When I think of 1985, the first things that come to mind are that I graduated from Emory University, and Amy and I made our first professional recording on vinyl with “Crazy Game/ Everybody’s Waiting (for someone to come home).” By 1985, Amy and I were in full swing as Indigo Girls. Up until probably mid-school year, I was still meeting with my academic advisor and pondering grad school, and while we were playing numerous gigs and beginning to develop a very small but devoted following, Amy was doing all of the groundwork; making connections, getting gigs, hanging posters, running sound. She finally had to actually ask me one day if I wanted to go to grad school or if I wanted to be a full-time musician. It was literally a day of reckoning, and I made a quick, clear, and easy choice and never looked back. And I started to try to pull my weight with Indigo responsibilities. Amy always seemed to know how to make the next right move. I was in awe of her ability to book gigs. A gig at the Moonshadow Saloon in Atlanta was a mind-spinning gig. And she knew that we would be better suited plugging in our acoustics and playing rock clubs rather than playing pin-drop quiet folk clubs. She shaped our destiny at the outset, even though neither one of us had or talked about aspirations of “making it big” or getting a record deal. We simply wanted to get the next great gig, and Amy always had a way of making that happen.
We borrowed money from Amy’s dad to make our first single, as studio time was quite expensive, and we didn’t have the funds. The thrill of booking and going to into a studio, wearing the headphones, playing it until we got it right, adding the reverb, organizing the artwork, naming our own little label after our high school English teacher, Ellis Lloyd, having it mastered and pressed and then just holding it in our hands was something I will never forget. It was somehow validating to have a ‘real’ recording. We took boxes of the singles to the Emory campus, set up in front of the student center, and sold them. In 1985, making that single felt as big a deal as it did to get signed to a major label three years later.
I hadn’t thought about Blue Food for many years until Amy found the original artwork for this independent, homemade cassette release we made in 1985. The guy who engineered it, Dorn Dutton, was a fan and friend who came to every show as far back as I can remember. It was recorded at The Dugout, an Emory hole-in-the-wall hangout on Oxford Rd that no longer exists but was for us a regular gig, and a springboard for developing a following, much in the same way that the Little Five Points Pub would become soon after. When I look at the photos from the Blue Food artwork, I am struck by how playful and silly they are, and how we dressed up and used a backdrop and a handwritten Indigo Girls logo of sorts. There is a charm and innocence, almost as if we were emulating what a “real” band would do when they released a recording. It was as homegrown as could be, and when I reflect on Indigo Girls now, 28 years later, I realize with comfort that we are still very much homegrown.
I suppose I think every year was pivotal in one way or another, both personally and professionally, but 1985 seems to be the year we became Indigo Girls and stayed Indigo Girls.
The day I graduated from Emory, my family and I took a trip to Europe, and it was there, as we traversed parts of the continent in our rented VW van, that I began to form and finish the song “History of Us.“ I stood in dusty cathedrals and art museums, and at the base of the mighty Alps, filled with awe at the tiny lights of whoever dwelled there. And I took everything I experienced over there back home with me to Atlanta, where I picked up with Amy and carried on, an Indigo Girl, a full-time musician, a devoted partner, a grateful traveler. And life as a so-called "real” band became grad school.