Indigo Girls Amy Ray and Emily Saliers traveled often between Atlanta and Charleston in the 1980s. Before finding fame with hits like “Joking” and “Galileo,” they simply entertained fans in local clubs.
“There were little satellite places we would go,” Saliers says. “Charleston was a kind of home away from home for us. We built quite a following there.”
The Indigo Girls bring their Southern-styled harmonies and acoustic folk-rock hooks to the Performing Arts Center on Tues. Feb. 8. They usually play large venues like this these days, but the intimate format is the same: two singer/guitarists strumming and singing for an attentive crowd.
Currently on tour, Ray and Saliers have Julie Wolf alongside on keyboards and accordion. But you never know who will end up on stage.
“We started as a bar band where everybody was invited on stage,” Saliers says. “It’s a down-home approach to music. We do it for the love of their music.”
Folk/pop-rock Charleston band A Fragile Tomorrow will open the show, and they’ll likely return to the stage to back up the Girls on the 1989 hit “Closer to Fine.” They previously helped out on that track for the Indigo Girls’ recent live album, Stared Down the Brilliant Dream.
Saliers says the audience will get a healthy dose of classics, including “Shame on You,” along with newer songs that strike a cord with audiences, like “Love of Our Lives” and “Sugar Tongue.” The setlist changes every night, but they always leave some room for a favorite song from the crowd.
“Every once and a while, you get something obscure,” Saliers says. “If we still know it, we’ll play it.”
Saliers and Ray have a healthy discography to choose from after three decades performing together. Saliers is a bit nonchalant about the years.
“There are different keys to the success of the relationship,” she says. “There’s the longevity of the friendship and that we have very different creative outlets independent of each other.”
The duo is working on a new studio album, but they’ve left the record labels behind. Saliers found that it wasn’t scary at all to go independent in 2007 after a split from Hollywood Records.
“I wanted more than Amy to try a label that might give us some more exposure,” she says. “But when Hollywood dropped us, it was liberating. We have all the contacts that we need — all the avenues to get music out there. It’s competitive, but the environment for creativity fits us very well. This is the most productive we’ve been.” —Greg Hambrick