How do you stay inspired on the road with all the older songs? How do you avoid auto-pilot on something like "Closer to Fine"?
[laughs] I can honestly say I have not gotten tired of singing that song. Part of the reason is that the opening act, whoever it is, will sing that song with us, or the crowd takes the last verse. It’s fun. It's not like a song we're performing anymore. It's like a hootenanny. It's very joyful and the crowd loves to sing so it's just fun. Other songs are just performed, if you know what I mean. We write a new set list every night. We don't get bored because we only play songs that we really want to play.
I just got an email from Amy recently saying, "Are there any old songs you want to resurrect for this thing we've got coming up?" We like to dig into the past and bring out obscure songs and relearn them. Every time we have a new album, that's at least 10 more new songs to add to the set list. We can't fit them all in anymore. We just have to pick and choose what we want, and that keeps it fun. Never a dull moment.
What would you say makes a song a good song?
I think it depends on the time. Some songs we'll let go for a while and then, all of a sudden, two years later, you really want to play that song. You [suddenly] feel really passionate about it. I think also that songs can take on different lives of their own over time depending on what you're going through. There are songs I wrote a long time ago that speak to me now at my age, at my point in life, differently than they did when I was younger. That's pretty cool. I think a good song is something that, when I sing it, or when I sing on Amy's songs—I think she’s an excellent songwriter—it resonates emotionally. You feel connected to it and it feels cathartic to sing it, whether or not it's a happy song, a serious song or a political song. That’s how I know it’s a good song—when I really, really want to sing it. Then there are some that are better than others because, lyrically, everything came together nicely. You can't always predict that that's going to happen. But, as an artist, when it does, you know it.
What are you listening to these days?
[laughs] I'm listening to Beyonce. I just think she's so amazing. I listen to a lot of Rihanna. I think her voice is just stunning. I also love Sia's record from last year—she's one of my favorite artists. I love the Weepies. That's what comes to mind. I like a lot of pop music.
Amy's done a few solo projects. Do you have any in the works?
I don't have any plans to make a solo record right now. It's always sort of been in the way, way back burner of my life. It's such a joke now, I barely even talk about it anymore. There was a period when I was very close to making one but I just got distracted by our work. I also co-own a restaurant and I wrote a book with my dad, I was recently involved in a CD project for a women's prison here. These other projects that interest me keep me a little away from making a solo record. And then Amy and I, it always seems, are working on Indigo Girls stuff. I think Amy, her solo music, there's a lot of it that just wouldn't fit Indigo Girls. It's a big part of her musical life, her musical landscape, and she feels compelled to have that experience of doing that on her own. I don't have the same passionate drive to do that on my own, for whatever reason. That's a long answer [laughs]. I guess maybe. Maybe I'll make one, maybe I won't.
She recorded "Driver Education" on her own. How was that for you, bringing it onto this record?
Yeah that was cool. I really love that song. I really like her solo version of it. She wanted to do a different incarnation of it. I thought that was fun, just to stick some harmonies on there that were different. I borrowed the guitar line that was on her solo version. I picked some of that, played that again because we both liked it. We embellished the other parts. We just wanted to do a poppy version of it, so that’s what we did. It's cool. It’s like the sky's the limit, really. No rules.
What is up next for y'all? You’re touring this summer, I assume, and I know you’re on that [Cayamo] cruise...
We're doing the cruise and then more promotional stuff. We'll start touring in April and will [go] all over the country, tour through the summer, possibly go back to Australia. We'll maybe go to the UK or Europe and do some festivals—all to promote the record and keep the music alive out there. We’re also going to continue our work with Honor the Earth—we do environmental indigenous justice work with them. We have a goal of doing at least three events during this touring season to raise awareness of wind and solar and green projects on Indian land, how we can connect that to the rest of the country and get green power on the grid, shake the paradigm away from coal and nuclear. We're very dedicated to that work, so we'll continue with that as well.
Indigo Girls' Poseidon and the Bitter Bug is due in stores and online Mar. 24, 2009. For more information about the record and their tour schedule, visit IndigoGirls.com.