Interview: Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls

The Indigo Girls is one of the best bands that's currently performing live. The band will play three concerts near the Valley this fall. The Indigo Girls have sold more than 7 million albums and won a Grammy award. In June, they released a new album, One Lost Day. In early November, the band will play in Boston; Troy, New York; and New York City. Details are at www.indigogirls.com/events.html

The Indigo Girls are Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, plus a changing lineup of musicians on their records and at some of their concerts. Some concerts are just Ray and Saliers, but in Boston in November, they will perform with a band. Saliers spoke with the Valley Post by phone on September 3.

The Valley Post: The Indigo Girls web site has links to groups that work for peace and for cuts in military spending. With 5 percent of the world's population, the USA spends about as much on its military as the rest of the world combined. Do you see any connections between the USA's military spending and poverty around the world?

Emily Saliers: So much of the money we spend on the military should be redirected to things like helping India and countries in Africa provide clean water to all their people, and helping China reduce the air pollution that's poisoning people. We should help pay for good schools in countries that don't have them. So many of the problems in Africa started with colonization. Countries like France, the Netherlands, and England came in, took over, disrupted the way of life, and replaced it with something that wasn't sustainable. You set up problems when you go in and disrupt the way that indigenous people lived. It caused an increase in economic disparity.

Slavery was the biggest way that the U.S. contributed to today's poverty in Africa. Ultimately, the solutions to African problems will come from African communities, not from the outside. It wasn't that long ago that slavery was outlawed in the U.S. Racism is still a big problem. Ferguson and the Black Lives Matter movement are related to the aftermath of slavery. There are people in America who are hungry. We should be spending money on taking care of them, not the military. If we spent more on the arts it would improve people's lives, practically and spiritually.

The Valley Post: You mention Boston in a couple of your songs. Do you have any connection to Massachusetts?

Emily Saliers: We love Northampton. I wrote the song Winthrop when I was in Boston. I have dear friends, lifelong friends, who live in Boston. I'm a huge Patriots fan. I admire the Kraft family, which owns the Patriots. I remember Boston fans welcoming me and Amy when we were practically kids, starting our career. Boston is a great city.

The Valley Post: Would having a female president of the USA be important?

Emily Saliers: Yes. But I wouldn't want Sarah Palin to be president. It was important when Germany elected a woman leader. The United States is behind the game. A lot of Americas are fearful of a woman in power. I see so much vitriol against Hillary. The media is ganging up on her. I'm a huge Bernie fan. I love his politics and what he stands for. I voted for Nader back in the day. If Hillary gets the nomination I'm fully behind her. I haven't decided whether I will vote for Bernie or Hillary in the primary. I love them both.

The Valley Post: You own the Watershed, a restaurant in Atlanta, Georgia, near where you live. The Watershed supports local farms. Can you tell me about one of them?

Emily Saliers: When we opened in 1998, we were the first farm-to-table restaurant in our community. Now the idea has taken off and a lot of restaurants are supporting local farms, which is fantastic. We buy peaches and pecans from Pearson Farm. The farmers' daughter is in the same preschool as my daughter. We're dedicated to buying humanely-raised meat. Our chef, Zeb Stevenson, is licensed in canning to preserve food. He cans tomatoes in summer so we can have them year-round. You're not going to get fresh strawberries in the winter at Watershed because they don't grow then. I'm proud that my co-owner and I are willing to spend more to do the right thing.

The Valley Post: What music are you listening to these days?

Emily Saliers: I'm listening to Yelawolf. He's a rapper from Alabama. I'm listening pretty incessantly to Dr. Dre's Compton. I've been checking back into Jonatha Brooke. I love her music. I love Amos Lee. The Weepies. To be honest, I even love Taylor Swift. That 1989 record is so well produced. The songs are so catchy, I can't get away from it. I listen to it with my two-and-a-half-year-old on the way to preschool every morning.

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