I’ve been listening to the Indigo Girls since “Closer to Fine.” I was a senior in college and had come out to my parents the previous year, but my girlfriend and I were so far in the closet we didn’t know any other lesbians. The Girls were one of a handful of singer-songwriters — along with k.d. lang and Melissa Etheridge — who helped us understand ourselves at the time. But this discovery didn’t end there. With each new album, I could mark the next leg of my journey into adulthood and beyond. I married that girlfriend and stayed home while she served as an Army officer in Somalia. We had a daughter. I changed careers more times than I’d like to count and went back to school twice. With each step out of the closet and into activism and a real, honest life, I have become “closer to fine.” When our daughter left for college in 2018, my wife and I decided to travel to Indigo Girl concerts whenever possible. Since then, I’ve leaned into my obsession with their songs. I don’t know diddly about their personal lives, but their music has always seemed like a mirror of my last 35 years.
In November 2019, I was inspired to start writing about their music on Facebook, using a little meme that a friend had posted:
Instead of writing about any old songs or musicians, I limited my posts to Emily Sailers and Amy Ray — as the duo, Indigo Girls, and as solo artists. Each day, I chose a song using the assigned prompts. Sometimes I had to improvise and by the end of the four weeks, I was pretty much posting about whatever songs I wanted. These posts became tiny essays about the songs and my life, each ending with a video of the Girls singing.
I was consumed by this project. For years I had listened to their music and made up stories in my head. Their words, melodies and harmonies had been like close friends as I tried to figure out who the hell I was. I found secret messages and literature references. I recognized the small-town childhood of Amy’s music and the book-learning in Emily’s songs. For the first time, I was sharing the ideas that I had kept close, and I was also sharing the music that helped those ideas come to life.
In this series of essays, I’ll repost some of the mini-essays from my Facebook account, as well as add new ones. This is a conversation with the music as it relates to my queer history, if I may be so bold.
In short, this is a place for me to explore my history using Indigo Girls music.
More from this series: