lifeblood: songs: backgrounds: the wood song


1994-01: (transcription), world cafe radio program:

interviewer: "swamp ophelia" just came out this week and we're very happy that amy and emily have joined us today. this album, if i were writing my term paper about this record two things would come up right away and one of them is the wonderful textures on the record. the use of strings with the quartet this time around and cello again and lisa germano on the fiddle. we're you looking to put new textures into the record when you sat down?

emily: we both love strings. we've had a little bit of strings on all the records actually. it's progressed more and more. i mean there's nothing like a live quartet in the studio, it's really exciting.

interviewer: i was wondering how that works. do you sit around before hand and say "ah we want to do this, this, this" or do you actually get into the studio and say "ah now we need a string quartet".

amy: well...it depends.

emily: both. (laughs)

amy: (laughs) yeah, it's kind of a...it's a kitchen sink as emily always says. i mean the record. i mean you're...it's like someone like lisa germano comes in and plays, you know her instrument, and then goes "but maybe i could try this on this" you know we go "go for it" you know. and sometimes it's an accident and we decide to use it you know. so it really is. we experiment a lot. we have the luxury of being able to spend a little more time and do that.

interviewer: i was wondering, particularly danny thompson on the acoustic base, what a nice texture that is.

emily: yeah.

amy: uh-hum.

emily: yeah, he's killer.

interviewer: well, there's one song and i guess it's one of yours emily, "wood song", which has a great little string arrangement and some nice oboe parts and stuff. unfortunately we didn't contract for the quartet today, but uh...

emily: whoa, that's a whole orchestra (laughs), it would have been tight quarters.

interviewer: could you do that one?

emily: yeah, we could do that one.

amy: we'll do it.

emily: this is "wood song", as in the wood that a boat is made of.

amy: wood.

emily: wood.

amy: wood.

emily: wood that rots in the storm of life.

(live version of "wood song")

amy: whew...

emily: whew...(both laugh)

interviewer: warming up today on the world cafe, the indigo girls.

emily: that's the truth.

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1994-06: mood indigo, bone music magazine:

in contrast, saliers' view of like and human connections is fairly optimistic and uplifting. she seems calm and content, as if she's received answers to some of life's most troubling questions. unlike her musical counterpart, her energy is more introverted than extraverted, but strong, nevertheless. she believes that circumstances usually work themselves out as fate intends.

"you have to have a certain faith about the future, that things are going to go the way they're supposed to go," she says. "we don't do that much planning about our future, actually. our whole career, in fact, just sort of unfolded gradually, and that's been good. it's just taking one year at a time."

saliers expresses this sentiment in swamp ophelia's "the wood song," which she describes as a "turning 30, philosophical song, about how we're all getting slong.

"i just used this big, basic metaphor of noah's ark, gliding down the rocky rivers of life," she explains.

"sometimes i ask to take a closer look/skip to the final chapter of the book/and maybe steer us clear from some of the pain it took/to get us where we are this far/but the question drowns in its futility.../cause no one gets to miss the storm of what will be/just holding on for the ride."

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1994-09-01: indigo girls: the power of two, guitar player:

oddly enough, during the nine years that they've been performing in tandem, the indigo girls have never written a song together; their collaboration surfaces in the creation of harmonies and guitar accompaniment. on saliers' plaintive "the wood song," for example, she plays in standard tuning while ray strums in open g. "if it's amy's song, i'll ask her, 'what do you feel the approach should be?'" saliers says. "she might tell me, 'if you're going to play a guitar part here, make sure it's not bluesy, because i feel it being more edgy.' or, 'i want a weird harmony here, not something basic, like a third or a fifth.'"

