lifeblood: songs: backgrounds: measure of me

1999-10-01: indigo girl, the duke chronicle:

can you explain the title of your new album, come on now social? it was somewhat obscure to me...

"that's because we don't really know what it means! we got it out of a song that i wrote that's not on the record."

what song is that?

"a song called 'measure of me.' we're not really sure what it means because it's supposed to evoke this idea of finding your place in the world and asking the world to accept you in that place. so there's a little bit of activism involved in it but there's also a little bit of society-there's really completely opposite meanings in it. that's why we can't really explain it. we want people to take what they want from it."


1999-11-05: transcription, world cafe:

h: great song from come on now social, the new indigo girls' album. when you named this, i understand it's from a song of yours, amy, you must have expected folks to try to - you're gonna get questions about it. (emily laugh.) what is come on now soc - you know i've had people call me up and tell me, it's a - uh toast, come on now social. (amy laughs) what is it about?

a: it's a toast. um, it's kind of like finding your place in the world, and how does the world find you, and how you find the world, and the pressure - it's got two sides, 'cause i think the song that i wrote was speaking more to the feeling um, unacceptable at a certain point in my life, when i was becoming, going from a tomboy, into supposedly trying to become a woman, and i couldn't figure out how to do it. and, uh, (laughs) never did really, i guess (host laughs.) and so, i was speaking of that a little bit, and then, and then, in the broader sense of the word, the positive side of it, of like, the activism in the world, and i think me and emily meant more of trying to evoke our place in the world, sort of, didn't we?

e: yup.

a: yeah.

e: i agree with everything you said.


1999-12-17: (transcription), yahoo chat:

question: how did you come up with the name "come on now social" for your cd?

indigo girls: amy: the name came from a song that i was working on called "measure of me". and it was just a line from the song and we liked the way it sounded. it seemed to sum up what we were talking about on the record. a call to find your place in the world.


2000-02-15: the bedroom interview with amy ray,

jb: let's talk about what you're working on right now.

ar: well, i'm working on a solo project. it'll be done in a year. there are a lot of gender themes and gay or boys don't cry themes.

jb: why are you visiting the boy part in you?

ar: i think i have always felt out of place to a certain degree in my body. although i like being a woman and i want to have a woman's body, at the same time i feel disconnected from it sometimes. i feel like a boy sometimes. i think it came up more when i started going out with someone who is more heterosexually-identified than other people i have been with and more sort of feminine in some ways, and she responded to a masculine side of me. she - i mean you - what do i say, "you" or "she"?

jb: you mean me, right? just say "you."

ar: yeah, you identified a side of me that was masculine and articulated it. you forced me to kind of confront it and decide whether i liked that or not.

jb: so when you say in your song "measure of me" that you can get the girls, but the guys just laugh -

ar: i'm not saying that i can get any girl, but a few years ago i was having a lot of women approach me and ask me out because they knew i was single. at the same time, there was this one guy - who will remain unnamed - that i really wanted to go out with badly. i had a serious crush on this guy and i thought we'd be just perfect together. we went out once together, to a rock show, but it was just awkward. people kept coming up to talk to one or the other of us and it was as if we weren't there together.


2001-xx-xx: (excerpts from an interview with amy ray), (unpublished):

- on measure of me. i said it seemed to be a song about finding yourself attracted to someone who is not in the usual package you prefer.

"yeah, that's exactly what it is about. it's about the struggle of thinking that you are one thing and then feeling that you might be somebody else. it's about the fluidity of it. "

-i said that when i first heard the version of the song on napster, which is different than the album cut, i thought that it was a risky song politically because some lesbians might be pissed or offended at the suggestion of a cross over, as it were. i said it didnt offend me but i think because i came out really late, in my early 30s, that i appreciate what she's saying about fluidity.

"i think they could be pissed but they are misreading it if they are. i am commenting on the notion out there that if i am a woman and i cant understand how to be with a man than i am worthless...i think we are made stronger by expressing these things. but if it pisses anyone off, they are reading it too literally. i am not saying if you are gay that you should try to be straight. obviously i live my personal life as a lesbian and politically i am a lesbian. but i think we are fluid. and we should realize that and get over it..."


2001-03: interview with amy ray, borders website chat:

hockey girl: who are the people on the toboggan on the cd label?

amy ray: (laughing) that's the butchies. i was in durham, nc during the big snowstorm last year. we were recording, and we had to take the day off, because we couldn't get to the studio. so we went sledding, instead!

hockey girl: kaia of the butchies was given credit for songwriting on the album. what were her contributions?

amy ray: it was one song, "measure of me." she wrote some of the lyrics.


2001-03-29: amy ray, indie girl, the orlando sentinel:

stag also looks at gender issues, most notably with a poignant take on sexual ambiguity in "measure of me." ray, who is gay, seeks to approach such topics in a way that is universal more than personal.

"the idea is to have your personal life in there, but nuanced enough that it's not just a personal song. i think that can be pretty boring to listen to, and i want people to be able to apply the songs to themselves in a bigger way than just as your introspective feelings."


2001-05-08: chasing amy, the advocate:

the same goes for stag, which daemon released in march. ray recalls that a few years ago she began writing songs that weren't quite fitting in with the indigo aesthetic. so, she says, she "started putting them in this other little pile. the pile was getting bigger and bigger, and i said, 'i've got to do something with these.'" ray had also become frustrated with being on a major label, and the idea of recording on her own indie imprint and playing smaller venues seemed a welcome respite. "epic is experiencing burnout with us," ray says of the indigo girls' record label. "we've been on the label a long time, and we're women, getting older. it's harder for women in the rock industry when they get older."

hence the 10-track, low-budget cd, which ray recorded with the help of the north carolina-based dyke trio the butchies and which has guest appearances by onetime daemon artists danielle howle and rock*a*teens. for one track, "hey castrator," ray assembled an impressive backing superband featuring joan jett, josephine wiggs (dusty trails, the breeders), and kate schellenbach (luscious jackson). to ray, making a record with her musician friends "was this great time where i could hang out with them and do something that was completely outside of everything i do."

wiggs, who recorded with ray in an old brooklyn, n.y., firehouse, says she was generous in the creative process. "it became clear to me that amy wanted me to do a lot more than just play the bass," says wiggs. "it was very flattering."

