Episode 201: Lines and Lessons from Indigo Girls
You’re listening to Live Free Creative, an intentional podcast with practical tips for living your life on purpose. I’m your host Miranda Anderson, and I believe in creativity, adventure, curiosity, and the magic of small moments. I hope that every time you listen, you feel empowered and free to live the life that you want.
Hey friends. Welcome back to Live Free Creative podcast. I am Miranda Anderson, your host of this lovely weekly show.
Today’s episode is number 201. We did it. We broke through the 200 episode ceiling. Did you know that most podcasts, pod-fade–that’s what they call it, pod-fade–around episode seven or eight.
I heard this a couple years ago in a podcasting masterclass, or something of the sort, maybe it was like a workshop. This is, at least as far as longevity, we’re like a top 5%, maybe 3%, podcast in that we made it past episode eight or nine. We are here sitting pretty at episode 201.
I am so excited about today’s episode. I feel like I broke through this 200th episode level and was really excited about it. The giveaway has been going amazing and it ends on September 1st. So if you haven’t had a chance, make sure you enter.
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Third and fourth prizes are the new podcast merch. Did you see it’s all released? I even made a shiny reel about it on Instagram.
I have this beautiful bandana style sweatshirt. By bandana style, I mean that the design is in the shape of a square and it’s this really cool kind of Southwestern feeling bandana design.
There’s also a podcast t-shirt it says Live Free Live Well across the back. That’s been one of the underlying themes of the show for the last several years, with a really cool graphic design on the front with birds and stars. It is just a cool graphic tee.
I think both of the shirts are really fun designs on their own. If you were to see them at anthropology or at Urban Outfitters or Madewell they’re just cool tees.
The colorways are really nice. And also they are exclusive podcast merch. So you can head to shop.livefreecreative.co to grab your podcast merch to celebrate the 200th episode of the show.
A Different Type of Episode
After all of those 200 wonderful fun episodes, today’s episode is a little bit of a divergence from the norm.
I think I just needed a break from the regular programming. I had this idea back in 2018 when I was on a date with Dave at an Indigo Girls concert.
This was in Charlottesville. It was a fun date night. I have loved the Indigo Girls my whole life. I’ve seen them many times in concert and at this particular concert I was singing along and just really in the moment, really loving it.
And I kept thinking about how the lyrics of the songs are impactful life lessons. And because the show was–at that point–only like 20 or 30 episodes deep, I was keeping a running list of podcast topics and I had this very subtle worry that at some point I might run out of topics.
200 episodes later, it turns out to not be founded at all because I am continuously finding and coming up with, and also receiving questions about topics that make good podcast topics. So it has not turned out to be a problem, to not have something to talk about every week.
I did at that time, almost four years ago, think it would be really fun to do a podcast about the lessons that I’ve learned from the Indigo Girls.
Fast forward to the pandemic and the craziness and the Indigo Girls have still been a band that I listened to and love.
Last summer, I tried to go to an Indigo Girls concert in Salt Lake at Deer Valley. It was actually at Park City at Deer Valley Resort. I got there with my friend. We walked up, we had our picnic packed, and there was a sign that the concert had been canceled.
It was postponed because of a fire, a wildfire that was happening in the canyon. So I wasn’t able to see them.
Then I got home from that trip to Utah and found that they were coming to Charlottesville again soon. So Dave and I went back to Charlottesville to see them play again live this last summer.
Same absolute enjoyment and love and in the moment feelings, and I thought I am gonna do that episode. I am gonna do that episode about the lessons that I’ve learned from the Indigo Girls.
And I’m not going to do it alone. I’m going to invite a couple friends to share their thoughts about it as well.
As a caveat, you don’t have to know of, or even like, the Indigo Girls in order to get something out of this episode, because we’re gonna talk about a couple lessons or thoughts or ideas that can apply to anyone’s life, or that can give you at least a little bit of a thought nugget to sit on, to mole around, to pick apart.
Before I get too deep into the episode, I have a magical adventure moment that I’d like to share.
Segment: Magical Adventure Moment
It may have been eight years ago. It might have been my three sisters and I, along with my mom, who packed up a grand picnic of sugared nuts, cheeses and crackers, baguettes, and olives, and those little delicious salty pickles.
We hiked up the hill at Deer Valley and we spread out our blanket. Unearthed all of these foods from our coolers, snuggled up next to each other, and sang out in unison for hours along with the indigo girls.
