I had the honor of sending new blogger Jessica to check out The Indigo Girls, with the Oregon Symphony at the Schnitz. She also got to talk to one half of the Girls, Emily Saliers. It's a great interview, that goes in some really unexpected directions, so thanks Jessica and Emily!
Jessica: What musicians influenced you when you were growing up?
Emily: Well as a young songwriter- the first music I was really into was the Jackson 5. They were the first posters on my wall, the first album I ever bought. When I was young- I was born in New Haven, Connecticut- it was a really urban neighborhood, so there was James Brown and Al Green and black urban music that I was introduced to in my very formative years. I first got into urban music, R&B. Then as I became a young songwriter, my first really powerful influence was Joni Mitchell.
Then there were tons of people who inspired me who perhaps didn't directly influence me: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Jackson Browne. Heart- I really love the band Heart. I also grew up with a lot of classical music- my parents always had classical and jazz going. We grew up singing in church choirs, then school choirs, children's choirs, so there was really music everywhere. Amy's and my arrangements, even early on, were very influenced by a lot of the sacred music arrangements we've picked up along the way. It was really a smattering- first R&B, then Joni Mitchell, and then sacred music. So now, I'm ALWAYS inspired by music.
What are some of your favorites now?
There's stuff I really like now, likeKendrick Lamar, I just bought his new record. I love rap music. I have a really hard time with the way women are portrayed and treated in it, so that's been an interesting struggle to love stylistically, and in terms of its poetry, but also to sort through my disgust with the misogyny. That's been quite a trick. But we were just in Iowa City, where The Weepies live, and they came and played a song during our set. I love their music. I've really loved The Belle Brigade record last year, Cat Power's newest is fantastic. I still love a lot of straight up R&B, like Beyonce and Mary J. Blige. Those singers, I just love the sound of their voices.
Yeah, Beyonce's voice is pretty amazing.
When are you going to do a duet with her?
When are you going to do a duet with her?
(laughs) She hasn't listened to my demo yet!
When you're writing your songs, what do you tend to write first? The chorus, or just start streaming a thought?
It depends. It can go both ways. Sometimes if I have something stuck in my mind that's really stuck in there, I want to sit down and write about. Other times, writing's become more of a discipline- not a JOB job, but as far as sitting down, setting time aside, making it time to write. Letting ideas come. That happens more often than songs enter a chord progression. Sometimes when I pick up a ukelele or a banjo, or a different instrument, that's going to take me down a different path. Playing around with that. The music is easier for me... starting, come up with a chord progression that feels good, and just shove some lyrics in there, then edit those down to formulate the imagery, or the poignant view of the song. So it does all come together for me, but the music comes more easily.
Are there any instruments still that you have to tap into and take on playing, that you've always wished you could master?
I wish I'd taken piano as a kid. I can play a little bit, but my left hand is very, very clumsy. It's so different from guitar. I love piano, the scope of it. I'd like to be able to play more of that, and that's just a matter of sitting down and practicing. I don't think I'll ever be an excellent piano player, but I know I can grow enough to write more on it. I'd also like to learn more control on electric guitar. I love playing electric guitar, but I'm not really good at getting sounds out of an amp, or controlling it. It's a whole other thing than playing acoustic. I'd like to be more proficient at identifying a sound, and being able to achieve that by spinning the knobs, hitting the pedals.
Have you every played slide guitar, or anything like that?
Slide, I love. Love it. Usually it's easier for me to play slide on my third finger, but with our music I end up needing to play chords as well, so I end up physically having to put it on my fourth finger, and I have a little less control. It would be fun just to focus on some slide pieces, keep it on my third finger, write the song and play the song that way, and just hunker down and focus on that. I do have kind of a knack for slide guitar- and I really enjoy it.
Excellent. We were talking about artists earlier- is there anyone out there that you'd like to collaborate with, or that you've wanted to work with that you've always wanted to?
There are some pipe dream people like Stevie Wonder or Mary J. Blige, but I sort of revere them to such an extent- I don't know what on earth I could contribute to a collaboration. When I think about things like that, it's that kind of feeling. We've gotten to work with some amazing people over the years- Patti Smith, Sheryl Crow, Chrissie Hynde- just LEGENDS. But in my dream of dreams, it would be some of those R&B artists.
