Indigo Girls' Emily Saliers talks music, motherhood and faith

On the eve of a Sunday performance at Lauderdale Live, Emily Saliers, the half of the Indigo Girls that’s not Amy Ray, talks politics, religion, motherhood and, yes, new music on its way.

How did you find yourself on the bill for Lauderdale Live this weekend?

We’re not booking a lot right now — Amy and her partner just had baby, and we’re taking a break from road. But this sounded so cool with Shovels & Rope, we love that band, and Lyle Lovett and Holly Williams.  It’s just a super cool lineup. So we had to pick and choose our dates and this sounded like one that we really wanted to do. And I love touring in Florida, it’s just like a different world. … It’s a great lineup, so we’ll be able to go down and play, and be fans as well.

Congratulations on your recent marriage [to longtime partner Tristin Chapman] and your new daughter [Cleo, who turned 1 on Thanksgiving]. These are interesting times in which to raise a girl. Do you have any particular concerns?

Her other mom and I already talk about things like relationships and sex and the power dynamic in the workplace. We have a lot of strong women in our lives who will be wonderful influences and also a lot of strong and wonderful men in our lives. So I think we’ll bring her up in an environment of respect, and she can dress how she wants and be who she wants to be and do what she wants to do in terms of work and creativity.

 I think the best thing anyone can do for a girl is create a space for her to find her own voice and encourage her strength from inside, rather than outside influences like how you look when you post your picture to Instagram as a teenage girl and all the pressures that exist through social medial that I find quite disturbing. But, you know, it’s no different than it’s ever been for girls. There’s so much pressure to look a certain way and act a certain way.  We’re extremely mindful of all those things.

On the other hand you’ve got a time when you’ve got very intelligent and impressive women politicians coming up. … My personal hope is that Hillary will run in the next presidential election and win, but even if that weren’t to happen, my daughter will be exposed to a lot of powerful and intelligent women leaders, so it’s a good time, things have changed in that way, which is great.

Evolution is slow, but it does happen. Feminism is not dead. It’s still a largely male-dominated world but a lot of those power structures are not the most important power in life anyway. We’ll be providing her with a spiritual foundation to seek those deeper things in life rather than pursuing the typical avenues of what we generally think of as power.  

Getting married and having a child does something to your soul. Amy has a baby, too. Do you think that will change your songwriting?

It’s less that the subject matter will be about children and being a mother, although some of it could be, but, as you say,  it changes you, and so I’d like to tap  from a deeper well … and I definitely feel very open and inspired and creative right now. So, I think just the sheer joy and the pure depths of motherhood  and this beautiful child and what a joy it was for me to finally be able to get married to the person I love, all those things sort of mysteriously fit into the songwriting process. It’s just a matter of my heart and soul deepening, and I think that will bode well for the songwriting.   

One thing that’s really a lot on my mind is my faith and how it’s carried me through some difficult times, and how I don’t want to abandon it or pretend I don’t have it anymore, even in a world that can sometimes regard religion as foolish, completely nonscientific, back to the “opiate of the masses” thing that used to affect how I acknowledged my faith. I’ve started writing some about acknowledging my faith.  

That’s a deep well…

Yeah, you have to tread lightly. I’ve never been a proselytizer, but I think a lot about the Christian story of Peter who denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed. …  As a believer, not specifically Christian, but as a believer, I do not want to stop acknowledging that grace that has touched my life so profoundly.

Are you raising your daughter in a particularly religious home?

Not religious, but definitely open to different spiritual paths. I think we’ll probably take her to church. I grew up going to church, but I grew up in a progressive family, so it was never oppressive. We went to a Methodist church. It was actually on Emory University’s campus [in Atlanta], so it was kind of ecumenical  and we had different speakers, people from different faiths, so it was really kind of broad. We’d love for her to have that kind of experience. … We’ve been thinking we’d keep a Menorah in the house every year and light the candles.

Your spouse is Jewish, or no?

No, she comes from a Mormon family. She’s not a practicing Mormon, but obviously religion has permeated her life. We just want Cleo to have a path for exploration, and it’s up to her.

Not that you have any time, but what are you listening to these days?

I just got M.I.A.’s new record. I love her lyrics and I love her musical influences from Sri Lanka and that part of the world.  And I love keeping up with what people are interested in in terms of pop music. I just bought the Weeknd’s newest record. And then Shovels & Rope, who are playing at the [Lauderdale Live] festival. ... I love that kind of organic, just real, real music.