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A number of factors eventually got Ray's creative juices flowing again. First, the end of an eight-year relationship, she says, "kind of kicked me in the butt, and music became the only thing that could save me."
At the same time, as Ray came to understand her role in activism, she felt less frustrated by it. More importantly, Ray came away from that intense period of political involvement with a better understanding of her music and of how activism fits into it. "My songwriting, I feel, has gotten better as my activism has gotten better," she says. "It's a matter of being able to find specific metaphors and find a specific way to do activism."
By learning to integrate political sentiments in ways that go beyond sloganeering, Ray's songwriting not only improved, in some part it also shifted toward a style that lent itself to a solo record. "Hey Castrator" and "Measure of Me," for instance, reduce gender politics to an intimate level, where what's often defined in black and white gets painted with more subtle shades of gray. And "Lucystoners," which has raised eyebrows by charging Rolling Stone magazine's founder Jann Wenner of sexism, is actually a lot more clever and finely detailed than that one sentiment would suggest. It also happens to be very catchy and, with its singalong line "Lucystoners don't need boners," it's pretty funny, too.
"I don't think Emily felt as comfortable about 'Lucystoners,' and I couldn't see her wanting to play it," Ray says. "I kind of know what her limits are. It's not like she's a prude, but thematically, some of it is really about gender identity or has this kind of anger or personal reflection. 'Hey Castrator' also doesn't seem like a song Emily would sing on, and as soon as you put our voices together, it automatically has a certain personality that doesn't fit in with this record to me."
After considering the possibility of a solo record for a while, what finally got the process in motion was meeting the Butchies on tour. "I wanted to play with different people to ... break away from having that comfortable thing to fall back on -- Emily, her musicality and talent," Ray says. "When I met the Butchies, and I started learning songs from them, I think that really sealed it for me, because I had something like a starting point."
While Ray initially hoped to section off a chunk of time to dedicate solely to the solo record, Indigo Girls' tour schedule didn't allow for that. Instead, she ended up squeezing in recording sessions between tours, driving back and forth between Chris Stamey's studio in Chapel Hill (where she recorded with the Butchies), Dave Barbe's studio in Athens (where she recorded with the Rock*A*Teens, including former member Kelly Hogan) and a studio in Birmingham (where she recorded with 1945, formerly known as Three Finger Cowboy). And when she could coordinate a day they were all free, Ray trekked up to Brooklyn to record with Jett, Schellenbach and Wiggs.
Once the process had started, though, Ray was determined to push ahead until it was done. With Indigo Girls' near-constant touring, that took nearly a year of maximizing every moment of off-time. "It was a lot of work," she says. "After I finished the whole thing, I had this sense that I had been in this tunnel for a year and I couldn't believe I had actually done it."
Sitting on the couch in the unfinished warehouse loft space Daemon calls its office, Ray keeps busy in between appointments by attaching mailing labels to packages being sent out to press and radio. It's not the only world she knows -- Indigo Girls being, along with Michael Jackson, one of Epic Records' longest lasting acts -- but it's clearly the world she prefers.
Still, she also recognizes the double life she leads, being on a major label while crusading against the corporate establishment with Daemon and her activism. "We struggle about it a lot," Ray says. "Me and Emily even had different perspectives on it. I think Emily feels different now, ... but there was a time when she felt like if we have an important thing to say, she'd rather it get out to more people."
Of course, if Amy Ray wasn't on Epic with Indigo Girls, a lot fewer people would hear about Daemon and her indie solo album. In fact, one final impetus for getting Stag done was the probability that Ray's notoriety would drive CD sales and thus raise money for Daemon, enabling the label to continue releasing other, less commercially viable records.
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