In the following interview, Amy Ray speaks with down-to-heart charm and candor about her relationship with Emily, the Honor the Earth Tour and her own spiritual path.
In Shaming, it seems that for the 1st time you and Emily use gender-specific pronouns. It would be fun to do a side project that is me and Emily but its called something different, and its really different.
I heard a rumor that you wrote “Hey Kind Friend” for Ani Di Franco. Have you ever thought about collaborating with her? like they’ve gotten down to the most primal aspect of their being and they’re creating art. It was an inspiration to watch her work in the studio.
[Laughs heartily] I don’t know if I should say that. Technically I saw her do some cool things — different tricks with sending your vocals through the speaker and singing again, having a weird background going and using loops in general, vocal and drum.
And then in “Fugitive” it’s obvious I’m talking about a girl. Going back to your relationship with Emily, you both work independently and then come together musically. Since the beginning, we’ve been so different from each other and our musical styles have been different. When we first started, Emily was much more knowledgeable musically and still is. Businesswise, I had more business acumen, so I was the one who said we should do this and that. We collaborated once when we were really young and it didn’t work out very well. I think we realized that we needed to write in our own separate worlds in order to have identity. We can express ourselves without having to compromise too much. Its fun for us — it’s nothing that would threaten us. But every time I think about it, I ask, “Now who would I want to play with me? Hers would be something like jazz or blues, which I couldn’t do.Emily and I spent several years focused on activism, and in our year off, we mulled it all over, thought about it and wrote songs. I’ve always been pretty outspoken and pretty willing to talk about everything, but Emily had a tendency to be more scared about privacy issues. My dedication to activism took away from my relationship.I found it important to say, “Look, what I’ve been involved with has given me some freedom in my heart and soul that I’ve never experience.We’ve seen people in the gay community that have suffered for their preferences and their beliefs. I actually fell in love with a woman in high school but didn’t consummate it until a year later…we had a very long courtship. I finally felt like I had completely come to terms with it when I told my grandmother, which was only about 4 years ago. [laugh] There’s always the question, were you and Emily ever involved? Until we get right with the Indians and start over with our whole way of thinking, as far as who deserves to have what and be where, I dont think we’ll be able to change all the other things. When you wrote about your Honor ’95 experience in the journal “Indigenous Woman,” you refer to the song “Shed your Skin.” It seems there’s an intertwining of the message of activism and shedding our skin.But sometimes when its right around you in your own community, it doesn’t impact you as much. By the time our relationship became physical, my mom had already asked me if I was gay. So I said, “Well, if I’m in love with this woman, and if it means I’m gay, I guess I am.” But I still had just broken up with a boyfriend and I dated guys after that too. I felt that whatever you fall in love with is what you are. My grandmother knew, but we had never talked about it. So until I could sit down and talk with her and say, “Can I have your blessing on this? I wrote “Shed Your Skin” after my breakup with my ex about how important it is to go do your thing and celebrate it and celebrate yourself.I find my idea of God to be infused in everything, animate and sometimes inanimate. I feel like its a part of me and I feel the strenght of that.Its more like a Creator; its definitely a sexless being.I said, “turn the tape recorder on” and we recorded it – that’s the song you hear on the album.So there are sentimental reasons why that song is really close to me.I’ve been gender-specific when I’ve wanted to talk about one particular relationship or incident. From the start, there were very distinct roles, musically and businesswise. I think she’s interested in writing with other people and doing movie soundtracks. Between all the politics and our touring, when would we do a solo album? We did a few shows called Honor the Earth back then, geared towards trying to work with the Indian community for environmental changes.A lot of our songs are about several different people, so I haven’t been able to be as specific. What kind of political projects have you been involved in lately? On a purely pragmatic level, Indians are on the forefront of a lot of environmental battles because many resources are on their land — uranium, coal, timber.