Indigo Girls
Indigo Girls strumming a mandolin and banjo onstage at Cambridge Festival in 2002
Indigo Girls performing on August 4, 2002
Background information
OriginAtlanta, Georgia, United States
Years active1985–present
MembersAmy Ray
Emily Saliers

Indigo Girls are an American folk rock music duo from Atlanta, Georgia, United States, consisting of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.[1] The two met in elementary school and began performing together as high school students in Decatur, Georgia, part of the Atlanta metropolitan area. They started performing with the name Indigo Girls as students at Emory University, performing weekly at The Dugout, a bar in Emory Village.

They released a full-length record album entitled Strange Fire in 1987, and contracted with a major record company in 1988.[1] After releasing nine albums with major record labels from 1987 through 2007, they formed the IG Recordings company in 2009 and resumed self-producing albums.[2]

Outside of working on Indigo Girls–related projects, Ray has released solo albums and founded a non-profit recording label that promotes independent musicians. Saliers is an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry as well as a professional author; she also collaborates with her father, Don Saliers, in performing for special groups and causes. Saliers and Ray are both lesbians, though not a romantic couple, and are active in political and environmental causes. They are regarded as queer icons.[3]

Recording and touring

Early years

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers first met and got to know each other as students at Laurel Ridge Elementary School in DeKalb County, Georgia, just outside Decatur, Georgia,[4] but were not close friends because Saliers was a grade older than Ray. While attending Shamrock High School (now Druid Hills Middle School), they became better acquainted, and started performing together, first as "The B-Band" and then as "Saliers and Ray".[1]

Saliers graduated and began attending Tulane University in Louisiana. A year later, Ray graduated high school and began attending Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Homesick, both returned to Georgia and transferred to Emory University in Atlanta (where Saliers' father was a professor).[5]

After forming their duo in college, the Indigo Girls played small clubs in the Emory Village district of Druid Hills, Georgia.

By 1985, they had begun performing together again, this time as Indigo Girls.[1] Saliers stated in a March 2007 National Public Radio Talk of the Nation interview, "we needed a name and we went through the dictionary looking for words that struck us and indigo was one."[6]

Their first release in 1985 was a seven-inch single named "Crazy Game", with the B-side "Everybody's Waiting (for Someone to Come Home)".[1] That same year, the Indigo Girls released a six-track extended play album named Indigo Girls, and in 1987 released their first full-length album, Strange Fire, recorded at John Keane Studio in Athens, Georgia, and including "Crazy Game".[1] With this release, they secured the services of Russell Carter, who remains their manager to the present; they had first approached him when the EP album was released, but he told them their songs were "immature" and they were not likely to get a record deal. Strange Fire apparently changed his opinion.[7]

Epic Records (1988–2006)

The success of 10,000 Maniacs, Tracy Chapman, and Suzanne Vega encouraged Epic Records to enlist other folk-based female singer-songwriters; Epic signed the duo in 1988. Their first major-label release, also named Indigo Girls, which scored No. 22 on the album chart, included a new version of "Land of Canaan", which was also on their 1985 EP album and on Strange Fire.[1] Also on the self-titled release was their first hit "Closer to Fine" (a collaboration with Irish band Hothouse Flowers),[1] which scored No. 52 on the popular music chart and No. 26 on the modern rock chart. They even managed one week on the mainstream rock album-oriented rock music chart at No. 48.[8] In 1990, they won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

Their second album, Nomads Indians Saints, went gold in December 1991 and included the hit song "Hammer and a Nail", a No. 12 modern rock music track; it was not as successful as their first, which was certified platinum at about the same time. The Indigo Girls followed it with the live Back on the Bus, Y'all and 1992's album Rites of Passage, featuring the song "Galileo",[1] the duo's first top 10 modern rock music track (#10). During the accompanying tour in December, they invited on a few dates Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees as special guest to sing a couple of songs with them.[9] They then recorded Swamp Ophelia in 1994,[1] which went platinum in September 1996, and charted at No. 9 on the Billboard 200 album chart.

In 1995, the Indigo Girls released a live, double CD, 1200 Curfews. Shaming of the Sun was released in 1997 followed by Come on Now Social in 1999. Shaming of the Sun debuted at number seven on the Billboard charts, driven by the duo's contribution to the Lilith Fair music festival tour. The track "Shame on You" received more airplay on adult alternative, top 40 and adult top 40 radio stations than any of their previous singles, although this seemed to be a peak in their crossover success.

Retrospective, a compilation album with two new tracks, was released in 2000 and Become You followed two years later. Their last Epic studio album was All That We Let In, released in 2004 with an accompanying tour. On June 14, 2005, they released Rarities, a collection of B-sides and rare tracks partially decided by fans' input, which fulfilled the album count obligation for their contract with Epic.