The sun was setting. Dusk was settling in. The sky turned a little pink, a little purple, and we sang. And we held each other’s hands at moments. We weren’t only singing. We were screaming along with these lyrics, this poetry that had been part of the soundtrack of our life together.
The lyrics, the stories, meaning something, a little different to each of us, reflecting back on different moments in our lives when these words were what we had needed.
Or if not the words, at least the familiarity of being intertangled with a song had at some point soothed our hearts.
Recently on my sister’s birthday, one of my other sisters sent along a video clip from this evening of all of us singing our hearts out as the sun set. And it transported me right back to that moment when we were in deep connection with each other, through this music. It was magic.
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Main Topic: Lessons Learned from The Indigo Girls
And now it’s time to dive into the lessons, learned from the Indigo Girls.
To give you a little background, I thought I would do a little digging on the Indigo Girls themselves. Now I was introduced to them in my household when I was a youth. I remember distinctly the covers of both the Rights of Passage and the Shaming of the Sun albums.
I’m pretty sure they were owned by my older sister, but I definitely had my fair share of listening time to both of those albums. I’ve been a fan as long as I can remember.
And I earned a couple things as I did a little digging for you. So maybe you’re already a fan and you didn’t know some of these things.
Background on the Indigo Girls
The Indigo Girls, also known as Emily and Amy, met in elementary school in Decatur Georgia.
Isn’t that wild they’ve known each other for that long?
They didn’t form an alliance of a band, however, until they were in high school. They played in high school together for a few years. They both went away to separate colleges and then they got homesick. So they came home to Decatur. They went to Emory and formed what is now the Indigo Girls.
I was curious about the name Indigo Girls, which I’ve always loved. And I read on Wikipedia that they went through the dictionary looking for words that they thought sounded interesting and they landed on indigo and it stuck.
I also thought it was interesting that they self-produced their first album. It released in 1989. That was Strange Fire. They wrote it, produced it, edited it, sent it out there into the world, themselves.
As a result of the success of that album, they signed with a record label. They worked with two different record labels for about 20 years and their last couple albums, they went back to releasing.
The indigo girls won their one and only Grammy award for best contemporary folk album back in 1990. They’ve had seven nominations total for Grammy’s.
I thought it was interesting, and I didn’t know this before, that Emily and Amy don’t co-write their songs. They write the lyrics independently, and then they collaborate on the arrangement.
So each of them has their own lyrical style, their own messages and stories that they tell through their lyrics. And then they collaborate on the arrangements. And of course, their incredible harmonies that they do in their songs.
Emily and Amy are both married to long time partners and they both have one daughter. So each of their relationships has one daughter. I thought that was interesting.
All in all they’ve produced 16 studio albums, the most recent of which released in 2020 called Look Long. They have three live albums and they have five compilation albums.
I thought I would take a second too, to just explain folk music, because this is what I think of the indigo girls as and their Grammy award was for a contemporary folk album.
Folk music is known as music of the people. Global folk music and world folk music tradition is the musical stories that are passed down generation through generation.
Traditional folk music is acoustic. And a lot of times the stories and the songs don’t have known authors.
The idea of contemporary folk music emerged in the United States in the thirties and forties. And then there was a real surge of contemporary folk music in the sixties and seventies and folk music has also been called protest music as oftentimes it is calling for political and countercultural change.
I think this is a piece of why I love folk music in general. It tells real stories about real people. I think this is a piece of why I love that maybe a little light could be shed on the Indigo Girls.
In addition to being excellent musicians, they are also really engaged and enthusiastic activists working with causes across the board that are dear to their hearts and sharing music that matters.
I invited a couple friends and one of my sisters to share some of their own thoughts about things that they’ve learned from the indigo girls over the years.
The audio is pulled directly from Marco Polo. So if it feels conversation style with that ground noise that’s because it really is. Please forgive the audio.
Thoughts From Rose
We’re gonna start with my friend, who is a professor up at Utah State University.
Thank you for asking me. I’m honored. It’s very cool. Indigo girls. I learned to love them in college. I moved away from home and I grew up in a tiny little town and it was really the first music that I felt like I claimed myself.
I’d always just listen to the music that my parents had or that friends in high school had. I never really listened to it because I loved it. And the Indigo Girls for me were the first music where I was like this so speaks to me, it speaks to me viscerally.
I actually think lyrically, none of them come close to [the song] Language Or The Kiss.
And I just think that whole, “There was a table set for six and five were there / I stood outside and kept my eyes upon that empty chair / And there was steam on the windows from the kitchen / Laughter like a language I once spoke with ease / But I’m made mute by the virtue of decision.”
