Indigo Girls co-leader Amy Ray stays so busy with so many different and varied musical endeavors, it's inevitable that they bump into each other.
To wit, Indigo Girls just released a symphonic album in late June, with orchestrated versions of "Closer to Fine" and other hits like "Galileo" and "Least Complicated."
But when the Atlanta-based folk group plays Durham Performing Arts Center on July 18, it will (probably) be as an acoustic duo of just Ray and Emily Saliers.
Come fall, Ray will be in solo mode with a country album coming out; she'll be back to play a solo show at Durham's Motorco Music Hall in October. And there's another Indigo Girls album in the works, set to be recorded next year.
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We caught up with Ray by phone this week to try to sort it all out. The conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Q: So even though you just released "Indigo Girls Live With the University of Colorado Symphony Orchestra," this show won't involve an orchestra?
A: (laughing) No. We do symphony shows a couple times a month, between regular shows. This one will be just the Indigo Girls acoustic, the two of us — I think. We have a violinist who comes and goes as she pleases because she has another job. So there might be a violinist, too! But I don't think so.
Q: How did you wind up recording with a university orchestra two time zones away from home?
A: We've been trying to record this for years, but having issues with union symphonies. There was just no way to even afford it, which sort of forced us to look at other options. We had played with this group before and just loved their energy, the dynamic. There's a cross-pollination and mix of ages generationally between students, grad students, folks in the community.
Plus the conductor's great and that's often the key to a good show. The conductor builds a bridge between us and the symphony. Some symphonies playing pop music, they're sometimes not as engaged because it's just not as complex as what they're used to. But Colorado was one of the best.
Q: Is it jarring to go back and forth between shows with orchestras, and shows where it's just you two?
A: It used to be that we would not go back-to-back between duo and symphony because it felt too hard to adjust. But by now, we've done it so much that it's not a big deal. The first time with a symphony was really nerve-wracking, although I'd practiced so much ahead of time that I was less nervous. Now it's not so debilitatin,g and I can listen and hear the beauty and freedom of it without freaking out the whole time.
Q: Did you play in school orchestras while growing up?
A: I played flute in the marching band my freshman year and I was, well, not very good. So I gave it up. Emily (Saliers) and I both sang in the high school choir, though. So, chorus, yeah.
Q: You've become sort of an honorary Durhamite over the years, too.
A: I know a lot of people up there. Durham's always been kind of my hangout spot for all the friends I play with there — (Mount Moriah's) Heather McEntire, the Butchies, Brad and Phil (Cook). So that scene's always been a big part of my thing.
I met Phil at a writer's night, and he just blew my mind, and I asked him to produce a few songs on my solo album. He brought Brad along, too, and Justin (Vernon). We've stayed in touch, and Brad and Phil have both toured with me. It's hilarious to have them both in the van. Phil has become a dear close friend, someone I text for advice. He's a confidant.
A: We've known Joan since 1991, sang with her off and on a lot since then. We've been through a lot with her. She's really mentored us along the way and been a real inspiration. She's great.
Who: Indigo Girls with The War and Treaty
When: 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18
Where: Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham
Cost: $32.50-$69, plus taxes and fees
Details: 919-680-2787 or dpacnc.com
Coming this fall
Who: Amy Ray with Heather McEntire
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 24
Where: Motorco Music Hall, 723 Rigsbee Ave. Durham
Details: 919-901-0875 or motorcomusic.com