lifeblood: songs: backgrounds: nashville

1997-06-09: indigo girls: frequently asked questions, e-mail list:

emily saliers was born in new haven, connecticut on july 22nd, 1963. the following year, her future musical partner amy ray was born in atlanta, on april 12th, 1964. when emily was in sixth grade, her family moved to decatur, georgia. emily was enrolled in laurel ridge elementary school where amy was attending fifth grade. when amy and emily were both in high school, they began playing together under the names "saliers and ray" and "the b-band"; their first rehearsals were for a school talent show. later the two progressed to playing open mike nights at local bars, despite being underage. in 1981, the b-band recorded a tape called "tuesday's children" in amy's basement. the tape consisted mostly of cover songs, with an additional original song from each of them. in 1982 amy recorded "color me grey", a solo tape consisting of entirely original material.

when emily graduated from high school she enrolled at tulane university in new orleans, majoring in english. amy moved to nashville a year later to study english and religion at vanderbilt university. dissatisfied with life away at school, both emily and amy moved back to atlanta to attend emory university in 1984, and the two resumed playing together regularly. in 1985 they adopted the name "indigo girls"; amy picked the word "indigo" out of the dictionary because she thought it sounded "cool". that same year, indigo girls made their recording debut with an independently released 7" single "crazy game"/"everybody's waiting (for someone to come home)" and a mostly-live cassette called "blue food". at around the same time, amy released an updated version of "color me grey", including an early version of her song "nashville".


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

"this is a song from 1984 which never exactly fit in with an album before. i wrote it when i was in college at vanderbilt university, not exactly a hotbed of liberalism. in fact, there were some very racist and sexist things happening on that campus, and i found the city reflected those same qualities to an extent... as a songwriter trying to be heard, i found it extremely competitive and oppressive. as a southerner, i feel free to criticize from 'within the family.' i could say some of the same things about atlanta that i'm saying here about nashville."


1994-12: amy says the "l" word, deneuve magazine:

vab: swamp ophelia is the first album you've recorded in nashville. how was that experience? k.d. lang seemed to have a really hard time in nashville as a lesbian and as a songwriter. was that your experience?

ar: it was a great experience. there's a really new, hip scene there, different from the country scene. i had lived there for a year before and it was really terrible. there was a lot of prejudice. but that city goes through phases. this time when we went back, there was more of a bohemian perspective. but you're never going to get rid of what k.d. doesn't like, which is the cliques and the really paranoid atmosphere. you get caught up in that. there are just so many songwriters, so many musicians.


2001-08-03: indigo girls - talent seen once in a blue moon, the easton express-times:

when both were in high school, they started playing music together in preparation for a school talent show, and were soon performing at open-mike nights at local bars, calling themselves either saliers and ray or the b-band.

by 1981, ray and saliers had completed their first basement tape (literally - it was recorded in ray's basement) called "tuesday's children," a collection of cover songs augmented with two original tunes.

ray continued her songwriting and, the following year, she recorded a solo tape of her own material called "color me grey."

after high school, saliers became an english major at tulane university, and the next year, ray headed off to nashville, tenn., to study english and religion at vanderbilt university. but being away from home didn't sit too well with either, and by 1984 both were back in atlanta as students at emory university.

in 1985, again performing together on a regular basis, they decided to go by the name indigo girls. in one of the time-honored traditions of rock, the name held no real significance - ray chose "indigo" from the dictionary because the word sounded cool.


2004-05-17: singer of the week, (unknown):

from grey to indigo blue

they quickly moved up the ranks, playing at open mike nights in local bars. in 1981, they recorded their first tape, tuesday's children in amy ray's basement, followed by a 1982 recording of "color me grey," a solo effort by ray.

the duo's name, "indigo girls," was not adopted until 1985 (ray had seen the word "indigo" in a dictionary and thought it was catchy). with the release of their first single, "crazy game/everybody's waiting for someone to come home (a b-side)," the music industry had yet to catch on.

in 1987, the indigo girls independently released their first album, strange fire (it was rereleased in 1989 under the epic label). though they were told that they would never secure a deal because their songs were apparently too "immature," their music eventually led to a record deal with epic records in 1988.


2013-10-18: amy.1983, official indigo girls "a year a month blog" on tumblr:

my oldest sister laura had gone to vandy and i had visited her a couple times and thought it'd be a good place for me. i'm not sure what transpired in the time after she graduated but the community of d&d playing, philosophy majors and free loving hippies had kind of disappeared off the campus and what was left, was pretty much a choice between the conservative young republican kids who majored in fraternity and sorority life and the conservative business, pre-med or prelaw driven intellectuals. i know now there were a lot of other kinds of students there, but i was such a hermit that i couldn't find them. i was trying to come to terms with my sexuality and scared of everything i was feeling. i was in music city, u.s.a. and i knew i wanted to make the best of it, but still couldn't really connect the dots. vanderbilt and nashville were legendary in my mind for alt country bands like jason and the scorchers and badass women rockers like marshall chapman. the bluebird cafe had just opened and was already a happening place. the sga at vandy was renown for hooking up stellar shows; r.e.m. came through on its murmur tour and opened for the english beat. i kick myself now, because i couldn't get out of my misery enough to discover this world that lay at my feet.

i did have a super cool job though, at the most amazing used record, comic, and bookstore on broadway called the great escape. it really became my savior during that time. i spent my hours going through tons of vinyl records in a dusty upstairs room, checking them and pricing them, organizing comics, ringing up sales, and doing gopher work. it was the walker's family business and they knew a lot about music. my sister had also worked there when she was school, so the walkers took me in and treated me like their own. i spent most of my earnings on vinyl and comics, but the job gave me some structure and helped to feel like i was in nashville and not just isolated on a college campus. gary walker was a nashville songwriter and gave me some songwriting advice along the way. it took a while to apply his advice but it was a seed that got planted and grows even now. i played some gigs here and there, even played on campus, and it was really a big part of whom i was, but i was having so much trouble negotiating my inner life that i couldn't really turn it into anything. i felt like such an oddball, and sometimes out of insecurity, i was strange for strange's sake, but it's hard when you feel all painful and crazy inside to figure out how to show it on the outside without giving it all away, so i guess that chip on my shoulder got pretty heavy.

i had a couple of entrusted friends that saved my butt for sure, i still use the guitar strap that they gave me in an act of total grace and support. but, there was nowhere that i didn't feel homophobia and at the time, i didn't even know what to call it, i hated myself and did whatever i could to stop that hurt. i wrote blood and fire in the throes of all that mystery and pain. but it was more than just love and sexuality chaos, my left wing was growing, my politics developing and i was truly feeling the pull of activism. i didn't understand it all yet, it was just growing inside and i couldn't help myself from taking in all that was wrong with the south in the 80's. i wrote the lyrics for nashville that year too, i left the original lyrics in a seedy atlanta hotel i holed up in for some respite called the dial inn. it took me a while to pull it back up from my memory. i felt the old south's racism, classism, and all the negative parts of a wealthy old southern university and a conservative music city and that song was my way of coming to terms with it. but you know how it is, where there is that much frustration and anger, there is bound to be an equal helping of yearning and love; over the years that city has become a friend to me.

when your 19 years old, you don't think of yourself as young, but you are, you are young and vulnerable and your senses are on hyper drive. i was pretty lost and always asking myself why did everything feel so off kilter, secret and dark? the creeping discovery of sexuality, politicization, social awkwardness of a freshman year, and powerful musical ambitions all culminated in a potent coming of age that lives with me even now.

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