"i came to the studio after performing in my broadway show [the rocky horror show], so i thought i might have been too tired to get it going," remembers jett. "but once i got there, amy, her other musicians, and the aura of the studio got me in a very good place mentally. the studio was a very funky and good-vibe place. amy was looking for a natural performance on 'hey castrator' without a lot of polish. i think we got great energy in there." in addition to being made on the fly and on a very tight budget, stag is also far more lyrically arresting than anything ray has done. though she and saliers have always been political and painstakingly honest in their prose, nothing to date stings more than stag's best cut, "lucystoners." the song is a railing flip-off to sexism in the music industry, with a particularly high-profile target: "janny wenner, rolling stone's most fearless leader / gave the boys what they deserve, but with the girls he lost his nerve....lucystoners don't need boners, ain't no man could ever own her."

"he's sort of notorious for his resistance to women musicians," ray says of wenner, the famed magazine's publisher. "it's so much more than just him," she adds of the music media's chauvinism, "but he's a convenient scapegoat." ray's ruthless browbeating of the influential music glossy particularly inspired butchies drummer melissa york. "i really wonder what's going to happen with that song," york says, giggling nervously. "after working with amy, i really look up to her. she is so open with music."

ray uses stark, bare-knuckle lyrics to guide her through a number of painful topics. in "measure of me"-co-written with butchies singer-guitarist kaia wilson-a butch female protagonist wants to date a guy but feels stymied in a society that is forever shackling people in gender roles: "the boy he thinks i'm damaged goods / i know he does and i guess he should." though ray is in a long-distance relationship of three years' standing with a woman, a manhattan-based writer, she contends that sexuality is fluid. "that's what i mean when i'm saying [in the song], 'crossing over what you know.' what i was saying was, 'i'm here with this guy, and it's the last thing you'd expect me to be doing, but you should accept it. it shouldn't be you who is holding me back from who i am.'"

ray doesn't mince words, and throughout, her career as an out performer she has also been known as a tireless activist. in addition to daemon's activities, the grassroots projects she's been involved in include a fight to end the slaughter of buffalo in yellowstone national park; funding solar power for a village in chiapas state, mexico, where there was no electricity; and stopping a toxic waste incinerator from being built near her home outside atlanta.

"amy ray is one person that walks it like she talks it," says jett. "she is committed to doing whatever she can to make the world better and to fighting injustice wherever she can. that is one of the many reasons i am proud to call her my friend."

ray is fond of ending her written correspondence with the slogan "here's to the motherfuckin' revolution," though she doesn't necessarily believe that change can come only through so massive an act. "i think it can happen, but it's at a very local level-that's where victories are won," she says. "that's what ends up changing government and corporate accountability."


2018-09-26: brandi carlile interviews amy ray about her new solo album, holler, paste magazine:

josh jackson: well guys, that was such a pleasure and an honor to get to listen in. i think that gives a wonderful perspective on this record and your relationship. the last thing i would love to have you say something about is: this is not the first time you guys have collaborated. why do you keep coming back to work together?

carlile: well, for me, the indigo girls have been heroes of mine since i was about 14. i covered all their songs, which is how i learned to play guitar. i went to all their concerts i could possibly go to. i stood in line all day long. when amy came out with stag, i was actually blown away. i covered "measure of me" and i became a fan of the butchies, and i stood in line and watched her at the showbox. i've been a fan for most of my human life. so any opportunity i can get to collaborate with amy is a blessing in my life. and i remain a fan, and i think that, if it's even possible, you just get better and better and more and more profound as an artist and a songwriter.

ray: i feel the same way for you as a songwriter and an artist. i also feel like, as an organizer and a business person, i really pay attention to how you do things, and it's a template for me sometimes. you're like a mentor. because i think mentoring is not a generational thing. it goes both ways. and i remember the first time you walked into our lives and we started singing together, it was like a freakin' earthquake. and it changed us. it infused me and emily with this energy that we really needed at the time. we were just floundering a bit in some way. and then you came in and we were singing together all the time. on an emotional level and a spiritual level and a musical level, it gave emily and i a collaborator who was just so exciting. and somebody we could believe in, that we could play with and look at as a mentor. someone who was fresh and younger and had a different perspective-one that you didn't often get to see or hear about. someone who was willing to pour 100% energy into what you're doing, musically but also business-wise. and that's really important to us. so for us, it's been great watching you develop, and we always take note of how your're doing things and what's going on in your life.

carlile: really? that's so amazing to hear.

ray: well it's true. i'm not making it up. for me, i'm always like "i gotta make sure i see brandi's show this tour." and i'll look at your website to figure out what you're doing and how you're approaching things. and i do this as a fan, but also as a person who can learn from it, as a student. any chance i get to cross paths and talk in a personal way, but also in a business way, is super important to me. i need allies. everybody needs them-men, women, doesn't matter what you are, you need allies in this business. people you can go to sometimes and say, "ugh, i have this situation and i don't know how to handle it"

carlile: oh yeah. how many times have i called you with one of those?

ray: well, i've called you as many.

carlile: we should've warned josh about how long you and i can talk for.

ray: he can go do something else for a while. [laughs.]

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