Musical mamas

By RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls helps guides a new generation of LGBT musicians

SALIERS SOLUTION | Indigo Girls Emily Saliers, front, and Amy Ray have quietly grown into an influential band for both folk music and gay and lesbian musicians.

Emily Saliers might not call herself a mother, but she is inadvertently becoming just that. Like Prince and Beyonce, Madonna and Britney, and Janet and Justin, Saliers and her Indigo Girls bandmate Amy Ray have found themselves parental figures to newer musicians.

That’s OK, especially since they try to keep it in the family — the LGBT family.

"When you’re around your peeps, it’s just more comfortable to be around," Saliers says.

The duo will be in Dallas supporting its 11th album, Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, playing the same stage (House of Blues) that Brandi Carlile performed on just a week ago. All three are lesbian, which gives a common bond that connects them: Indigo Girls worked with Carlile on her 2007 album, The Story, and Carlile has opened for them and contributed vocals on their upcoming live CD, Staring Down the Brilliant Dream.

"There’s an energy to get infused with when we work together, " Saliers says of Carlile. "She’s so talented and a very nice person. It’s inspiring to be around people like that. And we’re pals."

This pairing is quickly becoming a power lesbian musical force while also passing the torch from one generation to the next … even if Indigo Girls aren’t finished making music.

They don’t leave the collaborations there, though. Working with Carlile wasn’t accidental. Saliers finds an importance in working with other gay and lesbian musicians — not just for comfort’s sake, but also for fellowship.

"It’s important that the presence of that community is attached to our shows," she says. "The band Coyote Grace has a female-to-male transgender member and the fans flipped out when they opened our show. We have a bunch of queer friends who play with us. Hey, queer people like to hang out with queer people."

Indigo Girls started out 25 years ago in a music scene that was less open to out gays who weren’t of the Boy-George-in-your-face-glam variety.  Ray and Saliers plugged along with tours and albums without the kind of mainstream airplay they probably deserved. While perhaps fitting many stereotypes of coffeehouse granola lesbian folk music, they quietly became a respected industry in the scene. Two decades later, they are easily legends — in the music business and in the gay community.

"We started so simply and innocently," Saliers recalls. "We did everything ourselves. I couldn’t have guessed this longevity would have happened but still, I can see how we stood the test of time. It’s very gratifying to have a musical partner like Amy."

Don’t start counting them out yet. This has been one busy year for the Indigo Girls.

According to Saliers, the team has been working so much harder in the last few months. Staring Down will be released in June followed by a holiday album this fall plus some Lilith Fair dates. Part of this jumpstart in their career is due to their split with Hollywood records and going the independent route.

"We have been cranking it out," Saliers says. "There was nothing a major label could do for us anymore. We have a renewed sense of purpose and it allows us to continue. It’s fun now that we’re independent. We feel reinvigorated."     

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 28, 2010.

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