Indigo Girls' New Song Is About Patience And Fortitude In The COVID-19 Era Amy Ray and Emily Saliers rarely write together, but the unique challenges of the pandemic inspired the veteran folk-rockers to try true collaboration for the first time in years.
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Indigo Girls' New Song Is About Patience And Fortitude In The COVID-19 Era

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Indigo Girls' New Song Is About Patience And Fortitude In The COVID-19 Era

Indigo Girls' New Song Is About Patience And Fortitude In The COVID-19 Era

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We have been reaching out to musicians in recent months to get their take on the COVID era. We've been asking them to write an original song inspired by this tumultuous time. Today, we'll hear from a group with long experience writing about social issues. But when we invited them, Indigo Girls had serious misgivings. Here's singer Amy Ray.

AMY RAY: I love the project idea, but I was worried about trying to write about these times and how complex it is 'cause there are so many layers right now, and I almost feel like without some distance on it and some perspective, it's hard to write a song about. So I was voicing my skepticism about our ability to do that, actually (laughter).

GREENE: And yet Amy - who lives in rural Dahlonega, Ga. - did come up with an idea, almost by accident.

RAY: I had just talked to some friends who were really pent up and just wanted to go out, you know, party and get it out of their systems. And I was trying to, like, be the voice of reason and say, like, you know, it's probably better to be safe right now. And I was talking to my mom, and she was talking about wanting to go out to eat with friends, and I just started writing about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONG RIDE")

INDIGO GIRLS: (Singing) Come on. We all want to go. Let's rev it up, close it down, fill it up till we're senseless. Escape the loneliness and anger. Lose the compass that God gave you.

GREENE: And so Amy sent a few lines to her partner - the other Indigo Girl, Emily Saliers - and invited her to co-write the song you are hearing right now. It is called "Long Ride."

EMILY SALIERS: Well, I was personally thrilled that she had come up with the idea. On the one hand, it meant that I didn't have to come up with the idea.

RAY: (Laughter).

SALIERS: And I was also excited about the fact that we hadn't written a song together in 30 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONG RIDE")

INDIGO GIRLS: (Singing) But it's going to be a long ride. Hang on, my friend. I know. I get it. It's going to be a long ride.

GREENE: That's right. It was the mid-'90s when Indigo Girls last wrote a song together, and they had only done it once before then. Emily - who lives in Decatur, Ga. - says our project was the inspiration, but Amy says the pandemic, which forced them to cancel shows and spend way less time together, played a role, too.

RAY: We're used to being on tour and on a bus together and all this creativity that happens because you're just in the same space - writing a song together kind of helped add into that void that we're kind of missing by just being around each other.

GREENE: Who do you feel like you're speaking to in this song?

RAY: When I first started speaking, it was to me and kind of telling myself, like, hang on; this is going to take a long time to, like, get through this. But I was also talking to, like, my friends and my family and just, like, everybody I know that was trying to give up - people that I know that were alone in an apartment for three months in New York City, things like that.

SALIERS: This is Emily. It's very hard to judge what anybody is going through right now or how they're reacting to it. So I liked the sort of camaraderie of, like, it's going to be a long ride, I know. And then we kind of shifted the perspective to asking the question - have you been a witness to this yet? And if you haven't, here's what's going on.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONG RIDE")

INDIGO GIRLS: (Singing) Were you down at the food pantry? The lines of this growing longer every day. Did you listen to their stories? Did you hear? No job, no medicine, no food to eat.

GREENE: Well, there is a line in the song about food pantries and seeing so many more people coming...

RAY: Yeah.

GREENE: ...There for help. I mean, is...

RAY: Yeah.

GREENE: ...That something you've been...

RAY: Yeah.

GREENE: ...Witnessing firsthand?

RAY: Yeah.

GREENE: How bad is it?

RAY: I mean - this is Amy - we have a great place called the Community Helping Place that does food pantry and just - it does everything. So I just went down there and worked a couple days a week, and I just noticed so many people coming in that had never had food support at all, ever. People would just be, like, telling me their stories while I was gathering the food or filling out their cards. And it was transformative for me.

GREENE: Indigo Girls were also highly inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests, and you can hear that in the song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONG RIDE")

INDIGO GIRLS: (Singing) Were you down at city raising a fist against the racist toll? Don't you think it's time to reparate (ph) for infected blankets and the laws that harbor hate?

SALIERS: We as a nation have to acknowledge that racism is rampant in this country. We have to start there before we can even start to dismantle the systems that allow it to carry on.

GREENE: Well, what is your message about what to do with that anger? I mean, I was really struck that in the song you sing, don't let violence claim you. What are you telling people about what balance they should try and find?

RAY: Well, (laughter) to each their own, I guess, in some ways. But what we're saying is - I mean, when I started thinking about that, I honestly was thinking about how I believed that we were being baited sometimes to be more violent and to cause more problems and that when you take that bait and you give in to that, you're doing exactly what they want you to do. We cannot take that bait, even though we want to. Even though it feels like the right thing to do, even when they're beating you over the head, you have got to figure out a way to being a peaceful protester. And I - that's just my own feeling. I think that there are a lot of different opinions about that, and I respect them. That's what I was feeling. I mean, what do you think, Emily?

SALIERS: I agree with you that it's very, very hard to resist violence when you're getting beaten over the head. It's an easy bait to take. I can never speak for a person of color in this country, how I would react personally, but I know that sympathizers to the Black Lives movement cannot be bringing guns and shooting the other side because then it's just a civil war that grows and grows and grows.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONG RIDE")

INDIGO GIRLS: (Singing) Don't take the bait and let violence claim you. Don't forget that work becomes the changes.

GREENE: Do you all think a song, like this one that you've brought to us, has the power to change people's behavior? What might the impact be?

RAY: Jeez. I mean, who know - like, we don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

RAY: I think a song can keep you company, you know? Music does change people and is a catalyst and brings people together and has a certain energy to validate what you're feeling.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONG RIDE")

INDIGO GIRLS: (Singing) So sings of freedom. Come on. We all want to go there. Rev it up, close it down, fill it up till we're senseless.

GREENE: Listen - what an honor to both talk to the two of you and have you bring this song. So thank you.

SALIERS: Thanks, David. Appreciate you.

RAY: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONG RIDE")

INDIGO GIRLS: (Singing) Look at the kids, unsure of their future.

GREENE: Amy Ray and Emily Saliers from Indigo Girls. Their song for the MORNING EDITION Song Project is called "Long Ride." You can hear it at npr.org. This series is being produced and edited by Vince Pearson.

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