INTERVIEW: Indigo Girls’ Emily Saliers on ending a surreal 2021 at Symphony Hall Dec. 30-31

The Indigo Girls perform as the headliners during a two-day outdoor concert in Decatur. The event, Amplify Decatur, generated a record-high gift for a non-profit that helps the homeless. Photos: Kelly Thompson

Credit: Kelly Thompson

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The Indigo Girls perform as the headliners during a two-day outdoor concert in Decatur. The event, Amplify Decatur, generated a record-high gift for a non-profit that helps the homeless. Photos: Kelly Thompson

Credit: Kelly Thompson

Credit: Kelly Thompson

She got a breakthrough COVID-19 case in August but is fine.

Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls started the year just hoping to get back on the road again after 2020 was largely shut down save for a handful of drive-in type outdoor shows.

She and Amy Ray largely succeeded, heavily touring nationwide during the second half of the year, with plans to close out 2021 with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 30 and 31 at Atlanta Symphony Hall. (Tickets are available at aso.org, with more seats available on New Year’s Eve.)

The past year included a spirited concert at Central Park in Manhattan in the rain and co-bill dates with one of their favorite artists, Ani DeFranco.

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Indigo Girls, the Decatur natives Amy Ray (left) and Emily Saliers (right), entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday, October 23, 2020, in the Live From the Drive-In series at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. Photo: Robb Cohen for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Indigo Girls, the Decatur natives Amy Ray (left) and Emily Saliers (right), entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday, October 23, 2020, in the Live From the Drive-In series at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. Photo: Robb Cohen for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

caption arrowCaption
Indigo Girls, the Decatur natives Amy Ray (left) and Emily Saliers (right), entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday, October 23, 2020, in the Live From the Drive-In series at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. Photo: Robb Cohen for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

But touring wasn’t easy.

“We tested every single day,” Saliers said. “It was a bit of a grind. Although we’ve done our best to protect ourselves, our crew and our fans, nothing is foolproof.”

In fact, a vaccinated Saliers caught a breakthrough case of COVID-19 in August and was forced to quarantine and postpone some dates.

“It was a shocker,” she said. “My symptoms were pretty mild. I lost my sense of smell and taste but they did come back.”

The year itself was stressful on multiple levels, especially given how active the duo is on causes ranging from immigration to the environment to LBGTQ rights. “It’s been the strangest of times politically,” she said. “Everything combined has not made this the brightest of seasons.”

But live concerts themselves are a major balm for her soul, and Saliers is looking forward to working with the Atlanta Symphony.

Thanks to Artist Management Partners Worldwide and arranger Sean O’Laughlin, the duo has worked with symphonies nationwide over the past decade, culminating with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra in 2017 for a live album.

“Some of our songs have been arranged with strings on albums over the years,” Saliers said. “I just think that the melodies fit with orchestration.”

Performing with an orchestra is always an added challenge for Saliers and Ray.

caption arrowCaption
Indigo Girls, the Decatur natives Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (pictured), entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday, October 23, 2020, in the Live From the Drive-In series at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. Photo: Robb Cohen for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Indigo Girls, the Decatur natives Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (pictured), entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday, October 23, 2020, in the Live From the Drive-In series at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. Photo: Robb Cohen for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

caption arrowCaption
Indigo Girls, the Decatur natives Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (pictured), entertained a sold-out crowd on Friday, October 23, 2020, in the Live From the Drive-In series at Ameris Bank Amphitheatre in Alpharetta. Photo: Robb Cohen for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Robb Cohen for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“It’s like having a brand new incarnation of our songs,” Saliers said. “It’s pretty cool. There’s no drummer, no click track. It’s more amorphous with a pulsating orchestra which always keeps us on our toes. You never quite get used to it.”

While working with their regular band, there is plenty of wiggle room while playing any given song. With an orchestra? Not so much. “It’s a combination platter of playing it straight and playing to the orchestra,” Saliers said. “It’s a completely unique experiment. It’s rigorous.”

At the same time, “it’s a thrill, especially to play with our home orchestra in Atlanta. We love doing it.”

The duo has performed New Year’s show in the past, including some at City Winery. Usually in January, they also hold an annual fundraising concert at Terminal West for a particular homeless shelter like 3Keys, but the pandemic has postponed that.

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The Indigo Girls - Amy Ray (foreground) and Emily Saliers - have stayed busy with livestreams and virtual fundraisers while readying the release of their new album, "Look Long." Photo: Jeremy Cowart

The Indigo Girls - Amy Ray (foreground) and Emily Saliers - have stayed busy with livestreams and virtual fundraisers while readying the release of their new album, "Look Long." Photo: Jeremy Cowart

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The Indigo Girls - Amy Ray (foreground) and Emily Saliers - have stayed busy with livestreams and virtual fundraisers while readying the release of their new album, "Look Long." Photo: Jeremy Cowart

And while the New Year’s Eve show will end around 10 p.m. in plenty of time for Saliers to catch Ryan Seacrest on ABC at midnight, she isn’t into that type of hoopla. “I’m more into taking reflection of what the year has meant and some intentions for the new year,” she said.

She is grateful her entire extended family has stayed healthy including her wife Tristin Chapman and their nine-year-old daughter Cleo. On the day of the interview Monday, Saliers received her booster shot.

“I’m just thankful we have music to help us process it all and to share,” she said.


IN CONCERT

Indigo Girls with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

8 p.m. Dec. 30-31. $39.50-$69.50. Atlanta Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta. aso.org, ticketmaster.com

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