oh, my favorite snack food I’m gonna say is Crunch ‘n Munch.

Kayla: Crunch ‘n Munch—what is that?

Amy: [Laughs] What is that? I mean, they have to have that up here, right? It’s like toffee popcorn, and peanuts, and almonds, and stuff—it’s like Poppycock, but it’s called Crunch ‘n Munch.

Kayla: Okay, okay—I think I’ve seen that around here. Cool, well, you heard it from Amy Ray herself: Crunch ‘n Munch.

Amy: [Laughs] Hopefully I’ll get a lot of boxes of that! No, just kidding.

Kayla: [Laughs] Well thanks a lot Amy—I’m looking forward to the show tonight.

Amy: Thanks, we can’t wait!

And that was Amy Ray. For more info you can find her on Facebook, and at amy-ray.com. What you’re hearing right now is a clip from the song “Glow”, from her new album, Lung of Love. Thanks for listening—I’ll see you next time.

[MUSIC: “Glow” by Amy Ray]

Published by

Kayla Liederbach

I host a reggae radio show Wednesday nights at 7pm CT on 91.7fm WSUM-Madison called U DUB.

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