Indigo Girls find a new home with Hollywood Records after almost 20 years with Epic

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:: Indigo Girls :: Chautauqua Auditorium :: June 20 and 21 ::
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By LJ Hammer

In the early days of rock and roll, nobody imagined a career lasting longer than a few years. Now, there are “young” bands like Indigo Girls who have been touring and making records for 20 years.

This career span has become a challenge for record companies. How do you market a veteran band’s new album? This challenge was a large part of what led to Indigo Girls parting ways with Epic Records. After close to two decades, Epic had lost its enthusiasm for marketing the Indigo Girls’ exceptionally literate lyrics and soaring harmonies.

Enter Hollywood Records, home of Despite Our Differences, Indigo Girls’ latest, featuring guest appearances by Pink and Brandi Carlile. “The people there [at Hollywood Records]are great,” said Indigo Girl Amy Ray in a recent interview with The Marquee. “They are really supportive. What doesn’t work for me is that major labels are still working too much in a traditional infrastructure. They haven’t really figured out how to make the leap to what is probably going to be the domain of indie musicians and DIY [labels]. I think all of these labels are learning to evolve and revolutionize themselves. The ones that are able to do it are the ones that will survive and the ones that can’t, won’t.”

In addition to her Indigo Girls career, her solo career and her work as a political/social activist, Ray is also the founder of the not-for-profit Daemon Records. “The genesis of Daemon Records arose from my own frustrations with the music industry,” Ray writes on the Daemon website. “While reaping the benefits of a major label deal, I realized that all around me ‘music’ was getting lost among the checkbooks, executives, and mountains of paperwork that are all such a primary part of any major label. I watched while so many musicians that had inspired and influenced my fortunate career went unrecognized. As an Indigo Girl, I enjoyed being part of the indie scene and I wanted to remain supportive and open to the underground. I decided to stop complaining about the evils of the music business and do my part to support the arts.”

As with all record labels, Daemon is facing a rapidly changing landscape, but is prolific in its releases centered around Ray’s solo work. “We put out an Amy Ray live record. We did a handmade cover version. Then we put it on iTunes. Now Amazon’s going to do a commercial version. My solo DVD will go out on Daemon,” Ray said.

“I need to get a little more financially stable with the label. Right now, we’re cleaning house and catching up on our accounting and paying artists royalties. It feels good. When we get caught up and stable, then I’ll put out somebody [else's’] record,” said Ray.

While they’ve released consistently strong studio albums over the years, the heart of the Indigo Girls fan base has always been their live audience. Through the ’90s, they would often alternate between touring as a duo and touring with a full band. In recent years, however, the band shows have become few and far between. “A lot of it’s economics for us, unfortunately,” Ray said. “We would have to charge so much to afford the band at this point. We just aren’t willing to do that.”

On the solo front, Ray is currently working with a woman she calls “a great editor” on a solo DVD. “It’s basically covering tours I’ve done with The Butchies and tours I’ve done with The Volunteers over the last seven years,” said Ray.

Also on the solo front, Ray has started working with Melissa York, the drummer from The Butchies. The two have started to rough out songs for a new solo album. Then, after the first of next year, it’ll be time to start on a new Indigo Girls album.

As an artist who writes for both solo projects and the Indigo Girls, Ray said that while it may appear to be confusing which song goes where, that the songs actually dictate their home on their own. “These days, my internal meter has something to do with harmony, almost hearing Emily [Sailers] in the back of my mind helps me know it’s an Indigo Girls song. I enjoy doing acoustic music with Emily, a lot. Even though we do some electric songs of mine, I’m always trying to stay in the acoustic vein with her, because I really enjoy what it brings out in us,” she said.

While Ray’s work may be forever classified in the singer/songwriter realm, she said that she would welcome the opportunity to work with artists far outside of her normal comfort zone. “I would really, really love to do a song with Outkast, with Andre specifically. I just love what he does with music. It would be a very unusual match, but that’s what I’d want to do. I’m a big fan of his work, his arrangement, and his production,” she said.

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