The Indigo Girls have risen beyond being best-selling artists to become part of the modern cultural landscape, thanks to the way their songs blend the personal and universal. But after more than 25 years of friendship and making music together, some 15 of them on the national recording scene, Amy Ray and Emily Sailers have much to draw from. "We've been through all the things you go through as a family: Death. Marriage. People being born," says Ray.
And like good members of their own clan and the human family, the Indigo Girls have generously shared their bounty and personal concerns by working for the social causes they believe in - the rights of women and indigenous peoples, environmentalism, economic justice, gay and lesbian rights, and gun control - as tirelessly as they pursue their music and taking it to their fans on the road. "The most natural thing for us is to marry social activism with our music because our music is so deeply rooted in life issues," explains Sailers.
The duo met in elementary school, and built their career from the grassroots up. After a number of independent records on their own Indigo label, they signed with Epic Records in 1988. Since then, the Girls have enjoyed 10 popular releases, the latest of which, Indigo Girls: Retrospective, is a 16-track overview of their career augmented by two new songs. In the process, they've won a Grammy Award and earned numerous gold and platinum album certifications. Indigo Girls songs have been featured in the films Philadelphia and Girls On the Side, and the duo has issued two home videos.
The two talented singer/songwriters have all along displayed their commitment to touching fans in direct ways, such as their 1993 "Ten-Dollar Tour," where tickets and t-shirts were all priced at $10, or a 1998 series of free concerts in high schools throughout the South, followed by Q&A sessions with their student listeners. The Indigo Girls have also remained committed to musical cross-pollination with such activities as their "Suffragette Sessions" tour mixing female artists from a variety of styles, and a week in Cuba in 1999 collaborating and performing with artists there. When not making music or pursuing their many favored causes, Ray runs her independent Daemon Records label while Sailers owns a restaurant in Decatur, GA.
When the duo put out their first major label album, Ray told an interviewer, "We never expected to be on a major label and we're a little nervous about it. We'll more or less function the way we always have. No matter how many people we play for, it's always important to reach each one of them. That isn't going to change." And it hasn't.