Or Yo-Yo Ma. Yo-Yo Ma!
For some of these other questions, I started doing a little research. It sounds like you're a big football fan. Is that true?
Are you more of an NFL or college fan?
Totally NFL, not college at all really.
Do you have a favorite team or do you just go by the players?
Well, both actually. I'm totally in love with Aaron Rogers, QB for the Green Bay Packers. I love him. I also love Tom Brady. I'm a huge Patriots fan, they are like... the team of my heart. I'm really proud of the Falcons. I've always been a Falcons fan. Historically it's been hard to be a Falcons fan- Atlanta is kind of a fickle sports city- and they've struggled historically, where they'll get some excitement going, and... yeah. But this is shaping up to be a good year for them
Yeah, you guys have a great start!
I love football, and know all the teams and players. Football just makes me happy. And now that it's on three days a week instead of two... let's just say it's hard to tour during football season.
I can relate. Do you do any kind of fantasy football?
No, that takes too much energy! I don't even go to the live games. I really have a deep joy in just watching it. I'm in a small pool with my friends, we give each other all kinds of crap. Mostly I just like to watch. I grew up watching with my dad when I was a little girl, and I never stopped loving it.
It's a great game. I feel you on that.
It's neat to be able to just love to do something that much. It's the one for me.
I love the fact that it can go any way at any time- like that the whole game can change in the last few minutes. It's exciting. I was doing a little reading on your restaurant, The Watershed, and I hear that it has the best fried chicken ever.
That's what we've been told... I hope so. It's really good. It's a three day process!
So would that be part of your “last meal”?
Not so much my last meal, but with me asking for my favorite food is kind of like asking for a favorite song, or favorite. Food is something that I'm so passionate about and so involved with. That chicken would definitely be in my top 10.
So when you come to Portland, do you have any favorite restaurants you check out? We're becoming a real foodie capital.
There's a seafood restaurant I go when I'm there- you have to have a day off when you're touring, otherwise things like that don't happen. Jake's? Jakes Seafood. I like any place where you can get some nice oysters and really fresh seafood, and have that Northwestern seafood experience.
That's a great restaurant. It seems that you are a wine collector as well.
I used to be, not anymore. I really got into it when I started in the business, but it's quite expensive, and it takes a lot of time and attention, so I had to kind of lose interest in it. Our restaurant does a great job, though. My best friend who owns a wine distributorship, and helps at The Watershed, has fantastic wines that are boutique but affordable, and I've gotten out of that “the best wines are always the first growth,” because really they out-market people's enjoyment of wine, and it's more important that people can taste and experience fabulous wine that's not astronomically priced, and we try to do that at the restaurant.
I know we just have a few minutes left, so just a couple more questions. Are there any places that you'd like to visit, but haven't yet?
Many places. India, that's the first place I want to go. Japan and China. And I want to go to Northern Africa. That's the top of the list. I'd like to go to Iceland. I've been a lot of places, but not those yet.
I love travel. Even when I come off the road, I still like to.
I suppose you don't get a chance to see as much when you're on tour.
A little bit, when we get a day off. But because we get to come back to some of the same cities again and again over the years, we do develop a certain familiarity with certain cities and neighborhoods. I really like the kind of vacation when you can go and get a sense of another culture that's not your own.
Final question- how many and what kind of pets do you have?
I have two dogs. I love them. I just bought a sweater for my dog online. It's so FUCKING cute.
They're mutts. One is really old- 16, kind of on her legs, black terrier-cocker mix. The other is a beagle mix, also a rescue dog. They're the love of my life. I wish I could have ten.
Do the dogs get to go on tour?
No, they don't. The older one never traveled well, and the other one is blind now.
I know, they're so sweet. I have a dog whisperer to take care of them, she's like their surrogate parent, so I know they're in the best hands. I miss them though.
Well, I'm really excited to see you guys on Friday in Portland!
Yeah, it's going to be great. It's going to be with the Symphony- a totally different thing, and we loooove Portland.