Has there ever been anything more beautiful written?
And it’s such a–I think for working moms–this song. I’ve loved it for 30 years, but when you get in a position where you love what you do–and words are such a big part of my life–my job is thinking in words and living with words and I’m so expressive verbally. That’s my love language.
Living in that space and thinking about all that we give away with our words, and then there’s a line in there. “All I’ve sold was a song / But maybe I was wrong.”
I almost can’t even say the words without just thinking, What do we sell? What are the things that we give away in place of love? In place of time?
I think the entire song is just so poignant. Scripture. It’s real scripture for me.
Closer I Am To Fine–yeah, at the concerts, it’s the one everybody sings the loudest, blah, blah, blah. But it wasn’t until I was finishing my PhD and one night I was driving home and the line:
“I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind / Got my paper and I was free.”
And I just really, that line gutted me because that’s how I felt at the end of my PhD. Like I had just given everything I’d given everything I could possibly give. And I just laid down prostrate to the higher mind. Got my paper and I was free.
And I knew that all I had to do was finish and there was gonna be some freedom from that and freedom that I knew that I wasn’t gonna have to go back and do that ever again. And I honestly can’t even sing that line anymore. I love that song, but that wrecked me because it was too true.
And the third song, I’ll give you three songs and their meaning. Okay. There might be four.
The third song I wanted my kids to understand like why the Indigo Girls’ music matters. And so I played it a lot when they were little kids and we sang a lot to it, but my son came to me a couple of years ago and said that his favorite song was Prince of Darkness.
And that it was because the harmony and the words about: “Now someones on the telephone, desperate in his pain / Someones on the bathroom floor doing her cocaine.”
And he said, that’s it, isn’t it mom? We’re all a little bit desperate in our pain, how we deal with things, how we come full circle and there’s, we can either reach out to people and get help, or we can just numb and we can keep numbing and that’s the real question.
Who’s going to be your king? Who’s going to be your master of your darkness, of those places when you’re in desperation.
And gosh, dang it, kid. He just got it. And it was just like, it felt like a little piece of my DNA got passed on and genuinely I was more proud of that than so many things that he’s ever done.
And actually our family song is get out the map. There’s a line:
Get out the map and lay your finger anywhere down / We’ll leave the figurin’ to those we pass on our way out of town / Don’t drink the water / There seems to be somethin’ ailin’ everyone / I’m gonna clear my head / I’m gonna drink that sun / I’m gonna love you good and strong / While our love is good and young.”
‘I wanna love you good and strong while our love is good and young’ is like our little family motto.
Don’t love poetry as a rule, as a general rule. And I find it really ironic how much I love folk music, because it is the harmony mixed with the poetry that pulls me in.
It’s not just the poetry and the meaning. I can read poetry all day long and there is little of it that affects me in the same way. But if you add three part harmony, two part harmony. Now you’re talking.
I love this. I love the idea of the podcast. Those are just four of my favorite ones. Hopefully that speaks to somebody in the audience.
Rose, thank you so much for sharing your insights. It was so fun to hear how some of these songs have made an impact on your life, or made you think about things in a new way.
Thoughts From Chelsea
Next, I want to share a little bit from my older sister, who I think is the owner of the CDs that I vividly remember from my youth.
Chelsea is about two and a half years older than me and was of course my idol, my icon, when I was growing up, I wanted to hang out with her friends. I wanted to dress like her.
In fact, I’m sure we had more than one altercation from me actually stealing her clothes because I wanted to be so much like her.
And I’m positive that her interest in the Indigo Girls influenced my own. Chelsea sent me an email and I want to share some of it. She says:
I don’t have any deep lines that have taught me amazing things by the Indigo Girls.
But the reason I love them is the feeling I get every time I listen to the music. I know every word to their songs, but I don’t know it until it starts playing. And somehow I’m singing along with every lyric.
I saw them in concert first in Virginia, when I was doing an internship in Washington DC with my cousin.
The other time was in Deer Valley with all of the sisters. I’ll never forget our yummy charcuterie spread before that word was even trendy.
And that’s true. We had the most amazing spread before. That was the thing to take to a concert.
I really enjoy the Indigo Girls referencing history. I literally Googled to look up who Galileo was.
And this made me laugh because I did the same thing sometime a few years ago.
I thought, I sing all about Galileo with the Indigo Girls, but I don’t know if I know very much about him. And in honor of both Chelsea and I needing to Google to find out who Galileo was–in our adulthood, mind you–I wanted to share just a couple facts about Galileo here, in case you have wondered the same.
