Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls

Growing as an artist, helping the environment, and doing things that scare her

Maranda Pleasant: What makes you come alive or inspires you?

Emily Saliers: A great movie, good live music, a good book, an engaging conversation, traveling, the wind in the trees, the way everything smells when it starts to rain. Countless things! Even coffee, but it has to be really good coffee.

MP: What makes you feel vulnerable?

ES: The thought of anything bad happening to my wife, daughter, and family; working on a solo record.

MP: If you could say something to everyone on the planet, what would it be?

ES: Don’t do to someone else what you wouldn’t want done to you.

MP: How do you handle emotional pain?

ES: I sit with it and observe it and know it will pass. I also try to get sleep, eat wholesome foods, and work out in some manner. I talk to my close friends and family, and I pray. I cry when I feel like crying.

MP: How do you keep your center in the middle of chaos? Do you have a daily routine?

ES: Eating wholesome foods and getting plenty of sleep is crucial for me. I also have faith that my life is in good hands. I honestly try to see how I can grow from uncomfortable circumstances. I make sure I have quiet time to myself to read.

MP: What’s been one of your biggest lessons so far in life?

ES: Feelings are not everything! There is very little absolute truth in life.

MP: What truth do you know for sure?

ES: God exists.

MP: What is love for you?

ES: Love is never having to say you’re sorry. JUST KIDDING! Love is selflessness and self-fullness; it can only be known deeply with an open, vulnerable heart. Love is pure and kind and forgiving. It is the greatest gift of all.

MP: Causes or organizations that you’re passionate about?

ES: Honor the Earth is a group Amy and I helped start over twenty years ago to raise money for and awareness about indigenous environmental and cultural issues. We do a lot of work around environmental justice issues, so that involves fighting against destructive practices like fracking, nuclear waste dumping, mining, and oil pipeline construction as a result of tar sands production.

We have found that we can best see “environmentalism” through the lens of traditional native peoples’ vision of protecting the earth, which sustains us all no matter who we are, for generations to come. We are also against the death penalty. We do lots of support work for LGBTQ groups, and we are active in efforts to get out the vote.

“It’s important for me to explore the creative parts of me that I don’t explore with Indigo Girls, and it also feels pretty good to do something scary and on my own.”

MP: Tell me if you have a yoga or mindfulness practice. What influence has it had on your life?

ES: I have just begun yoga. I have taken a handful of level one flow classes with a wonderful instructor, Nicole Jurovics, in Atlanta. Now I know why yoga is so life-giving for so many. I have never experienced a practice that combines such physical challenge and spiritual wellbeing in my life. I also pray as part of my mindfulness practice and try to recount my day, all my triumphs and foibles, before I go to sleep at night. These practices keep me calm for the most part.

MP: Tell me about your latest projects.

ES: Amy and I have finished our latest record, One Lost Day, and are about to begin touring with our band to play the new music. I am also working on a solo record, produced by Lyris Hung, and I am co-writing a cookbook with my cohorts at my restaurant, Watershed on Peachtree, in Atlanta.

MP: Why are these important to you?

ES: It’s important for Amy and me to continue to write and release new music because it helps us grow as artists, and hopefully we can remain relevant to our listeners and maybe even pick up a few new listeners along the way. If life ever stops inspiring us to write, it’s time to stop doing what we do.

I have been talking about making a solo record for a very long time, and I am finally doing it. It’s important for me to explore the creative parts of me that I don’t explore with Indigo Girls, and it also feels pretty good to do something scary and on my own.

The cookbook is a new adventure. We have a wonderful new chef, Zeb Stevenson, and we want to create a book that captures the then and now of Watershed, because we’ve been around for a while, and I love our commitment to good, responsible food and community. I’ve never written a cookbook before, so I look forward to the entire process. Engaging in new creative projects keeps me energized. I feel deeply grateful for all of the opportunities that life has given me.

Photo: Jeremy Cowart