Hollywood Records (2006–07)

Indigo Girls performing in 2005.

After departing Epic, the Indigo Girls signed a five-record deal with Hollywood Records. Their first (and only) Hollywood album, Despite Our Differences, produced by Mitchell Froom, was released on September 19, 2006. John Metzger from MusicBox Online described Despite our Differences as "the most infectious, pop-infused set that the duo ever has managed to concoct.[10] In fact, its melodies, harmonies, and arrangements are so ingratiating that the album carries the weight of an instant classic." Thom Jurek from AllMusic wrote: "part of an emotional journey as complete as can be. More relevant than anyone dared expect. It's accessible and moving and true. It's their own brand of rock & roll, hewn from over the years, that bears a signature that is now indelible. A moving, and utterly poetic offering."[11]

After releasing Despite Our Differences, the Indigo Girls' contract was terminated by Hollywood Records during their 2007 tour.[12]

Independent work (2007–present)

Performing at The Fillmore in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018

Following their break with Hollywood Records, the Indigo Girls announced their next record would be released independently. Poseidon and the Bitter Bug was released on March 24, 2009, from IG Recordings, the Indigo Girls' label, and distributed through Vanguard Records. This album is their first fully independent release since 1987's Strange Fire, and their first two-CD set since 1995's live album 1200 Curfews; the first disc has the 10 tracks accompanied by a backing band, and the second includes the same 10 songs with only Ray and Saliers on vocals and acoustic guitars, and an additional track. On June 29, 2010 Indigo Girls' second full-length live album, Staring Down the Brilliant Dream, was released on IG Recordings/Vanguard Records. This was followed on October 12, 2010 with their first holiday album Holly Happy Days. Indigo Girls' thirteenth studio album, Beauty Queen Sister, was released on October 4, 2011, and their fourteenth studio album, One Lost Day, was released on June 2, 2015 (both on IG Recordings/Vanguard Records).

Beginning in 2017, the Indigo Girls have toured the United States performing their music arranged for symphony orchestra. After more than 50 performances, in 2018 they released a live double album entitled Indigo Girls Live with the University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra. In 2020, they followed this with the studio album Look Long.

Songwriting and influences

Ray and Saliers do not ordinarily collaborate in writing songs.[13] Saliers described herself as "a lyric person. [...] I’ve always respected Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan". Saliers said: "Amy is much more a combination of music and lyrics. She really likes alternative rock a lot, and she likes the feel of certain kinds music as well as the lyrics. Amy is more stream-of-consciousness. She doesn’t censor herself at all; she just channels it through herself, so in her lyrics, she has tons of different kinds of images, sensual images, things of the earth, that connection to nature. Mine is a much more singer-songwriter intellectual narrative style. I take an idea and try to really pinpoint it, make it as clear as possible".[14]

They write separately and work out the arrangements together.[15] There are a few exceptions, mostly unreleased songs from their early, pre-Epic days: "I Don't Know Your Name" and "If You Live Like That." "Blood Quantum", which appears on Honor: A Benefit for the Honor the Earth Campaign featured Ray's verses and chorus and Saliers's bridge. Finally, "I'll Give You My Skin", which appears both on Tame Yourself (a benefit album for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and on the Indigo Girls release Rarities, is a collaborative work by Ray, Saliers, and Michael Stipe, which is doubly rare because Saliers and Ray usually write their songs without outside collaborators. For their 2002 release, 'Become You,' Ray reported that they handed instruments back and forth to compose leads collaboratively, something they had never done before.[16] In September 2020, the Indigo Girls released "Long Ride", the first song Ray and Saliers had written together in 30 years.[17]

Touring band

The Indigo Girls have toured as a duo and with a band. In 1990, they toured with Atlanta band the Ellen James Society backing them; they have also toured with side players, with one distinct group from 1991 to 1998, a second from 1999 to 2009, members of which appeared on all of the Girls' subsequent albums and which re-formed as a live band in 2023, and a third from 2012 to 2016.

First touring band
Second touring band
2012-6 touring band

Solo projects

In 1990, Ray founded Daemon Records, which has signed Magnapop, Ellen James Society, New Mongrels, Kristen Hall, Rose Polenzani, Girlyman, Athens Boys Choir, and James Hall among others.

Saliers was a founding co-owner of Watershed Restaurant[19] in Decatur, Georgia. She sold Watershed in 2018. Saliers was an initial investor in the Flying Biscuit Cafe[20] in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2005, Saliers and her father, Don Saliers, a theology professor at Candler School of Theology at Emory University, released the book A Song to Sing, a Life to Live: Reflections on Music as Spiritual Practice. They promoted the release of the book together including several days of speaking and performing together at the Washington National Cathedral College in Washington D.C.

