Change proved to be good for the Indigo Girls’ new album.
Amy Ray, who formed the duo 30 years ago with high school friend Emily Saliers, says the two consider “One Lost Day,” which came out June 2, to be “a fresh start, in a way” after 13 previous solo albums. “We’re happy with our last record (2011’s “Beauty Queen Sister”) but we also knew it had been a long time and we wanted to kind of just expand and grow and look at it in a different way,” Ray, 51, says by phone from her home in Georgia.
“At this point in our career we know that we have to keep evolving to stay relevant. We wanted to dig in and really be present and open to everything.
With that in mind, Ray and Saliers opened themselves up to a new producer — Jordan Brooke Hamlin. Younger than the duo, Hamlin grew up an Indigo Girls fan, but in the studio she was anything but a fawning devotee who let Ray and Saliers do anything they wanted.
“She’s been listening to us since she was a teenager, and she already had in her mind what she would do for the perfect Indigo Girls record without hearing what we were writing,” Ray says. But once she got demos, Ray says Hamlin put she and Saliers through their paces.
“She started diving in and building these little ‘frames’ around them, sounds she envisioned on them,” Ray recalls. “The funny thing is she kind of knew us so well there was space in there for duo arrangements to emerge; we didn’t have to do a ton of adjusting to her ideas.” Ray says Hamlin also pushed for more pre-production than is usual for the Indigos.
“We all practiced together, which we’ve never done before,” Ray says with a laugh. “We might have done that on one record, but (Hamlin) would come back and forth and sit with us. She came in as a player, too — she plays many different instruments — and we typically don’t work with people who are gonna play a lot on the record, too.
“So the way we worked with her is really different than the way we ever worked with another producer.”
Also a bit different for the Indigo Girls on “One Lost Day” is a sentimental quality to the songs, which Ray begrudgingly acknowledges is something that comes with being 30 years into a career and being that much older a person.
“It’s reflective,” she notes. “The age we are, you have kids, you have partners, you start losing parents and there’s a totally different perspective about life that creeps up on you and affects your writing.
“I think my dad dying last year really rattled my universe. There’s a few songs (on the album) where I was able to really get a grasp on that new perspective, which was different than the perspective I might have had 10 years ago. So there’s a lot of that kind of thing that factored into this album, yeah.”
Story by Gary Graff, firstname.lastname@example.org