Dyke folk icons the Indigo Girls join the Pride festivities on the Wellesley Stage (Church and Wellesley) Saturday (June 23) at 9:30 pm. Free. www.pridetoronto.com.
The Indigo Girls' latest album, Despite Our Differences, seems to be focused on issues that aren't specifically gay. There's a lot of interesting thinking about urban-rural spaces in the States and some pretty heavy class analysis. Where did that come from?
All my life I've been a nature girl. About 15 years ago I moved to a rural area and built a big house and bought land, but the area is quite poor and I very much didn't want to be part of the process of gentrification.
All these rich people wanted me to participate in neighbourhood alliances to support their efforts to kick out the trailers and make gated communities. I was like, "Why did you move out here in the first place?"
I'd love to stay home for five years and run for city council so I can change it from within, but right now the best I can do is write about it in my music.
Consciousness-raising is definitely a big part of your music. Is that why you include so many diverse resources in your album liner notes?
Nothing against the Human Rights Commission [the largest gay and lesbian civil rights organization in the U.S.], but we want our resources to be totally grassroots and community-oriented. We want to promote things like suicide hotlines and transgender issues, things that make it hard to live as a queer person, not just the big issues related to power and money and politics. There are still a lot of Matthew Shepards out there.
Cyndi Lauper's True Colors tour is specifically trumpeting the HRC and getting a lot of attention because of it.
True Colors is amazing and Cyndi's an amazing woman, but it's not a very politicized tour. It's sponsored by Levi's! One amazing part of True Colors, though, is that they screen this HRC-produced film that shows people who've been killed because of their sexuality or gender. If one person's outlook is affected after seeing that five-minute film, the tour will have had an important effect.
How do you reconcile your anti-corporate politics with leaving your old label (Sony subsidiary Epic) to sign with Disney-owned Hollywood for this album?
Yeah, it was a hard choice. It was a compromise between me and Emily Z [Saliers, the other Indigo Girl]. I'd love to put out our records independently, but she doesn't think we have the infrastructure in place - and she's probably right. Disney's done decent things for queers around same-sex benefits and stuff, but I still say it wasn't my first choice, and Emily would probably say it wasn't worth it now, but you live and learn.
How has being an out queer performer changed since the Indigo Girls first started playing music?
It's definitely become way easier. People will actually fraternize with you now. I remember during the first Lilith Fair, Sarah McLachlan was awesome, but I felt like a lot of performers were like, "Oh, those are the gay girls" and left us alone cuz we were the freaks.
But I think we've gone beyond gender and sexuality boundaries. Take someone like Pink. Any privilege she has from being a straight woman she uses to benefit the queer community.