Ray has put out six solo albums, entitled Stag, Prom, Live from Knoxville, Didn't It Feel Kinder, Amy Ray: Live MVP, Lung of Love, Goodnight Tender and Holler through Daemon. She has toured with both The Butchies and her bands The Volunteers and the Amy Ray Band. Saliers also released a solo album, Murmuration Nation, in 2017.

Appearances in other media

Ray and Saliers appeared in the 1995 film Boys on the Side, playing short excerpts from their songs "Joking" and "Southland in the Springtime", as well as singing "Feliz Cumpleaños" ("Happy Birthday" in Spanish) with the gathered group of friends during the birthday cake scene, and standing on the far side of several shots over the next few scenes. Neither had spoken lines. The duo also appear in the 2006 documentary Wordplay, where they discuss their reaction to appearing in a New York Times crossword puzzle and then begin to solve one together.

They performed onstage in the 1994 revival of Jesus Christ Superstar in Atlanta, titled Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection. Ray starred as Jesus with Saliers as Mary Magdalene.[1] They later reprised their roles in stagings in Austin, at the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, and in Seattle.

Ray and Saliers made several cameo appearances on the sitcom Ellen; in the episode "Womyn Fest", Ellen and her friends attend a feminist music festival and catch the end of a performance by the Indigo Girls.

The girls are mentioned multiple times in Stephen King's 1995 novel Rose Madder, and Curtis Sittenfeld's 2023 novel Romantic Comedy, as well as being name-dropped in various TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Will and Grace, South Park, 30 Rock, The Office, Squidbillies, The Big Bang Theory, Saturday Night Live, Harley Quinn and Nip\Tuck.

Their posters are seen on the British soap Brookside and the 1996 slasher film Scream.

The duo appeared onstage alongside standup comedian Tig Notaro during Notaro's 2018 show "Happy to be Here" at The Heights in Houston, Texas, as a closing bit, performing one song.

In the 2023 film Barbie, Barbie sings along to "Closer to Fine." The song appears three times in the film, as well as in its trailer.[21][22]

A collection of Indigo Girls' songs is used in the jukebox musical movie Glitter and Doom, which has been touring movie festivals across North America. The film has no confirmed release date.[23]

Personal lives

Both Ray and Saliers long identified themselves as lesbians.[24] More recently, Ray [25] and Saliers [26] have publicly commented that they are sexually attracted to men, and that they identify as queer. Because of their engagements for LGBT rights, they are regarded as icons of the movement.[27][28][29]

Amy Ray currently lives in the foothills of North Georgia. She and her longtime partner, Carrie Schrader, have a daughter, Ozilline Graydon.[30]

Saliers married her longtime girlfriend,[31] former Indigo Girls tour manager Tristin Chipman, at New York City Hall[32] in 2013.[33] Chipman, a Canadian, is from Calgary, "but she spent most of her adult life in Toronto," according to Saliers between songs when performing onstage in Vancouver in 2013.[33] The couple have a daughter, Cleo, born in November 2012.[34][33]

Political activism

The Indigo Girls have been politically active, championing the causes of and held benefit concerts for the environment, gay rights, the rights of Native Americans, and the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. For many years they incorporated a recycling and public outreach program into their road tours by including Greenpeace representative Stephanie Fairbanks in their road crew. They helped Winona LaDuke establish Honor the Earth, an organization dedicated to creating support and education for native environmental issues. After performing on the activist-oriented Spitfire Tour in 1999, Ray and Saliers joined forces with The Spitfire Agency to develop the Honor The Earth Tour, which visits colleges and Native communities, and raises money for their non-profit of the same name. Ray and Saliers have also appeared at the annual SOA Watch rallies, the March for Women's Lives, and several other rallies and protests.

In 2006 the Indigo Girls were featured in artist Pink's album I'm Not Dead in the song "Dear Mr. President", which Pink says[35] is a political confrontation with George W. Bush about war, poverty, LGBT rights, abortion rights, and the No Child Left Behind Act. Returning the favor, Pink performed on the Indigo Girls' "Rock and Roll Heaven's Gate," which is about, among other things, sexism and heterosexism in the music industry.

In June 2007 the Indigo Girls were part of the multi-artist True Colors Tour 2007,[36] on the tour's Las Vegas stop which benefited the Human Rights Campaign and other organizations that provide support to the LGBT community. The Indigo Girls performed again on the True Colors Tour 2008.

