What: Indigo Girls with Jeremy Fisher
When: Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: McPherson Playhouse
Tickets: $50.75 (plus service charges) at rmts.bc.ca, 250-386-6121 or the McPherson box office
Though it was decades ago, Amy Ray has a clear recollection of how duties were split during a teenage version of the duo that eventually became the Indigo Girls.
Ray, who handled the band bookings, gear and transportation for the duo back in 1980, remembers having to push bandmate Emily Saliers to even be a part of the group.
“But musically, she was still holding a lot of the territory,” Ray said this week from her rural home an hour north of Atlanta, Ga.
“I really depended on her musically, so it was an even exchange.”
The two friends, who met when Ray was in Grade 5 and Saliers in Grade 6, became the Indigo Girls in 1985, establishing themselves almost immediately as one of the better new folk groups around. They quickly signed a major-label deal and, in 1988, released their self-titled debut.
Propelled by the hit Closer to Fine, the record won a Grammy Award for best contemporary folk album (they were also in contention for best new artist, but lost that Grammy to Milli Vanilli). It would be fair to assume, given their accomplishments in the years since — of their 13 studio albums, only 2010’s Holly Happy Days failed to chart — that the group has had a fairly easy run.
Ray said that is not necessarily the case.
“There have been years when I thought our writing wasn’t as strong. It wasn’t because we were frustrated with the group itself, it was more us trying to figure out what our path should be. As the music business developed and changed, there was such a revolution and evolution, for us it was hard to find our footing sometimes.”
The road has never let them down. The pair’s current tour of Canada (their most extensive to date) will see Ray and Saliers jam their gear into a tour van for the 15-date trek that brings them to the McPherson Playhouse on Sunday — something they have not done in 23 years.
“We’ve never played smaller towns and done a proper Canadian tour.
“The only way we could do that is to do it old-school, with a van, a couple of guitars each, and one person helping us with instruments and another helping us drive.”
Ray has fond memories of Vancouver Island. In 1997, she wrote the song Hey Kind Friend, which features lyrics about travelling to Victoria on B.C. Ferries. “At that time, I was hanging out with Ani DiFranco, and she was playing over there,” Ray said of how she came to write the song.
“I jumped on the road for a couple of days, just to see her. I’m a fan, and I like travelling. I like to go on the road when I have time and hear other bands. It gives me fuel for thought.”
She will have plenty of songwriting inspiration in the coming months. Ray said her partner is pregnant, and is due to deliver the couple’s first child in November. The Indigo Girls camp is growing rapidly — Saliers has a nine-month-old child — but Ray said her special bond with Saliers will never diminish.
“We have defined our lives by each other, no doubt about it,” she said with a laugh.
“It’s like a marriage.”