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The Bedroom Interview: The Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray

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The Bedroom Interview with Amy Ray

In order to get Amy Ray to do this bedroom interview, I had to have sex with her. Before and after. Fortunately, we have been together for two years, ever since I interviewed her for a story on the Indigo Girls for Ms. magazine, so it didn’t seem too piggish a request. When I visited her bedroom this time, she was six months into touring for the latest Indigo Girls record, Come On Now Social, and one week into recording her first solo record, which will remain nameless as per her order. (The solo project is coming out on her ten-year-old indie label, Daemon Records.) Amy Ray’s bedroom (much like Amy Ray) is both ascetic and over-the-top, like a nun in a leather habit. The bed is king-sized and always covered in some sort of extra-supple, natural-fiber bedding the color of grits (never bleach!), and it takes six pillows to cover the headboard area. But then there is a lackluster woven blanket covering the pretty, grits-colored duvet because there are always between one and seven cats strewn across the bed. Opposite is a king-sized TV (over-the-top) which receives just one station, Fox (ascetic). Her bedroom is surrounded on either side by tall glass doors that lead out to decks, and beyond the decks are rows and rows of thin, hundred-foot pines and oaks and dogwood trees. The buttery yellow walls are tiled with framed maypops, honeysuckles and clovers that Amy picked and pressed in encyclopedias. The floors are resawn heart pine recycled from old barns in South Georgia. The entire room is scrubbed and spacious and empty-feeling — the kind of place where Laura Ingalls Wilder might cheerfully have masturbated. —
Jennifer Baumgardner

* * *


Did you have a David Cassidy poster on your bedroom wall when you were a kid? [Note to the uninitiated: every lesbian rock star had a thing for David Cassidy as a girl.]


Yeah, I had a Partridge Family poster and then lots of photographs that
I had taken of animals and things on my walls. And I had rock ‘n roll posters. Anything you could get for free I stuck up on my wall — Mad magazine covers and those Wacky Packs.


I don’t know what a Wacky Pack is.


You never had Wacky Packs? Maybe you’re too young. Wacky Packs are those stickers that would have, like, Chef Girl-ardee, instead of Chef Boyardee, and it would be the feminist spaghetti.


When was the first time you brought a girl or boy to your room? Did you play doctor?


We played doctor in the basement. The first time I ever took someone to
my room, it was a girl. That’s probably significant, because I would take
boys to the basement. My first girlfriend, Kelly, we were always in my room.
But we would just talk really intensely.


Do you prefer futons or beds?


Futons.


Why?


They seem more pure, somehow.


I’m glad you said that. It fits in with how I characterized you in the
intro.


Oh good. Just edit me to fit your theory.


Do you have sheet specifications?


I don’t like sheets that have been bleached or dyed with chemicals — you’re molding these questions for your theories, I can tell. I prefer natural colors, but I like anything above a 250 thread count. I probably have more expensive taste in bedding than anything else in my life.


Who else has been in your bedroom besides me?


Nobody in this one.


Who would you want in your bed besides me?


Who do I want in my bed besides you? I get to say this in front of
everybody?


Yeah, maybe they’ll read it and you can invite them to a show or
something.


Johnny Depp and that girl on Friends, Bailey’s ex-girlfriend—


From Party of Five.


Yeah, you know what I mean. I don’t know her name. It’s more important for me that the guys I like be cute and the women I like to be smart. Everybody wants Johnny Depp to share their bedroom for some reason, I am not sure what it is. I guess because he is handsome and dedicated.


As far as you know, does that groupie stuff happen with women the way it
does with male rock stars?


The kind of music we’re involved in, that doesn’t happen so much. I don’t think it happens as much as people say — you don’t really have time. You sleep on the bus with a million people, you don’t have a day off. Hey, you should ask me about my bedroom on the bus.


I was going to.


Good. Sorry, I’ll let you do your thing.


Do you always have a specific bunk on the bus?


Yes, passenger side, closest to the front, top.


Why?


I don’t know, it’s the one I started out in ten years ago. It’s a little cubicle bunk with a curtain that closes and, depending on the bus you have, sometimes there is a little TV. I sometimes stick pictures of my girlfriend or the dogs or something in my little bunk area.


Wow, you don’t even have a picture of me in your real bedroom.


No, I don’t have any pictures in my real bedroom. On the bus, I keep my
possessions with me in my bunk.


Now, you wouldn’t ever have sex on the bus in your little bunk, would you?


Um . . .


Is that something your bandmates shouldn’t know?


It’s something they’d prefer not to know, I’m sure. But, yeah. I have,
many times. And in the lounge. But I am very polite and responsible about
it.


Let’s talk about what you’re working on right now.


Well, I’m working on a solo project. It’ll be done in a year. There are a lot of gender themes and gay or Boys Don’t Cry themes.


Why are you visiting the boy part in you?


I think I have always felt out of place to a certain degree in my body.
Although I like being a woman and I want to have a woman’s body, at the same
time I feel disconnected from it sometimes. I feel like a boy sometimes. I think it came up more when I started going out with someone who is more heterosexually-identified than other people I have been with and more sort
of feminine in some ways, and she responded to a masculine side of me. She — I
mean you — what do I say, “you” or “she”?


You mean me, right? Just say “you.”


Yeah, you identified a side of me that was masculine and articulated
it. You forced me to kind of confront it and decide whether I liked that or
not.


So when you say in your song “Measure of Me” that you can get the
girls, but the guys just laugh—


I’m not saying that I can get any girl, but a few years ago I was having a lot of women approach me and ask me out because they knew I was single. At the same time, there was this one guy — who will remain unnamed — that I really wanted to go out with badly. I had a serious crush on this guy and I thought we’d be just perfect together. We went out once together, to a rock show, but it was just awkward. People kept coming up to talk to one or the other of us and it was as if we weren’t there together.


Will you go on record about what straight girls kiss like?


I think that straight girls tend to kiss more full-on and tongue-y,
with fewer dynamics. I’m not saying all straight women. But insofar as it
happens, I think that it’s because that’s the way that men who aren’t good
at kissing tend to kiss and straight women are kissing them.


Do you think supermodels have a gay vibe?


You do — you always think that supermodels have a gay vibe. I think
supermodels have a gay vibe because I want them to be gay. They’re very
androgynous, big and tall, narrow hips, often very strong and athletic
looking — they seem gay. But when you really analyze your definition of those things, you realize that you’ve got a very narrow definition of gay and
straight if you are not able to attribute that appearance of strength to
heterosexual women.


Is sex a driving force on your new record?


I would not say this record has a lot of sexy material on it. I wrote more unrequited love songs when I was younger because I was more unrequited. There is a certain charm to being eighteen to twenty-two. All you can think about is wanting to get someone in the back of your car.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennifer Baumgardner is the co-author of Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future and Grassroots: A Field Guide to Feminist Activism, as well as the forthcoming Look Both Ways: Sex, Power and Feminism. She writes frequently for The Nation, Glamour, and many other magazines, is a columnist for Alternet, and is the producer of the documentary Speak Out: I Had an Abortion. She is at work on a photo book about women who have had abortions.

©2000 Jennifer Baumgardner and Nerve.com, Inc.