Galileo Galilei was born in 1564 in Piza, Italy. He is described as an Italian astronomer physicist and engineer, and sometimes a polymath.
He’s been called the father of observational astronomy, modern physics, the scientific method, and modern science. There are a whole host of things that he discovered and that he was interested in and that he shared about.
One thing that he’s really well known for is championing this idea of the Copernican Helocentrism, which means that the earth rotates around the sun.
Now, of course, we know that is accurate according to our current understanding of science and astronomy. However at the time, this was considered heresy because the church believed that the earth was the center of the universe.
Galileo was tried in the inquisition, found guilty of heresy, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Chelsea mentions in her email that she’s struck by the line:
“Galileo’s head was on the block / The crime was looking up the truth / And as the bombshells of my daily fears explode / I try to trace them to my youth.”
A line that Chelsea mentions loving is from Romeo and Juliet, where they say:
“You and me babe / How about it?”
This also cracked me up because I think of Chelsea, when I hear this song, the playful lighthearted conversation kind of banter happening in Romeo and Juliet reminds me of my sister.
“A love-struck Romeo / Sings the streets a serenade / Now he’s layin’ everybody low / He’s got a love song that he made / He finds a convenient street light / And he steps out of the shade, and he says something like / “You and me babe, how about it?””
Chelsea finishes by saying,
I just love the genre. Not country, not rock, a little folksy.I don’t get sick of the indigo girls. Okay. That’s as deep as I get for now. Love you.
Thank you for sending over some thoughts, Chelsea, and thank you for introducing me, probably you, to the Indigo Girls in our childhood.
Thoughts From Aubrey
Now I’m gonna share a little bit from my friend. Aubrey and I go way back. She handles all of the public relations and communication for the Department of Transportation in Utah.
We nearly made it to an Indigo Girls concert together last summer because of a fire in the canyon. Our concert turned into a picnic at the park instead.
Here are some thoughts from Aubrey.
If we’re gonna go back to where we started with the Indigo Girls, it definitely goes back to college. I think my sophomore year of college, I moved into a house with 10 girls and I didn’t know anyone very well, but it was that kind of magical mixture of sisterhood.
If I think about that centrifugal force of my life, like where all things chase back to, it’s definitely college. And it’s definitely living with these girls.
My roommate Robin was the one who introduced me to the Indigo Girls. [The song] Mystery most of all.
I think that was my introductory song on every road trip we made. This was the era of making CDs and playlists. Oh, gosh, CDs before playlists. Playlists didn’t exist.
But so we always had a mix tape before we would go on a trip and there was always one Indigo Girls song or another on our playlist.
And so I just think of Get Out the Map, of course, like quintessential road trip music.
But since then, like every time they come to concert, you and I, we nearly made it do an indigo girls concert together, but I don’t think I have missed an opportunity to see the Indigo Girls since being introduced to them. My immediate go-to when I’m on a road trip, when I’m by myself.
And I just have like my tried and true favorites, my number one go-to line that I think of comes from the song Ghost.
The line says
“And the Mississippi’s mighty / But it starts in Minnesota / At a place that you could walk across / With five steps down.”
And then it, it’s a love song quick. So it goes into this line about love. And, but I, but just the idea that it’s this thing that’s starts so tiny, anything not even just love, but anything that starts like inception is teeny, teeny, teeny tiny, and it has the potential to grow. For better or worse.
And I’m not making this up when I tell you that I was on a flight. I don’t know where from or to a handful of years ago. And the pilot had mentioned something like, they get on every once in a while and tell you where you are. And he said something about we are just about to go over the Mississippi.
And I looked down. From the window. And it was just like the teeniest tiniest start of what I could see was going to be a river. And I was like, this is it. This is that place.
This is the Mississippi’s mighty but it starts in Minnesota. And so it’s just always been such a line for me in my mind. And maybe just like at the start of really big, great things that are either hard or exciting or, anticipatory.
That’s just what I think.
“And the Mississippi’s mighty / But it starts in Minnesota / At a place that you could walk across / With five steps down / And I guess that’s how you started / Like a pinprick to my heart / But at this point you rush right through me / And I start to drown”
The song Deconstruction. That’s the one that I’ve been thinking about. Because I think anyone who has grown up and out of a thought. Or we grow up with the only thing that we know is what our parents teach us. And then we learn that there’s more ways to do a thing.