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

k: right.. emily.. a bit about your imagery..things like the pirate and the girl.. and the old dogs and the magician... is that you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

e: oh totally.. it's pretty obvious isn't it? yeah...

k: it took some though. but like the pirate and the girl verse coming in the middle of mystery... was that..

e: which part now? the..

k: the pirate gets the ship and the girl? (e: oh yeah yeah..yeah) at the end of mystery?

a: that's good.

e: yeah.. that song is about a love that, like two people come from totally different parts of the spectrum, or however you want to voice it, and i was trying to create tension with that verse. and i was trying to juxtapose the brutality of a pirate, and that strength and force and masculinity or whatever it was, with the sort of subdued quality, or listening ear of the person who's taken in by that and how it all meshes together.. i was just sort of trying to mix those images together.

a: what is all the old dogs..

e: from.. uhh.. wood song

a: ahh.. i knew there was a dog somewhere

k: oh there's dogs all over that album!

a: yeah.. everybody kept saying that, and i was trying to..

k: barking in the back..

e: (laughs).. yeah right.. a: i was trying to think of where they all were.

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1995-02-21: indigo girls sing straight from the heart, the sydney morning herald:

by contrast, saliers's finest moment came with the wood song, a gorgeous duet with obvious spiritual overtones written on her 30th birthday.

"it's very philosophical, very much about the journey of life," she grins. "i don't know if i'd call it existential. i do talk about the greater hand that constructed the tricky plan and all that. (life is) tough, it's cramped, we're all in it together.

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1995-02-27: (unknown), on dit:

od: the quality of your voices seems to have become more refined and pure. they've become more distinct; yours seems to have got higher and amy's even lower. is this something you've consciously pushed?

emily: yeah, actually yeah. with me, i can think of songs where i've really wanted to push my range (like) wood song. also, i quit smoking a long time ago...so that's made a big difference for me...i think we've just tried to grow vocally as well as with song-writing.

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2019-03-26: lucy wainwright roche: five essential indigo girls songs, wfuv.org:

"the wood song" (emily), swamp ophelia (1994)

emily is an incredible writer and she can tackle things in her work that are enormous and daunting- and she does it with expert grace. here's an example of another indigo girls song that is both deeply personal while maintaining an empathetic awareness that everyone struggles with similar issues. this theme runs through much of emily and amy's writing, and perhaps speaks to why their audience is so devoted to them. "the wood song" also showcases their vocal arrangements: the counterpoint parts link together as if they could not have existed in another way. listening to this track makes me curious to ask "chicken and egg" questions: what parts or words came first and how in the hell did they build this vocal arrangement? between the lyrics and the arrangement i find myself drawn to "the wood song" over and over again. upon each listening, i find something new. but honestly, that can be said of most indigo girls songs.

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2020-01-31: artfully political: the indigo girls, the santa fe new mexican:

pasa: you have several truly iconic songs that enormous crowds of people sing along with at your concerts. do you know what your most requested song is? and is there a physical sensation at a concert when all those people are singing with you?

ray: "watershed" is very requested. "the wood song," "galileo," "power of two." people assume we're going to do "closer to fine," so they don't really request it. i don't even know how to describe it when crowds sing along. it's a physical thing because it's sound waves, and it's overwhelming. i love it. i couldn't do the songs over and over again if it was just us playing without that kind of participation and community vibe. it would be boring to me. for me, that makes it feel different all the time. you hear different things. some crowds have people singing harmonies and counter melodies. i always feel lucky.

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2020-05-21: the countermelodies that changed us: a lifetime of loving indigo girls, national public radio:

countermelody is a foundational form in the indigo girls' musical arrangements, as "reunion" (composed by amy) and "the wood song" (composed by emily), both from 1994's swamp ophelia, most clearly illustrate, though nearly all of their compositions to this day feature it in some way or other. the basest definition for a countermelody is that it's a subordinate or secondary melody played alongside, or in counterpoint with, a primary melody. a countermelody played by itself can be beautiful all on its own, yet it becomes something infinitely more special, and more gratifying when you hear it interact with the main line. sometimes an untrained ear can drift to a well-crafted countermelody and hear it as the main one. in my mind, no songwriting style models humility more, nor captures the indigo girls' ethos better than this generous interplay with subordination, this mutual willingness to take the countermelody in one circumstance, with the trust and knowledge that you'll get your turn taking the lead in another. this graceful alternation has defined the indigo girls from their time picking out harmonies in the ray family's basement, to their first years gigging together again in atlanta after each abandoned their efforts to leave town for college.


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