By Kim Ruehl, FolkAlley.com
Twenty-six years into a career that has spanned two dozen highly acclaimed albums (if you count her solo stuff and that with the Indigo Girls, holiday recordings, live albums), Amy Ray can still fly under the radar. Even many Indigo Girls fans don’t realize she’s had a robust – and decidedly not-Indigo-Girls-sounding – solo career for more than a decade. Much of her work outside of the duo has been heavily influenced by some combination of her punk and soul influences, though she’ll be heading into a New York studio this May to start recording a classic-style country album.
In her spare time, whatever that is, she dedicates her energy and celebrity to a number of social issues, from eradicating poverty and racism across the South to LGBT rights and environmental justice. Recently, I spoke with Ray about her work with groups like the Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Southerners on New Ground, and Project South (if you visit her website, you can order a live concert DVD she recorded as a fundraiser for Project South). Naturally, our conversation inevitably led to the music.
Here’s an excerpt:
Kim Ruehl: Are you hearing an increase in socially-minded songwriters lately? For a little while there those folks were harder to find. It seems to be coming back into the foreground.
Amy Ray: Yeah, It seems like a lot of people around me are socially conscious. I don’t know who gets attention and who doesn’t. But…I think the environment [for music] right now is, to a certain extent, more progressive because Obama’s in office…the gay rights movement and the immigration movement, the environmental movement. There’s been so much…I don’t want to say progress, but [there’s been] movement. I think when that happens songwriters who are in that context get talked about more.