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Amos Lee + Indigo Girls
With one foot in the real world and the other in a charmed dimension of his own making, Amos
Lee creates the rare kind of music that’s emotionally raw yet touched with a certain magical
quality. On his eighth album Dreamland, the Philadelphia-born singer/songwriter intimately
documents his real-world struggles (alienation, anxiety, loneliness, despair), an outpouring born
from deliberate and often painful self-examination. “For most of my life I’ve walked into rooms
thinking, ‘I don’t belong here,’” says Lee. “I’ve come to the realization that I’m too comfortable
as an isolated person, and I want to reach out more. This record came from questioning my
connections to other people, to myself, to my past and to the future.”
In the spirit of fostering connection, Lee made Dreamland in close collaboration with L.A.-based
producer Christian “Leggy” Langdon (Banks, Meg Myers). “I met with Leggy, who I really
didn’t know anything about, and before we even started to work we had a very open and
vulnerable conversation about what was going on in our lives,” he recalls. “So much of what I do
is solitary work, and it felt good to find someone I could connect with—sort of like, ‘I’m a lonely
kid, and I wanna play.’” Thanks to that palpable sense of playfulness, Dreamland embodies an
unpredictable and endlessly imaginative sound—a prime showcase for Lee’s warmly
commanding voice and soul-baring songwriting.
The very first song that Lee and Langdon created together, “Hold You” set the standard for
Dreamland’s open-hearted confession. With its delicate convergence of so many exquisite sonic
details—luminous guitar tones, ethereal textures, tender toy-piano melodies—the track finds Lee
looking inward and uncovering a deep urge to provide comfort and solace. “Especially if you’ve
grown up with a less-than-appealing inner voice, you have to start with yourself,” he notes.
On “Worry No More”—the mantra-like lead single to Dreamland—Lee shares his hard-won
insight into riding out anxiety. “I’ve had a lot of episodes with anxiety in my life and now I feel
much more equipped to handle them, partly because my family and friends have always been so
supportive of me,” he says. “Music has also been so healing for me, and helped me to find a
place in my mind that isn’t purely controlled by fear.” To that end, “Worry No More” gently
exalts music’s power to brighten our perspective, with the song’s narrator slipping into a
headphone-induced reverie as they wander a broken world (“I’m listening to the sounds of
Miles/Spanish sketches, playground smiles/Crowded streets and empty vials/For all to share”).
All throughout Dreamland, Lee embraces an unfettered honesty, repeatedly shedding light on the
darkest corners of his psyche. On “Into the Clearing,” for instance, the album takes on a moody
intensity as Lee speaks to a desire for obliteration. “There’s always a longing to be one with the
universe, to be one with nature, to be one with the sky,” he says. “And sometimes the only way
you can be with the sky is to be smoke.” A powerfully uplifting track with a gospel-like energy,
“See the Light” evokes a fierce resolve to hold tight to hope (“Since I know I’m going to be
singing these songs over and over, I like to infuse them with helpful messages to myself,” Lee
says). With its soulful piano work and soaring string arrangement, “Seeing Ghosts” reflects on
anxiety’s insidious ability to warp our perception. “For a lot of people with anxiety disorders,
there’s this fog that sets in, where your brain becomes overwhelmed and you disconnect,” says
Lee. “I’ve definitely seen ghosts my whole life.” In a striking tonal shift, Lee then delivers one of
Dreamland’s most euphoric moments on “Shoulda Known Better,” a radiant piece of R&B-pop
fueled by his dreamy falsetto. “That song’s looking at the messy side of life,” he says. “It’s
saying, ‘I was dumb, I shouldn’t have done that, but we had a lot of fun. I don’t regret it at all.’”
In the making of Dreamland, Lee found his songwriting indelibly informed by his recent reading
of Johann Hari’s 2018 book Lost Connections. “It’s about depression, which I have a pretty deep
history with, and how our society and our generation looks at mental health and healing in terms
of medication rather than thinking about our personal relationship to the people and the world
around us,” he says. And with the release of Dreamland, Lee hopes that his songs might inspire
others to live more fully and free of fear. “Over the course of my life I’ve come to understand
that music is my bridge to other people,” he says. “I have no idea what the waters are like below
that bridge—it might be lava for all I know—but music allows me to float over the whole thing
and connect. To me that’s the whole point of why we do this: to give people something to listen
to and be enveloped by the love of another human being, and just be reminded that humanity is
Released in 1989, Indigo Girls’ eponymous major label debut sold over two million copies under the power of singles “Closer to Fine” and “Kid Fears” and turned Indigo Girls into one of the most successful folk duos in history. Over a thirty-five-year career that began in clubs around their native Atlanta, Georgia, the Grammy-winning duo of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray has recorded sixteen studio albums (seven gold, four platinum, one double platinum), sold over 15 million records, and built a dedicated, enduring following.
“We joke about being old, but what is old when it comes to music? We’re still a bar band at heart,” says Saliers. “We are so inspired by younger artists and while our lyrics and writing approach may change, our passion for music feels the same as it did when we were 25-years-old.”
On their 16th studio album, Indigo Girls tell their origin story. Look Long is a stirring and eclectic collection of songs that finds the duo reunited in the studio with their strongest backing band to date as they chronicle their personal upbringings with more specificity and focus than they have on any previous song-cycle. “We’re fallible creatures shaped by the physics of life,” says Saliers. “We’re shaped by our past; what makes us who we are? And why?”
Produced by John Reynolds (Sinéad O’Connor, Damien Dempsey) and recorded in the countryside outside Bath, England at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios, these eleven songs have a tender, revealing motion to them, as if they’re feeding into a Super 8 film projector, illuminating a darkened living room. “When We Were Writers” recounts the flying sparks and passion Saliers felt as a young college student when the duo first started performing together. “Shit Kickin’” is a nuanced love letter to Ray’s Southern heritage. “I’m a little bit left of the ‘salt of the earth’ / That’s alright, I’ll prove my worth,” she sings.
Amidst our often-terrifying present, Look Long is a musical balm for those of us in search of a daily refuge, an hour or two when we can engage with something that brings us joy, perspective, or maybe just calm.
“People feel lost in these political times,” explains Saliers. “Let’s lament our limitations, but let’s also look beyond what’s right in front of us, take the long view of things, and strive to do better. As time has gone on, our audience has become more expansive and diverse which gives me a great sense of joy.” Crowd singalongs that often overpower the band itself are a trademark of Indigo Girls concerts. The duo has returned to the road and amphitheaters across the country are once again filling with the sound of those collective voices raised in song. The phenomenon epitomizes the sense of community and celebration that defines Indigo Girls’ music. As one bar band once put it, “We go to the doctor, we go to the mountains…we go to the Bible, we go through the work out.” For millions, they go to the Indigo Girls. On Look Long they’ll find a creative partnership certain of its bearings, forging a way forward.