In April 2013, in response to criticism from transgender activists, the Indigo Girls issued a statement that they would play at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, but would protest the festival's "womyn-born womyn" policy from the stage, would donate any money received to trans activism, and would not return to the festival without "visible and concrete signs" that the policy would be changed.[37]

In November 2017, the Indigo Girls were nominated to Out magazine's "OUT100" for 2017 in recognition of their work and their visibility.[38]

The Indigo Girls are also members of the Canadian charity Artists Against Racism and have worked with them on awareness campaigns.[39]


Studio albums

Title Details Peak chart positions Certifications
US Rock
US Folk
US Indie
Strange Fire
  • Release date: May 1, 1987
  • Label: Indigo Records, Epic Records
Indigo Girls
  • Release date: February 28, 1989
  • Label: Epic Records
22 64
  • US: 2× Platinum[46]
Nomads Indians Saints
  • Release date: September 21, 1990
  • Label: Epic Records
Rites of Passage
  • Release date: May 12, 1992
  • Label: Epic Records
Swamp Ophelia
  • Release date: May 10, 1994
  • Label: Epic Records
9 53 81
Shaming of the Sun
  • Release date: April 29, 1997
  • Label: Epic Records
7 83 81
Come on Now Social
  • Release date: September 28, 1999
  • Label: Epic Records
Become You
  • Release date: March 12, 2002
  • Label: Epic Records
All That We Let In
  • Release date: February 17, 2004
  • Label: Epic Records
Despite Our Differences 47 16
Poseidon and the Bitter Bug 29 11
Holly Happy Days
  • Release date: October 12, 2010
  • Label: Vanguard Records
4 20
Beauty Queen Sister
  • Release date: October 4, 2011
  • Label: Vanguard Records
36 14 2 9
One Lost Day
  • Release date: June 2, 2015
  • Label: Vanguard Records
63 7 2 7
Look Long 159
21 2
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Live albums

Title Details Peak chart positions Certifications
US Rock
US Folk
US Indie
Back on the Bus, Y'all (EP)
  • Release date: June 4, 1991
  • Label: Indigo Records, Epic Records
1200 Curfews 40
Staring Down the Brilliant Dream 119 34 2 18
Live with the University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


Title Details Peak chart positions
4.5: The Best of the Indigo Girls[49] 81 43
Retrospective[50] 128
Rarities 159
Playlist: The Very Best of Indigo Girls[51]
The Essential Indigo Girls[52]
"—" denotes releases that did not chart


Year Title Chart positions Album
US[53] US Alternative US Rock US Dance US Adult UK
Canada AUS
1985 "Crazy Game" Non-album single
1989 "Closer to Fine" 52 26 48 53 57 Indigo Girls
1990 "Hammer and a Nail" 12 Nomads Indians Saints
1992 "Galileo" 89 10 Rites of Passage
1994 "Least Complicated" 28 98 Swamp Ophelia
"I Don't Wanna Talk About It" Philadelphia soundtrack
1995 "Power of Two" Swamp Ophelia
1997 "Shame on You" 15 Shaming of the Sun
"Get Out the Map"
1998 "Shed Your Skin" 36
1999 "Peace Tonight" 40 Come on Now Social
2004 "Fill It Up Again" All That We Let In
2006 "Dear Mr. President" (with P!nk) 100 88 57[56] 5 3 I'm Not Dead
2011 "Making Promises"[57] Beauty Queen Sister
2015 "Happy In The Sorrow Key"[58] One Lost Day
2020 "Long Ride" non-album single
"Shit Kickin'"[59] Look Long

Other contributions

Live recording circulation

Indigo Girls allow fans to tape their shows,[60] and appropriately gathered recordings can be traded, obtained for free from a number of sources.

Awards and nominations

Americana Music Honors & Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref
2022 Spirit of Americana/Free Speech Award Indigo Girls Won [61]

Women Songwriters Hall of Fame

Year Nominee/work Award Result
2022 Indigo Girls Women Songwriters Hall of Fame[62] Induction

Pell Awards[63]

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2019 Indigo Girls Pell Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Won

GLAAD Media Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
2003 Become You Outstanding Music Album Nominated

Grammy Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result
1990 Themselves Best New Artist Nominated
Indigo Girls Best Contemporary Folk Recording Won
1991 "Hammer and a Nail" Nominated
1992 Back on the Bus, Y'all Best Contemporary Folk Album Nominated
1993 Rites of Passage Nominated
1995 Swamp Ophelia Nominated
1998 Shaming of the Sun Nominated

Pollstar Concert Industry Awards

Year Nominee / work Award Result Ref.
1990 Tour Club Tour of the Year Nominated [64]


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