Metro Weekly

Emily Saliers brings Murmuration Nation to the Birchmere

Nearly three decades after launching the Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers strikes out on her own

Emily Sailers

“I really like singing ‘Fly’ because it means so much to me in the wake of the election and all the insanity in this country right now with Trump,” says Emily Saliers, best known as one-half of pioneering lesbian folk duo the Indigo Girls. “That song just makes me feel better.”

“Fly” also inspired the name of Murmuration Nation, the first solo album by Saliers. “‘Fly’ is a direct result of the election. It’s the last song that was written for the album,” she says. “The murmurations that starlings form in the air when thousands of them just fly and turn and dive and shift and all that, I saw it as a powerful metaphor for change in this country, the way people can come together and move without the typical hierarchical structure of power, and no patriarchy. Just a bunch of people moving together for the sake of social change.”

The album is not all politics, though. “It has love songs and a couple happy songs,” she says. “Hopefully a good range. I also wanted to make a record that was a culmination of all of the influence that R&B and hip-hop and African American groove music has had on me.” Further propelling her in a new direction was producer and violinist Lyris Hung, a longtime Indigo Girls collaborator.

“‘Okay, I’m ready for a different chapter right now,'” the 54-year-old remembers thinking when she started jamming with Hung. She’s quick to add that “Indigo Girls is still going strong, and there’s no sign of us stopping.” In fact, the duo will release a new set featuring symphonic reworkings of their hits early next year, when they also plan to regroup to record new material.

During her solo debut at the Birchmere, Saliers will sing from the Indigo Girls’ rich repertoire. Saliers herself is responsible for writing many of the duo’s earliest and most indelible hits, from “Galileo” to “Least Complicated” to their breakout “Closer to Fine.” While “nobody can emulate Amy Ray,” the ace in Saliers’ pocket is Lucy Wainwright Roche, who sang harmonies on Murmuration Nation and will do the same live.

“Lucy’s not only a great writer and artist in her own right, but her harmony is impeccable,” Saliers says. “And she’s just lovely to be around. She’s just a shot of sunshine.”

Emily Saliers performs Wednesday, Oct. 11, at 7:30 p.m., at the Birchmere, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria. Tickets are $29.50. Call 703-549-7500 or visit birchmere.com.

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.