lifeblood: songs: backgrounds: pushing the needle too far


1990-09-xx: nomads*indians*saints, epic records press release:

"this song deals with alienation and the way we sometimes numb ourselves to things. obviously, the needle suggest a drug analogy, but it's also like the needle on a meter. but it's a symbol, not a literal usage like neil young's 'the needle and the damage done.' it's about the things people do to numb themselves to the pain of their situation."

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1991-01: the power of two, acoustic guitar:

when arranging vocals, the writer of the song typically sings lead, because it's written in her vocal range, explains saliers. then, sharing the same sensibilities on how to build a song dynamically, they look for where to use a call-and-answer line, a straight harmony, or which lines should be emphasized and sung together.

although they know some theory from years and years of church choir and high school chorus and occasionally work out parts that way, says saliers, most of the work is done by ear. saliers and ray credit their years of chorus - and the roches - for some of their vocal arrangements, such as lyrically contrasting lines. "prince of darkness on indigo girls and "pushing the needle too far" on their new record contain examples. not only does this technique expand the sound, but as ray points out, it's a sly way to stick in extra lyrics. "when you've got an extra verse and you really want to keep it, but you know it makes the song sort of drawn out, you just stick it under one of the choruses," she explains.

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1991-01-25: indigos blend intricate sound, thought, the cleveland plain dealer:

the contemporary folk category in the grammy competition is in fact a notorious catchall for performers and groups that are hard to define, picking up musicians as diverse as tracy chapman, beausoleil and guy clark.

but saliers says the diversity applies equally to her and ray.

"our writing is so different," she said. "(ray's) images are kind of these sweeping images, more passionate and fiery - in your face, sort of. mine is more reflective, more emotionally removed."

the tunes' alterations in style and instrumentation are mostly an attempt to marry the musical approach with the song's identity. "we're not trying to be unpredictable," saliers said.

for instance, on "pushing the needle," off their current album, they used an accordion and a snare and cymbals instead of a full drum kit.

"it gave it a loose, raw feeling, fitting for that song," saliers said.

by contrast, the song "watershed," is "more conducive to the whole works," including "tons of percussion. it just lent itself musically."

so what happens when they're on the road?

they take a sax and a bass and their two guitars, and "don't really worry about it."

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1994-12-02: amy ray on...jesus christ superstar, the washington square news:

dc: now, michael told me when he first moved to atlanta in 89, he was actually an indigo girls fan.

ar: (laughing) he didn't tell me that.

dc: how did you guys meet?

ar: he was playing with a friend of mine, gerard mchugh, who is, at the time and still is, one of my favorite songwriters, and someone that i played with a lot. we were all kind of on a scene where we all played together and traded gigs and stuff and michael moved down and i met him in that context. it was like a circle of people, they were all guys, and i hung out with them. i guess i heard of him from gerard, and then he played me a song actually, at somebody's house one time, a song called "amy no," which was this incredible folk song he wrote, and after that i was like a devoted fan of his. and when he started doing big fish ensemble, and all of his activities, i kind of followed what he did, and we just crossed paths all the time. and eventually he started sitting in with us and playing with us on our records.

dc: i knew of him vaguely from "pushing the needle" and the two songs on rites of passage, but when i heard "this train revised" that was like the first time i really heard him, and that's one of the most amazing songs.

ar: he's a great drummer, too. he's a one-of-a-kind drummer. no one else can really duplicate the way he plays. it's pretty special.

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

ecky bay: what does pushing the needle too far mean to you? to me it means that i'm trying to do too much, which is something i always tend to do, and it really has put a new perspective on my life. thank you.

amy ray: it means that to me, as well, as a result of rushing things or trying to do too much, or trying to go faster all the time. i feel like we do that in order to numb ourselves, so i wasn't just talking about speed. i was talking about too many drugs, too fast, too loud-all the extremes. i mean, they're good, but, a lot of the time, i think they're just there to keep us from feeling things.


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