For more than two decades, Amy Ray has served as half of folk-rock duo the Indigo Girls. On her own, she has released three independent solo albums that spike her folk tendencies with her love of punk, indie-rock, and – on her recently released third disc, “ Didn't It Feel Kinder” – gospel, girl group harmonies and full arrangements. Ray recorded much of “Kinder” in Asheville and Greensboro.
How did you choose Asheville? I was working with a producer/bass player who lived in Greensboro and a drummer who lives in Durham. We were meeting in Atlanta and tried to record (there), but the studio wasn't working well. I ended up going to Asheville to record with this indie band, Arizona. I love the studio we worked at ( Echo Mountain) and it's in good proximity to other two players.
What do you like about it here? I love North Carolina. That studio's just really special. I go up there to go hiking and eat at The Laughing Seed. … The band the Butchies that I played with on my first solo project are from Durham.
What was your vision for this album? The only vision I had was, I wanted to work with a producer to push my boundaries. I wanted it to be more melodic than my last one with more attention paid to that and the arrangements.
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What does your solo career give you that you don't get from Indigo Girls? I felt like there was a part of music I wanted to experience differently from Indigo Girls – more in an independent, DIY realm like punk rock and alternative bands. … I don't feel limited by Indigo Girls. I just knew I wanted to do something more singular in focus.
Is it good for you and Emily (Saliers) to get away from each other? It helps us have our own space and makes us more excited to play together. For me, musically it helps me to be away from Emily because there are times where I fall back on her talent instead of developing my own.
The Indigo Girls have stayed in the South. As a band and as activists, did you ever consider moving to Los Angeles or New York? Oh God, no. I'm such a Southerner. My family goes back four generations in Atlanta.
The dialogue in the South is constant and interesting and important. I like this spiritually based activism. I don't mean Christian-based, but a sense of higher purpose and higher being and something greater than yourself that moves you and compels you to be engaged ….
I relate to the storytelling and the relationship to the Earth; sitting on the front porch and playing your guitar. Racism and bigotry and conservatism goes along with it, too. I work to change that. I'd hate to move away from the South and leave it to those people. That's a nightmare to me.