And whether that be like a really difficult wrestle or, to whatever extent that we learn how to grow up and out of that, if we’re getting specific, anybody who’s gone through a faith crisis or, just had something that they know to be sure shaken up a little.
I think the lyrics in that song are so beautiful where it says we’re sculpted from youth.
“We’re sculpted from youth / The chipping away makes me weary / And as for the truth / It seems like we just pick a theory / Ah it’s the one that justifies / Our daily lives / And backs us with quiver and arrows / To protect openings / Cause when the warring begins / How quickly the wide open narrows.”
There’s a little bit of convenience that just comes with staying comfortable and staying in the thing that we were taught or that we know, but that it’s work–deconstruction–to chip away at a thing.
And then the other one that is so sweet and comforting and simple is Lay My Head Down and it’s just a little one liner and it says:
“I wanna lay my head down on you / Because you’re the only solid thing in this room.”
It’s just all of that sweetness just wrapped in a warm blanket, just in one simple line.
There’s nothing attention grabbing about it. There’s–it’s just–I can see it happening in my head.
There are a thousand more and I’m sure I’ll keep discovering them as I keep road tripping and keep listening. Those are the few that I love so much. Aubrey.
I love those picks and I love that a couple of them were new to me. I have some new favorites to start listening to, adding to my road trip playlists for sure.
Some of Miranda’s Favorites
I wanted to close out this episode with three of my favorite lines from the Indigo Girls songs.
The Power of Two
The first one is a line from the song, The Power of Two. This is one of my favorite Indigo Girls songs. And early on in our marriage, when Dave and I were going to lots of weddings, a lot of our friends and family were getting married, over those couple years around the time we got married and I started to sign the guest books with the phrase, enjoy the power of two.
There’s something in this song about one plus one doesn’t just equal two. You multiply life by the power of two. There’s a synergy that happens in an encouraging, meaningful relationship, where you’re there to love and support each other and to be there for each other.
There’s something just really sweet about this idea. And I love the line.
If we ever leave a legacy it’s that we loved each other well.
That’s the legacy that I want to leave.
My next favorite is from the song Watershed. There’s something about this song. I don’t know if it’s the melody or if it’s the cadence or just the lyrics themselves, the poetry. It’s one of my go-tos when I’m feeling especially nostalgic or a little bit maybe in existential crisis.
There’s something about just feeling like I’m part of something bigger than me. And that I can think about my little life as a piece of a rope or a chain or something that started before me. And that will continue on after me. And it helps me lighten up a little bit and also feel the deep reverence of each moment that I get to be here.
One of my favorite lines that I’ll usually be singing along, feeling really deeply. And then this line always makes me laugh. The line is, Every five years or so, I look back on my life and I have a good laugh.
And isn’t that the truth. Sometimes in the middle of it, it just feels really like we’re in the middle of it. And I like to pull back and have the perspective that it’s gonna be. It’s all gonna work out.
All That We Let In
My final song thought today comes from the second to most recent album that the indigo girls released. It was in 2004. I heard. This song. And a lot of this album live in 2018. I was so familiar and could sing along with all of the older songs. And I thought, oh, I’m excited to learn about some of these newer songs from the newer albums.
This song is called, All That We Let In. And it’s from the, All That We Let In album. The chorus of this song says:
“Well, I don’t know where it all begins / And I don’t know where it all will end / We’re better off for all that we let in.”
This feels like a call to be open, to open our hearts and open our minds and open our arms to the people and relationships and lessons that life has to give us.
And for sure sometimes when we’re open, that means we also get hurt. Dometimes when we’re open, that means we also fail and. I like to believe that, like this song says, we’re better off for all that we let in.
I wanna thank you for tuning in for this special divergent episode of Live Free Creative. I hope that you’ve enjoyed it.
It’s been really fun to put together and to add all of these musical clips and just like a walk down memory lane, fun to collaborate with a couple friends and family. And I hope that you have enjoyed it, felt a little bit inspired, a little bit uplifted or simply entertained by this conversation.
I want to thank every single one of you for granting me a little bit of your time and attention today. And every time you tune into this show. Live Free Creative podcast has been my favorite project that I’ve ever undertaken.
And this is the final episode of season four.
Next week we begin season five with episode 202.
If you have not yet subscribed to the show, make sure you hit subscribe on any of your favorite podcast listening apps so that you don’t ever miss an episode. I’m here every Thursday morning at 6:00 AM Eastern to share a little bit of inspiration, ideas, and advice for living a creative, adventurous, and intentional lifestyle on purpose.
Have a wonderful week. I’ll chat with you next time. Bye-bye.