lifeblood: songs: backgrounds: chickenman


1992-05: rites of passage, epic records press release:

amy ray talks about some of her own compositions on "rites of passage":

...

chickenman: this is a real person, an older guy who lives in a trailer in the middle of this junkyard off the highway somewhere between houston and austin. there's a big sign that says chicken man. it looks like everything's for sale, but you'll ask about something and he'll say "oh, that's not for sale." we got into a conversation, and some of his values and ideas seemed incredibly comforting to me at the time. it was the way he'd look out over this piece of land and take such pride and satisfaction in this collection of junk! this guy was deep, he had layers of character underneath that rough skin and dirt. "chickenman" is really a stream-of- consciousness type song.

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1994-03: the indigo girls: the musical ties that bind, performing songwriter:

[ps] which of each other's songs are your favorites?

[es] i like so many of amy's songs - and for different reasons. i love "chicken man" - it was always one of my favorite songs to play live on this past year of touring. and i love her old standby upbeat songs like "land of canaan." i'll never get tired of playing that song, even though she does. and the mystical power she gets in some of her songs like "jonas and ezekial," where you almost know what she's talking about but you're not sure. those songs stay with you a long time because you can't figure them out. that's the great power of amy's songwriting, that mystery. i take so much pleasure in her songs.

...

[ps] which of your own songs are you happiest with?

...

[ar] "kid fears" captured a period of my life and it's a really important song to me, so i really like that one. and then "chicken man" i really, really like a lot because it just says everything i feel - and it's a song about something that i'm totally preoccupied with all that time. and i'm glad i have it as a song. "three hits" is important to me because of the content. but those songs - i always enjoy playing them.

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1995-xx-xx: (interview transcription), interview by kirsti reeve:

k: ok... let's start with the album.. what does the title mean? 4.5 what?

a: you know

e: it's funny now...

a: it's funny, coz when we did the live at the bbc thing we had four people in our band plus we had gail sitting in, which was half a person. and we were thinking we were going to use some of that on this cd, so we called it 4.5.

k: ok

a: but we didn't use any of it on the cd, so it doesn't make any sense. it's just a number.

e: we originally called it four and a half, but they thought with the graphics it'd look better as 4.5, so.. michael, the artist decided that..

k: the graphic style's quite different from your previous album covers..

a: it's sort of similar.. style..well.. it's the same artist that did swamp ophelia, and that does all our t shirts.

k: who chose the tracks on it? why those ones?

a: our manager, and...

e: (coughs) and our publicist and..

a: our publicist who's a good friend.

e: and we..we approved everything. so..

a: they just..they were having fun with it. like, picking what they wanted to put on there and so we let 'em go. and do it. we don't usually do that. but our manager is a good friend, our publicist is a good friend, so it was just like.. they were having a good time..

e: yeah..

a: we were just like, go for it, we approved it, and it was interesting what they picked.

k: are they the tracks that you'd have chosen, if you were asked to put together a..

e: we probably would have picked more obscure tracks.

a: which is probably good why they did it.

k: such as...?

e: umm.. i mighta.. for my songs i might have picked..

a: (interrupts) lemme..lemme see it and i'll tell you! (laughs) i was happy that they picked pushing the needle, coz i didn't think they'd pick that one.

e: yeah

a: and three hits i was really happy about, coz that's ... well, for me i love all of the songs they picked, but..

e: i mean, i might have picked, umm, love will come to you

a: (yeah), virginia woolf maybe

a: (yeah), ummm..

a: chickenman maybe, although i didn't like the recording of that as much as the live version.

e: but i like the songs they picked too.

a: yeah, it's a good collection.

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1997-12: indigo girls - amy ray, curve:

sl - in shaming, it seems that for the 1st time you and emily use gender-specific pronouns.

ar - i've been gender-specific on records before, in "chickenman" i'm very specific - i went looking for a girl. and then in "fugitive" it's obvious i'm talking about a girl. i've been gender-specific when i've wanted to talk about one particular relationship or incident. a lot of our songs are about several different people, so i haven't been able to be as specific. on this record, our indian activism spurred a feeling that we don't have any time to waste - you better just say what you feel and be as blunt as possible. i think i used to write a lot more abstractly in the past. the older i get, the more outspoken i get, the more blunt i get, because i just don't feel its worth it anymore not to be that way. our activism, especially with the zapatistas [rebel fighters] in chiapas, mexico, has been an impetus to just stand up and say what we feel and be very direct about it. we've seen people in the gay community that have suffered for their preferences and their beliefs. but sometimes when its right around you in your own community, it doesn't doesnt impact you as much. when you step into somebody else's community and see something, and then go back to your own community, you go, "oh wow, okay." thats one thing about the zapatistas i liked so much. they're very interested in people learning from them and going back into their own communities and working on what they need to work on. emily and i spent several years focused on activism, and in our year off, we mulled it all over, thought about it and wrote songs. emily especially. i've always been pretty outspoken and pretty willing to talk about everything, but emily had a tendency to be more scared about privacy issues. and now she's just like whatever. [laughs]

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2014-04-01: es.1988, official indigo girls "a year a month blog" on tumblr:

life as a bar band is perfectly fitting for a restless soul with wanderlust. i can't recall ever being anything but excited as we embarked upon tours we had set up. i particularly enjoyed trying out the bizarre food at road stops and gas stations: pickled eggs in jars, weird sausages, bubble gum, every little new thing that fast food restaurants introduced (mc rib!!!). we stopped at flea markets, like the one where amy met the chickenman, and we stayed at cheap hotels or in questionable, smelly lodging provided by dodgy club owners. we hauled around boxes of our lp's to sell, and we got paid in cash. in the van, on the way to the next stop, we listened to music on cassette tapes and talked and talked. the miles rolled on.

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2014-06-30: ar.1991, official indigo girls "a year a month blog" on tumblr:

the recording of rites of passage is one of the most formative musical experiences of my life. we had a collection of songs to record that were really different from what we had done, and i think showed some exploration and growth. the majority of my songs were written during that year of touring, but some of the lyrics like "chickenman" were drawn from a long period of time, piecing together stories from a lyric journal i kept. "nashville" also came from my lyric journal, an early musing on the trouble i was having at vanderbilt university. "romeo and juliet" was a cover song i used to do when i played the lounge at the emory sheraton hotel. i liked to throw in some of the songs that really moved me and this tune by mark knopfler was always the song i wished i had written. i wrote "three hits" for the poet, frank stanford, who was introduced to me by rock journalist, chuck dean. stanford's poetry is still where i go to find the magic of imagery, description and gut binding story telling. like frank stanford, who had committed suicide at a young age, dean also took his life a few years later. i considered dean one of the truly gifted writers on art and music.

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2017-10-05: emily saliers talks solo work in advance of birchmere show, the washington blade:

blade: when people yell out songs during the slightest lull in a concert, do you ever feel like saying, "just chill - we have a set list?"

saliers: no. we try to honor as many of those as we can. we'll look at the set list immediately and ascertain if there's a spot where that song makes sense. some we won't do if they're too rusty and we haven't practiced them and sometimes we won't do it if it's something we're tired of. sometimes if we're introducing something from our new album and somebody yells out, "chickenman!," we'll say, "we're gonna go ahead and do the one we were talking about."


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