Out on Their Own

After decades of rocking out together, Indigo Girls shirk the big labels for a DIY venture.

BY Karen Iris Tucker

March 24 2009 11:00 PM ET

Indigo Girls x100 (indigo girls) | advocate.com

Songwriter Joan Osborne
met Indigo Girls on the road and in recent years lent
backing vocals to two of their CDs. She draws parallels between
the evolution of their careers and her own.

"We have
followings not just from people who have heard the recording
but from people who have come to see live concerts year after
year," says Osborne, who mentions, incidentally, that
rumor has it another Lilith Fair tour is on its way.

"When I have been
around Amy and Emily, I see women who are certainly not selling
millions of records like their first big hit, but who have
found a way to make music they are interested in and proud of.
They have also found a way to work on political causes they are
very much involved in -- sometimes more than their music,"
Osborne says.

Ray, who lives in rural
Georgia with her partner, filmmaker Carrie Schrader, and
Saliers, who lives in Decatur, each lead busy lives outside
their songwriting. Together they founded the organization Honor
the Earth in 1992, dedicated to Native environmental issues.
Saliers is an avid wine collector who co-owns the Decatur-based
restaurant Watershed. She has also written a book about music
and spirituality with her theologian father, and the two give
talks around the country on the topic.

As for their future as
a musical duo, Anthony Columbo,
Billboard

charts manager, sees Indigo Girls as part of those forging
forward within a new paradigm of independent artists.

"It's increasingly
more common for artists to strike out on their own,"
Columbo says. "It's more financially feasible: You can
make a cheaper record with fewer marketing costs and less
overhead."

He points out that
while their last CD,
Despite Our Differences

, sold only 100,000 copies, "It may not have been what
Hollywood signed on to, but it's not a bad number." He
adds, "You don't see a lot of female artists with
careers as lengthy, from a radio and sales standpoint. This is
a group that has been around over 20 years."

So what's the key to
the perennial staying power of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray?
Osborne says it's the least complicated thing you can imagine.
"What you see is what you get with them, in a pretty deep
way. They're wearing their hearts on their sleeves, as far
as their politics go, as far as their music goes."

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