lifeblood: songs: backgrounds: caramia


1997-04-03: girls night out: the indigo girls interview, music central:

question. are there any songs on this album that have a personal, an especially personal meaning for either of you?

amy. you always say this after you make a record, but it's probably my most personal record, my most direct, my most literal, my most unhinged. i don't care what anybody thinks. this is how i felt; this is how i feel. i need to get it out: a "this one's for me" kind of feeling.

emily. yeah. these songs are very personal. but some are more experimental for me, like "caramia" is more electric guitar. first time that's happened for me. and i stuck two ideas of songs together. never really done that before. and then "burn all the letters" is a song that i started writing in the studio. never done that before either a just kind of jamming.

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1997-04-04: transcription, kwva - eugene, oregon:

q: is sara lee on your album the same sara lee who plays with ani?

(a&e both laugh)

a: she's played with us the past five years, it just makes us laugh

e: sara played with us starting in '91 and she did a lot of work on this album though, she did the string arrangement on caramia, and played a whistle solo it was really beautiful (on hey kind friend)

a: and most of the bass, really

e: typically she plays

a: ninety percent of it

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1997-05-03: shameless: an interview with the indigo girls' emily saliers, poets, artists, madmen:

jpb: i've listened to the new album several times now, and i really think these are some of the best songs you've ever written. can you tell me specifically about "caramia"?

es: it's actually two songs that were put together. and i wrote it on electric guitar, which is the first time i've ever written a song on electric guitar. i just came up with the opening chord riff and wound the song around it. it's two sections - one is about the relationship that's totally screwed up, the other is from a dream that actually our bass player sara lee had and told me about - and so i put the dream in with the other reflections for the song, and it just came out as it is. it's a lot more obscure that i typically write.

jpb: you added a lot of new instruments to this song and others on the album.

es: as far as production goes, sara lee wrote the string part for that ["caramia"] and arranged it. it's really the only big string section we have on the record. there's a lot of electric guitar and layered percussion tracks and things like that. it's a big song, in terms of musical production. it's really different than anything we've ever done.

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1997-05-31: hey kind friend, creative loafing:

"i said [to emily], 'i'm going to ask you to play a certain way and do a certain thing," amy recalls. "like in 'don't give that girl a gun,' i wanted her to play electric guitar in a way she wouldn't normally do, and she really ended up being more herself. it's inside her, and she knows how to do it, and so we would do a song like 'scooter boys,' and she wasn't even in the right tuning, she was just hooked up and messing around. i started playing the song, we learned it in 10 minutes and then we recorded it. that was it. we kept that take."

amy's turn came on "caramia," the swooning, arching love song with the five violins, two violas and two cellos - in fact, a song whose harmonies were written by amy. but when they recorded it, emily asked amy to do "things i wouldn't even think of, that wouldn't occur to me to do," amy recalls. "she [said] to me, 'i think that note might not be right, can you do this instead.' or, 'i think that might be a little too harsh.' or, 'i didn't want your voice to stick out that much, can you try singing back a little bit.'" but don't mistake this for a compromise: "[emily] produces her own songs and i produce mine. we take direction from each other. and there's a lot of things she challenged me on this time." and vice-versa? "it's stuff that's inside us both but it's not what we would naturally do."

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1997-06-05: indigo girls' try-anything attitude a success, the worcester telegram and gazette:

after 12 years together, it seems ray and saliers are finally influencing each other.

"you're seeing more personal stuff from amy, while a song like "caramia' is new for me," saliers said. "caramia" is an epic ballad from saliers and the centerpiece of "shaming of the sun." what makes it different for the singer are its dark tones and ultimately despairing twist.

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1997-09: no boundaries - indigos girls cut loose, acoustic guitar:

jpr: tell me about the explosion of stringed instruments on the new album. did that happen as a result of experimenting in your writing or because you were trying to broaden the sound for the record?

es: it was actually both. for instance, "get out the map" is a song that i play banjo on, and i wrote it on the banjo. but amy wrote "shame on you," and i played banjo on parts of it just for a different color. i wrote "caramia" on electric guitar. it's the first song i've written on electric guitar. and then other instruments got added to other songs. bouzouki got added for texture.

...

jpr: when you're recording with a lot of instruments and multitracking, how do you maintain a live feel?

ar: the majority of the song is done live. with "scooter boys," the whole song's live - no overdubs except for one guitar. and then a song like "caramia" was cut live, and then we went back in and fixed the guitar. you have to pay attention to [the live feel] the whole time so you don't lose it. part of it is being spontaneous when you're overdubbing - overdubbing inside the control room where the mic is picking up what's coming off the speakers, things that enhance a live feel to the tracks that you're putting down on top of everything. and then not getting so precious about every little thing really helps.

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2001-10-11: 'no boundaries': indigos, ballet connect onstage, the atlanta journal and constitution:

"we're definitely trusting margo's sensibilities," says saliers. "if you try to act out what the songs are saying, it can get borderline hokey." sappington chose the songs from a list of 30 the girls provided. among them are "shed your skin," which forms the backdrop for the dancers' metamorphosis from fans to dancers, and two relative rarities, "caramia" and "touch me fall."

