Brandi Carlile’s love for the Indigo Girls runs deep, going back to her teenage experience of hearing their song “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It” in the 1993 film Philadelphia.
“It’s a dreary subject matter,” she says of the HIV/AIDS drama and the Indigo Girls’ theme for it, “but it was so relevant, and it was so poignant to me that I felt this pull in my stomach. In retrospect, I realize that I was being galvanized towards something that I was only just beginning to understand about myself.”
Soon, Carlile was lucky enough to meet the duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers through a radio contest, and later had the opportunity to record and tour with them once her own music career got off the ground. She cherishes the experience to this day: “They started having me out [onstage] doing one or two songs, and by the end of the tour, they’d be doing 24 songs and I would be onstage for 22. It was really fun — I became the third Indigo Girl.”
Along with their transcendent harmonies and rhythmic experimentation, which had a major influence on Carlile’s own work, she says that the Indigo Girls have not been given enough credit for their LGBTQ activism over the years, and believes that they were ahead of their time in terms of the power and perspective they brought to their music.
“I sang ‘Ghost’ with Emily Saliers in front of Joni Mitchell, and Joni’s eyebrows were raised the whole time, she was just listening,” Carlile recalls. “You don’t impress Joni Mitchell unless you have written a monster of a lyric.”