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Indigo Girl Comes to Indy

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Amy Ray can be described in a number of ways: a project-oriented musician who recently released her first country music album, a solo artist, a grassroots devotee who started an independent record label nearly 25 years ago, a "left-of-the-dial folk-punk gal" and, perhaps most famously, one-half of the Indigo Girls.

Ray brings her flair for country music to Fountain Square's Radio Radio on Friday, May 2, with Americana band The Honeycutters as her opening act. At this live music venue, fans can get up close to Ray as she sings album greats such as the title track "Goodnight Tender," "Let the Spirit" and "Oyster and Pearl." Longtime fans of Ray's music are sure to find something they like from the folk-rock-punk-country artist. Her dedication to exploring different genres of music and working with a variety of musicians guarantees a connection with her many audiences.

Ray described Fountain Square's Radio Radio, where she will perform on May 2 as "my favorite venue of that size." - COURTESY AMY RAY
  • Courtesy Amy Ray
  • Ray described Fountain Square's Radio Radio, where she will perform on May 2 as "my favorite venue of that size."

Ray's recent release of Goodnight Tender finds the artist celebrating a longtime love of country music. It's a project a decade in the making. "I'd been writing country songs for a long time and remembered people along the way," Ray says when discussing musicians she knew she wanted to work with when the time was right. Guest artists on the album include Justin Vernon, former front man of indie folk band Bon Iver; Grammy-nominated soul singer Susan Tedeschi; and Heather McEntire, most recently of folk rock band Mount Moriah.

Describing with a laugh the Indigo Girls as "this other band I'm in," Ray discussed their style of Americana, itself a blend of numerous genres, including folk, rock and country. Ray's solo work has explored some of the same and seen her playing with punk rock band The Butchies, as both a solo artist and with her musical other half, Emily Saliers. "The Butchies," Ray explains, "had a real provocative thing going on. Lots of their songs were super interesting melodically. It's definitely great for people to be open to other kinds of music and be willing to listen to music that sparks something different in them."

Wanting to continue having a place in the indie world, Ray started Daemon Records in 1989 after receiving an advance for signing to Epic Records with Saliers: "I had money, I had resources, I had connections. It was harder for people to put out their own music back then." Daemon has released some 60 albums, including work by singer-songwriter Michelle Malone, the now-defunct folk-rock band Girlyman and late folksinger Utah Phillips. Though enjoyable, the work was time-consuming and expensive, according to Ray. Since then she's focused on releasing her own records during the past seven years, including Didn't It Feel Kinder (2008) and Lung of Love (2012) -- and believes she'll release other artists' records in the future.

Amy Ray recently released her first solo country album "Goodnight Tender." - COURTESY AMY RAY
  • Courtesy Amy Ray
  • Amy Ray recently released her first solo country album "Goodnight Tender."

Ray's busy touring life finds her doing a few regional shows as a solo artist and several dates as part of the Indigo Girls. Adding to that loaded work schedule, she and her partner, Carrie Schrader, keep on their feet as new parents to a 5-month-old daughter. "In the best of all possible worlds," Ray says, "I write five days a week for two to three hours a day." Parenthood has presented a challenge -- "It's a learning curve in how to keep the creative process going," she adds.  But Ray makes it work.

Well acquainted with Indianapolis, Ray is looking forward to her upcoming show at Radio Radio. She describes the location as "my favorite venue of that size," complimenting the sound quality, the management, and the neighborhood. She likes smaller performance spaces and finds they accommodate her solo career nicely. Surprisingly she doesn't have, by her own admission, a very large following on her own, but she says, "If you're in two different bands, you can't focus the amount of energy on your solo stuff that it would take to build a really big following. You've got to be really consistent." The multitalented artist isn't complaining, however: "I really just do it because I love it. I like to do different things. If people find out about [the show] and want to come check it out, they can." She adds, "The band I have now is really fun to play with -- it feels like a vacation in some ways."

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