When the opportunity to play with a symphony orchestra arrived six years ago, it was the right time for Indigo Girls.
“It came at a point in our career where we wanted to do something new, (to) grow and expand and keep it fresh,” Emily Saliers tells Billboard. Amy Ray adds that, “It's good to have something that completely surprises you, that you have to work yourself up for. It's exciting.”
The fruits those labors are featured on Indigo Girls Live With The University Of Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which comes out June 29 and whose video for “Galileo” is premiering exclusively below. Featuring 22 songs from the duo's catalog, it showcases a performance experience Saliers and Ray both call a “very different,” but also comfortable, environment for their music.
“We had some orchestrations done on our records, so we didn't have any doubt that the songs would translate well to orchestra arrangements,” Saliers says. “But it was still a thrill and an honor to be invited to do it.” Ray, meanwhile, notes that the duo has “gotten better at it over the years, every time we do it. It's a great experience, totally challenging musically and every way. You really have to be on your toes because it's a pretty big machine you're up there with, and they're very precise. There's not much a margin for error — like, no margin error.”
The live album was recorded April 5, 2017 in the orchestra's home Boulder, Colo., with Gary Lewis conducting. The songs hail from throughout the Indigos' career, and some the arrangements — done by Sean O'Loughlin, Stephen Barber and John Mills — have been around since the first 2012 concerts. “We probably have 25 arrangements and we can make a set list from those and change the show up a bit each time we do it,” Saliers explains. “Sean is a very gifted arranger; I know these musicians are not bored with them. I know they hear 'pop music' and go, 'Oh God, this is what we have to do to keep the orchestra financially ble these days.' But these arrangements are rich and some them are complex, so once they start playing them it's not an issue.”
Saliers and Ray are loath to pick favorites from the arrangements. “All them take the songs somewhere different,” Ray says. But they remain impressed with “Closer To Fine,” which Saliers says “feels like we're in a wagon heading west,” and the symphonic adaptation the rocking “Compromise,” which retains the original recording's energy a particularly muscular string section.
“My dad and mom always had season tickets to the Atlanta Symphony, and I grew up listening to symphonic music around the house,” Saliers says. “I studied classical guitar for a couple years. My sister sang opera. So I've had a lot that in my background. So it's not like my family is like, 'Wow, now you're making real music.' It's more just another exciting thing we get to do.”
The Indigos have several orchestra dates coming up, including a July 3-4 engagement with the Boston Pops. Saliers will be playing solo shows to continue promoting her 2017 solo album Murmuration Nation and is also conducting a songwriting workshop, while Ray is working on a new solo set her own for release later this year. The duo has also started writing songs for the next Indigos album, following 2015's One Lost Day, with recording slated to start during January in London with John Reynolds, who produced 1999's Come On Now Social and co-produced 2011's Beauty Queen Sister.