"when i saw the songs she chose - some of which we never get to play live - i thought, if i can get past my own insecurities about the drama in the music, about whether the music is danceable, it's going to be amazing," says ray. "and it is. we went to a rehearsal. and i was even having a bad day. but it was so moving, i just wanted to cry. when 'caramia' started, i thought, 'oh, my god. she's really got a touch.' "

because of their busy schedules, the indigo girls will be able to rehearse with the dancers only a few days. "the ballet is working their butts off," says ray. "all we have to do is show up for about a week and have a lot of fun."

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2001-10-14: seven indigo songs inspire show, the atlanta journal constitution:

"caramia" by emily saliers, from "shaming of the sun" (1997): saliers said this was the first song she wrote on electric guitar. "it's two sections - one is about the relationship that's totally screwed up, the other is from a dream that actually our [then] bass player, sara lee, had," she said, before concluding that the song is more obscure than most of her compositions. it's hard to argue with that.

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2001-10-23: the indigo girls do not wear tutus; atlanta ballet does, the georgia state university signal:

the indigo girls broke into "shed your skin" and the dancers began shedding their clothes. it should be noted that ballet dancers maintain exquisitely sculpted bodies, and the popularity of pieces such as this one, where the dancers wear flesh-revealing leotards instead of the standard ankle-length tutus seen in most nymph-featuring numbers, runs high for a reason. the stage now held the indigo girls and an entire ensemble of sculpted bodies in lame-like unitards - things were heating up!

the next song "caramia" featured an all female ensemble, which was directly followed by "scooter boys" featuring all the male dancers. the choreography of "scooter boys" exuded energy, perhaps a little too much; several times throughout the piece all the dancers were running from one end of the stage to the other. nonetheless, the better-choreographed sections were just so - meant to show off the repertoire of tricks the men of the atlanta ballet can do.

the most exquisite number in the piece, in both choreography and setting, was "ghost," which featured julianne kepley and john welker. kepley is in her eighth season with the company, and could be dubbed the evelyn cisneros of atlanta. she is a native atlantan and received her training at the atlanta school of ballet, the school of american ballet and boston ballet. onstage, however, the name of the school at which she studied does not matter - her technique and presence do. she far outshone her partner, welker, who also trained at the prestigious sab. excellent male dancers, however, are hard to come by.

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2014-12-02: es.1996, official indigo girls "a year a month blog" on tumblr:

"cara mia" was a big departure for me stylistically. i wrote it on electric guitar, and parts of the lyrics were based on a dream sara lee had and told me about (losing shoes and bridges to cross over). while it doesn't have the rock tempo (it's more like a dirge, really), the electric guitar part provided a conduit for a mass of lyrical angst. i also wanted strings on the song and asked sara lee to write and arrange a string part with a tip of the hat to paul buckmaster, whose strings i had freaked out over on elton john's madman across the water. i thought that sara accomplished that perfectly with the string parts she wrote on "cara mia," and it showed her musicality and aptitude, as she wasn't in the habit writing full string arrangements.

there were other new musical avenues for me that came to life on shaming. i wrote my first song on banjo, "get out the map." i wrote it in the same living room as i had previously written "galileo." i was learning that picking up a different instrument brought a completely different song. i never would have written "get out the map" on guitar, and i never would have written "cara mia" on acoustic guitar. i found the chords to "leeds" on a piano. the experience from that dark trip to england had been literally brooding in me for a couple of years, but when i stumbled on those chords, they found their way out. and that was the first song i wrote on piano. i don't even remember the chords now. i'm not a piano player. but it was a huge step in expanding musically to pick up a new instrument and write with it, even if i didn't play it well and certainly not properly. around this time, amy and i were broadening our sound palette with harmonica, mandolin, banjo, piano, dulcimer, and more than ever, electric guitar. i also remember when amy chose a hip-hop loop to run through "shed your skin," an absolutely new twist and turn for amy's music. "leeds" is and may always be the only song we ever played a hurdy gurdy on.

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2015-05-21: ar.2001, official indigo girls "a year a month blog" on tumblr:

in the midst of making become you and on the heels of the surreal tragedy of 9-11, we got involved in what is still a transformative creative experience for us, when we were asked by the visionary director of the atlanta ballet, john mcfall to collaborate on a project with choreographer margo sappington. the project called shed your skin was a stunning visual treat; with 7 ig songs choreographed for the dancers of the atlanta ballet. the ballet's orchestra played live in the pit and we played with a full band on stage right while the dancers moved in stunning physical interpretations to the songs. for me, tunes such as "touch me fall" and "caramia" will forever be associated with this incredible project. it was a challenge to play while the dancing was happening, because we had to stay strictly within the meter and the arrangement. we brought in drummer, blair cunningham to be our bandleader because of his natural metronomic sensibility. the performance was a huge critical success, and also got the stamp of approval from friends and family who came back night-after-night to see the show. the dancers and choreography were so exciting it was hard to focus on playing. i found myself losing my place during practice because i was so amazed at the physical prowess and grace of the dancers. margot sappington was gracious and indulged our greenness in this venture, guiding us along the way in what it takes to pull this kind of thing off. the project opened many doors for us and offered us a glimpse into the world of collaborating with the classical arts. hearing our songs arranged with an orchestra stayed in our minds for years and led to our most recent endeavor of playing with symphony orchestras across the country.


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