Emily Saliers and Amy Ray met in elementary school in Decatur, Georgia, reconnecting when they attended Emory University in Atlanta. In 1985, they formed the Grammy-award winning folk-rock duo Indigo Girls. Though they’ve now each pursued solo careers, the band has always stayed together.
“We’re like family,” Saliers says of Ray. “It’s similar to a good marriage, where we support each other’s projects.”
Starting this month, the duo will embark on an international summer tour, making a stop at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) on Friday, April 28.
The show will feature Saliers, Ray and violinist Lyris Hung. “She’s amazing,” says Saliers of Hung. “We’ve been doing a lot of smaller venues lately,” she continues. “The focus and intimacy is so great, you can play anything.” The Indigo Girls will play their hits, songs from their latest album, One Lost Day, as well as solo work by both Saliers and Ray.
Together, the Indigo Girls have produced 15 albums—seven gold, four platinum and one double platinum. In 1990, they won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album for their second studio release, Indigo Girls. The album featured one of their best-known songs, “Closer to Fine.”
Saliers reflects that the Indigo Girls have been able to stay together so long because “We’re very different, and we respect each other’s differences.” She lists their dueling traits: Ray is forceful, Saliers is thoughtful. Ray is a vegetarian, Saliers is a carnivore. Ray writes rock ’n’ roll songs, Saliers’s songs are more narrative. Because of their differences, they rarely collaborate when writing. They come together while arranging the music. “But, our values are the same,” says Saliers.
Many Indigo Girls shows are tied to activism, supporting social causes, including feminist, human rights and environmental organizations.
“Amy and I were raised to be community members,” says Saliers. “We like connecting to other people. Even if we weren’t musicians, we would be activists [but it] naturally followed that we would marry music with activism.”
Though the Indigo Girls tackle serious issues, “the shows are happy,” says Saliers, as they seek to inspire people to become involved in the political process and to be agents of change.
Soon, the Indigo Girls will perform a benefit concert for the Native America College Fund and for those affected by Standing Rock.
Throughout their three-plus decades of success, Saliers says that the best part has been the fans. “They’re very loyal,” she says. “They always show up whenever we have a tour.”
Her least favorite part of touring, however, is being away from her family—wife Tristin Chipman and four-year-old daughter Cleo. Saliers and Chipman, who was once a tour manager for the Indigo Girls, married in New York City in 2013.
Technology has made life on the road easier, “but there’s nothing like being there,” she says. Her daughter loves her debut solo record, which is due to be released this summer. “I don’t know where and how music will fit into her life,” says Saliers. But for now, “It’s an incredible feeling that she wants to listen to the songs.”
Later this month, Saliers will go to Colorado to perform with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. In addition to going on the road as the Indigo Girls, both Saliers and Ray will participate in the Four Voices tour this summer, where they’ll perform with friends Joan Baez and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
“There’s always something on the horizon,” says Saliers.
The Indigo Girls play the WBPAC, 76 Main Street, Westhampton Beach, April 28 at 8 p.m. For tickets ($158) visit whbpac.org or call 631-288-1500.