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Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls On Racism

By Gary Wien

originally published: 06/16/2015

Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls On RacismThe Indigo Girls are back with their first album in four years (One Lost Day) and a tour that will include a number of shows in New Jersey and New York. New Jersey Stage caught up with Amy Ray to discuss the new tour and the band’s beginnings back when college radio and indie record stores were still major players in the industry.  We also had a chance to talk to her about the band’s activism and the issues they care about.  They are known for their work towards peace, justice and human rights; women’s health/hiv/aids; native & environmental; queer; independent media; music community; and voter education issues.

So, we asked her if she could only promote and push one issue, what would be the most important to her.

Oh, that’s not fair (laughs).  I have to say it would probably be racism.  Honestly, that covers the Native American work that we do and it covers the criminal justice and the death penalty work we do.  I think that would probably be the most important issue.

They’re all inter-connected, isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s all inter-connected and I think racism is this thing… I mean, you see it now.  We’re making so much progress in the United States and other places in gay issues — there’s obviously a lot of work to be done and there’s still a super high teen suicide rates and all the really bad stuff with queer issues — but I live in a rural area of North Georgia and I swear to you that gay people are accepted here before a person of color is.   To me, if you want to be free you have to free everyone.  

I think racism is the thing that plagues our country, especially right now.  It’s been on the news lately in Baltimore.  It’s happening and it’s so hard to get a grip on it.  It’s so hard to change the fundamentals and to change people’s perceptions.  It’s a long entrenched thing that is hard to shift and racism affects everything.

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You mentioned queer issues.  Would you rather be known as a lesbian musician or rather never have anybody bring that up?
It’s… I don’t want it to be… I guess because of my activism and because we’re in the midst of social change, I’m proud to be known for that.  But you can’t eat your cake and have it too.  I’d rather they look at the music before they focus on my lifestyle, but there’s no way to realistically say my being queer — my sexual orientation — has not affected my music or the way I write on the songs I write or the stories I tell.  But, you know, art should be something that different people can relate to for different reasons  and it shouldn’t always be within the lines that only gay people can relate to gay music.  It’s just like the way I can relate to a great song by the Replacements and Paul Westerberg.  I can relate to a song he’s written and I’m not a straight white guy, but I can relate to that song as well as if it was my own story.  I would hope people can see our music, at least some of our music, in that way.  Maybe not all of it, but some of it.

I was just wondering because of your activism what you’d rather see as an end result? Would you rather still be queer and proud or have everyone believe we’re all equal? Or does it even matter?
I hope we get to a time when that’s true.  I hope we get to that Star Trek Next Generation moment when those boundaries just don’t exist or it’s a whole different set of things we didn’t think about.  It would be great to get to that place, but because we’re not in that place I don’t mind being known for that.  I love it when someone can see beyond that and can just relate to it because it gives me hope.

Last question, considering we’re at the beginning of a Presidential race… do you think it’s important to elect a female as President (whether Hilary Clinton or someone else)?  
I think it’s important at some point to elect a woman President, but I don’t ever believe we should elect somebody just because they are a woman.  I think it would be a big mistake and do a disservice to women in general.  So, it has to be the best person for the job.  

I never like to, as an Indigo Girl, endorse a specific candidate because I think people should be voting on issues and voting on what they feel and not on what somebody else tells them to vote.  But I do think we should all vote.

What do you think that would do to inspire or help the next generation of women?
It would be amazing! It would be a total advancement for our country.  We would be seen differently and it would change the profile of our nation internationally.  Yeah, I think it’s important at some point. I think it’s important that a women can get elected.


For an interview with Amy Ray about the band’s upcoming tour and their early days back when college radio and indie record stores were still major players in the industry click here.

See the Indigo Girls Live

July 23 @ City Winery, NYC

July 24 @ BergenPAC, Englewood, NJ

July 25 @ WesthamptonPAC, Westhampton Beach, NY

July 26 @ XPoNential Festival, Camden NJ

For more by this author, click here

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The lobby of the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ, is buzzing with activity this Friday, November 30, 2018 evening as rock music fans ready themselves for a special Holiday Show by singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge!
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Event calendar
Saturday, Dec 15, 2018


DOWNSTREAM @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

LIFE OF AGONY/SICK OF IT ALL @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 6:30pm

JOHNNY O @ Lobby Bar at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 10:00pm

WEIRD SCIENCE @ Hard Rock Cafe at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 10:00pm

The THE BAND Band @ Darress Theatre, Boonton - 8:00pm

Brian Fallon @ Crossroads (Garwood), Garwood - 8:00pm

KASHMIR THE LIVE LED ZEPPELIN SHOW @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 8:00pm

Holiday POPS! @ Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, Princeton - 3:00pm and 6:00pm

TAKING BACK SUNDAY @ Starland Ballroom, Sayreville - 7:00pm

Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show @ South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), South Orange - 8:00pm

The Beat Tells @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm

The Metropolitan Opera: La Traviata @ Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University, West Long Branch - 1:00pm


Elf, The Musical @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm and 7:00pm and 7:30pm

A Christmas Story @ Pax Amicus Castle Theatre, Budd Lake - 8:00pm

An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Seussical @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 7:30pm

Peter Pan @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 7:30pm

A CHRISTMAS CAROL @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

Irving Berlin's Holiday Inn @ Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn - 1:30pm and 7:00pm


A Wonderful Life @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 8:00pm

Junie B. Jones The Musical at Black Box PAC @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 11:00am

A Charlie Brown Christmas @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 1:30pm and 3:30pm

Hudson Theatre Works presents "And My True Love Gave To Me" @ Hudson Theatre Works, Weehawken - 8:00pm


Louie Anderson @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm


NEW JERSEY BALLET’S NUTCRACKER WITH NEW JERSEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 1:00pm and 6:00pm

Forces of Nature Dance Theatre with special guest Sweet Honey In The Rock @ Victoria Theater @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 2:00pm and 7:30pm


Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in Concert Live to Film @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 2:00pm and 7:30pm

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