Probably best known for her work opposite Emily Sailers as one half of the Indigo Girls, Amy Ray has spent the past twenty years leading the way for female artists in the music industry, but don’t let Ray’s folkie background fool you. Make no mistake this girl can rock. For evidence of this one needs only to look at Ray’s second solo album “Prom” released on her own Indie label Daemon Records. Hardly the typical sophomore album, “Prom” finds Ray revisiting similar themes as she explored in 2001’s “Stag” including gender, sexuality, racism and the struggle of equality for all while still managing to make each song sound fresh and innovative. Recently, Ray took some time to speak with me over the phone about her new album and her past history with Nashville where she will be performing at the Mercy Lounge on October 11..
DK: What would you say is the biggest difference between your current album Prom and your previous album Stag?
AR: It was hard for me when I was making Prom because I kept thinking, “This is different from Stag I don’t know if I like it.” I had to just let it be it’s own project because I don’t think that making the same record twice is a good idea. There are definite thematic similarities to the two. I deal with gender and sexuality issues but Prom is more of and extension of some of the ideas set forward on Stag.
DK: I notice a heavy allusion to High School and youth themes on Prom. Why was this so important?
AR: It just came out when I started writing. I really look back on that time as being very formative and really informed my life since then. There were all of these very new experiences and those initial things that kind of cement the way you respond to the world in which you live. All that really changes are the mediums that we use like the internet or the phone
DK: Having listened to your music as long as I have I have always noticed that there is a heavy use of religious and spiritual themes. Where would you say that your spiritual beliefs fall now?
AR: Well, I was raised a Methodist but now I’m more of a Pagan. And when you are raised in the South as a Christian your relationship with Jesus never really goes away. So, I’m a Pagan that has this strong connection to Jesus still. It’s ingrained in me.
DK: How has it been dealing with a lot of spiritual issues since you come from that background?
AR: My opinion of organized religion as an institution has always been that it was so far removed from the true heart of what spirituality was all about, so I never really expected anything different. The whole point of Jesus to me was that he was already rebelling against an institution that were laughing in God’s face by setting up these false rules and infrastructures.
DK: Do you think that it’s easier for women in music now than it has been in the past?
AR: On one level it is easier. I see more women playing instruments and being studio engineers, sound people, and performers. I see young girls of 13 or 14 years old wanting to become rock musicians. That was totally unattainable twenty years ago. But at the same time we have this other thing going on in the mainstream media world where women are still segregated. Some rock stations will not play women rockers and even if they do it will never be 50% of their airplay. Rolling Stone will only write about women rock musicians sometimes but the majority of the women in those magazines are there to sell sex. In the world of rock it’s as hard as it ever was to gain attention.
DK: Who are some of the bands that aren’t getting the recognition they deserve?
AR: As far as women go, I would say the Distillers are a great example. Magnapop never really got what they deserved, though they have a new record out now. There is a band called Bambix from Holland that came out on Daemon These bands should be as big as Green Day and they are not because they are women.
DK: What do you think the role of independent culture is now in 2005?
AR: The independent music world is kind of like an ecosystem. Every part of it has to be nurtured and if you are putting out independent music then you should also support independent music stores and independent media and radio stations and printers and on down the line. As an independent music person you have to take into account everything around that and not just the music. Everything about it is affected: What you sell your tickets and merchandise for. You have to have integrity. It can be a real pain in the ass but it’s true because the only way independent music will survive is through supporting that which supports it.
DK: You have a sort of love-hate relationship with Nashville if I remember correctly. Can we talk about that?
AR: * Laughs * Yeah because I spent a year there and it was so hard. It was back in like ’83 and the place was so homophobic and racist. But I love Nashville now. It’s interesting really. The last time I played in Nashville for the Stag tour we played at 12 th & Porter and I remember having to get onto the bartender for making some homophobic remarks when he didn’t know I was standing there. The whole crowd that night, well at least 80% were queer. Everything he was making that night was from gay pockets and he didn’t have any business making that kind of remark. It really bummed me out. The same thing could happen in Atlanta or New York but that wasn’t the point. I actually go to Nashville now for fun. It is a lot different place now than it was. Plus I was going to Vanderbilt at the time so that just says it all right there. * Laughs *
Amy Ray and her band the Volunteers will be performing with a special appearance by independent recording artist and activist Capitol B (Formerly “Bitch” of “Bitch & Animal”) at the Mercy Lounge on Tuesday, October 11, 2005. The Mercy Lounge is located at One Cannery Row in Nashville. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance. The show is 18 and over. Tickets can be reserved by calling 1-800-594-TIXX or by visiting Grimey’s Record Shop on 8 th Ave South. For more information on Amy Ray or to purchase a copy of her album “Prom” visit www.DaemonRecords.com.