A Musical Force Indigo Girls bring distinctive harmonies and sound to the Rialto

The Indigo Girls, photographed at Atlanta's Roxy Theatre, shortly before a concert.

By Laura Latzko

Longevity in the music business is difficult. The Indigo Girls haven’t only defied that, but they haven’t compromised their values during their 30-year career.

The duo, which crosses folk, rock and pop genres with its music, will visit the Rialto Theatre on Friday, June 28.

Saliers and Ray have known each other since elementary school and joined musical forces in high school.

“We both played guitar because it was fun,” Saliers says. “We just wanted to write some songs and play the next gig. It really just became a career. We never looked far into the future. We just kept trying to write good songs and get good gigs. It still continues to be mind-boggling to me that we get to do this.”

They released their first album in 1989 and since then have had multiple gold and platinum albums. In 1989, they won the Grammy award for Best Contemporary Folk Recording. In the ’90s, they were nominated for best contemporary folk albums several times. The duo is best known for the songs “Galileo,” “Shame On You” and “Closer to Fine.”

In the last five years, the Indigo Girls have worked with symphonies nationwide, presenting different arrangements of their music. Their 2018 22-song album was recorded live with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. The women are working on a new album, and often present unreleased songs during their sets.

Saliers says the new music showcases the duo’s evolution as musicians and human beings but maintains the Indigo Girls’ sound for which they have been embraced.

“The songs I wrote for the new album are not songs I could have written 20 years ago.,” she says. “They are not a huge departure for our music. Some of the insights, the way that I express myself or the way that my philosophies on life have changed, they are reflected in that,” Saliers says.

In Tucson, the duo will perform a traditional concert with just the two of them and a violin player, bringing old favorites and newer songs. The two are both married and have daughters, which has brought a new perspective to their music.

Saliers says older songs such as “Galileo” have a different meaning to her and Ray because of where they are in their lives and where the world is right now.

“When I play an old song like ‘Galileo,’ when I think about ‘how long ‘til my soul get its right,’ I put it in the context of my life right now, and I see it through the filter of my middle age, which makes it gratifying. It means the songs can grow and live as time goes on, rather than just pinpoint you to a certain place and time many, many years ago,” Saliers says.

When the two began performing together, Saliers already had experience as a harmony singer, having done choir and grown up singing in church. For Ray, it took a little time to develop this skill.

Saliers says the two were complete opposites vocally, but it has worked for them. Ray has a lower voice and more punk-inspired sound, and Saliers sings higher and has more of a Joni Mitchell sound.

“One of us covered one part, and one of us covered the other, and it kept it interesting,” Saliers says.

Over the years, the two have taken breaks to work on solo projects. Saliers says these experiences have helped them to grow as musicians and as a duo.

Saliers says despite being “ying and yang” personalities, she and Ray have been able to work well together. This has been important to the duo’s longevity, along with good timing and honesty in their writing.

“We have a relationship that is very solid. It is based on a deep respect for each other,” Saliers says.

Because they have busy lives, they have to set aside time to work on their songs. As they have done throughout their careers, the two write their own songs and come together to arrange and harmonize them.

The Indigo Girls’ fanbase has grown over the years. While they still have loyal fans who have been with them since the beginning, new audiences are discovering their work.

Saliers says songs such as “It’s Alright,” “Shame On You” and “Pendulum Swinger” continue to resonate with audiences because of their social and political messages. More personal songs about relationships, such as “Power of Two,” also continue to speak to audiences.

“I think it just depends on the person, the song and what they’ve gone through. Everybody has their own mixtape that reflects their journey. The people who listen to our music have been able to take them along on their life journeys. I think we still just write those kinds of songs that talk about things that a lot of people think about and feel,” Saliers says.

more info

What: Indigo Girls

When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 28

Where: Rialto Theatre,

318 E. Congress Street

Cost: $28-$64

Info: 740-1000, rialtotheatre.com