Reader’s Choice: the Stories Behind Your Favourite Songs…# 4/250: Closer To Fine by the Indigo Girls.

Amy Ray and Emily Sailers: the Indigo Girls.

The Indigo Girls are a Folk-Rock duo consisting of lifelong friends, Amy Ray and Emily Sailers. The two met all the way back in elementary school and began playing together in bands while in high school. The two friends endured a brief separation when they first left their home in Atlanta to attend university but, after a few short years apart, they both transferred to a university nearer to their home and reunited as friends and as bandmates. It was while in university together that Sailers and Ray adopted the name, Indigo Girls. In 1987, they released their first self-produced album called Strange Fire. The success of Strange Fire brought them to the attention of major record labels and they were soon signed to a contract by Epic Records. The first major label album they released was called Indigo Girls. On that album was a song called “Closer To Fine” which has gone on to become their signature song. Over the course of the next decade, The Indigo Girls have earned multiple Gold and Platinum status for their album sales, as well as winning a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Recording in 1990.

The song, “Closer To Fine” came from an album that is noteworthy for several reasons. By the time 1989 had come and Epic Records was ready to help the Indigo Girls launch their major label career, Sailers and Ray had already been performing locally in the Atlanta area for over ten years. In that time, they had performed constantly in all manner of venues, many of which were College pubs, frosh houses and local dive bars. Consequently the Indigo Girls had become regulars on the Atlanta music scene and were quite well-respected by their peers there. So, when it came time to put together songs for their first Epic Records album, they called upon some of their peers to help out. Michael Stipe, lead singer of R.E.M. appears on this album, as does Irish band, Hothouse Flowers, who came to know Sailers and Ray because of both being on the College touring circuit, playing at the same Folk Festivals and so on.

Rob Pilatus, left, and Fab Morvan of Milli Vanilli give the thumbs-up as they display their Grammys after being presented with the 1989 best new artist award in Los Angeles Feb. 21, 1990. They were later stripped of their award after being revealed as lip-synching poseurs. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

But, perhaps the most notorious thing that happened to Indigo Girls as a result of this album is that they were nominated for the Grammy Award for Best New Artist…which is not where the problem lay. That was the year the Grammy for Best New Artist was awarded to fraudsters, Milli Vanilli. When it was revealed that Milli Vanilli were lip syncing their songs, they were stripped of their award and instead of a second nominated artist being given the award, the Grammy organization decided to simply not give anyone the award for 1990. So, through no fault of their own, Indigo Girls will be forever associated with the Milli Vanilla-Grammy debacle on 1990.

Luckily for Indigo Girls, the Grammy snub did nothing to harm their career. They did just fine as time went by. In fact, their reputation as being artists who possessed talent in equal abundance to their own personal integrity only grew more sterling with time. The Indigo Girls have made no secret of their politics. Both Sailers and Ray identify as being lesbians and have enjoyed long successful marriages with their individual partners. The Indigo Girls have been festival stalwarts at such events as Lilith Fair and have lent their support to an endless list of causes and organizations that represent the LBGQT community. In addition to that, Sailers and Ray both support numerous causes to do with the environment, feminism, abolishing the death penalty and much more. Although Indigo Girls do not seek the spotlight for themselves, they are certainly viewed as leaders and icons. Ray and Sailers take this responsibility seriously, showing up to support other performers and organizations whenever time allows.

The song, “Closer to Fine” is about finding balance in life. With balance often comes personal happiness and fulfillment. The song speaks of being in bars after midnight and of trying to find peace there. The lyrics also point to people who peddle magical cures such as authors and college professors and how you should swallow this snake oil with eyes wide open. Most of all, “Closer To Fine” advises that balance and happiness come from within each of us and that the answers we seek tend to come from the people we surround ourselves with and the pursuits that bring us the most pleasure and satisfaction. It may sound like obvious advice but doing what makes you feel good and what makes a positive difference for others will enrich your own life immeasurably. Because this advice is so down-to-earth, it makes a song like “Closer to Fine” feel very authentic and real. In fact, the ability to write songs that are relatable on a personal level to each member of an audience is one of the most distinguishing trademarks of Indigo Girls. Sailers and Ray have lived life and met its challenges and have come out wiser and kinder and more empathetic as a result.

This song was nominated as a Reader’s Choice song by my pal, Christine Hanolsy. Thanks, Christine for nominating such an awesome song and providing me with the opportunity to introduce Indigo Girls to my readers.

So, without further delay, here are Amy Ray and Emily Sailers…the Indigo Girls…with the amazing song, “Closer To Fine”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Closer To Fine” by Indigo Girls can be found here.

The link to the official website for Indigo Girls can be found here.