Thirty years into one of the most storied careers in popular music, Emily Saliers decided to record her debut album.
“What’s a 53 year old woman doing making her first solo record?” muses Saliers, best known as one half of the iconic duo Indigo Girls. “What compels someone like me to follow this strong attachment to rhythmic music?”
Murmuration Nation answers those questions both passionately and profoundly. In this “post-fact” era in which we find ourselves living today, Saliers’ fearless voice and insightful perspective feel more vital and relevant than ever before. The songs also reveal a new side of Saliers’ artistry, one that even her most ardent fans might not expect to hear.
“It was so freeing to pursue the kind of music I truly wanted to make without regard to what I’d done before or who I’m expected to be,” says Saliers. I hope that this record can take people who think they know me already on a journey that’ll really surprise them.”
While Indigo Girls is still very much alive and well, Murmuration Nation is Saliers’ first release under her own name, and it’s a surprising journey indeed. The record brims over with life and energy, blurring both musical and geographical boundaries as Saliers breaks down barriers with a bold and infectious spirit of adventure. Recorded with an all-star band—including bassist Tim LeFebvre (David Bowie, Tedeschi Trucks Band), keyboardist Rachel Eckroth (KT Tunstall), and drummers Robert “Sput” Searight (Snarky Puppy) and Will Calhoun (Living Colour)—and featuring guest appearances from fellow luminaries like Lucy Wainwright Roche, Jonatha Brooke, and Jennifer Nettles, the album explores the kind of rhythmically centered, globally inspired music that’s always held a special place in Saliers’ heart.
“I was born in a predominantly African American neighborhood in New Haven,” she explains. “Most of my friends growing up were black, so I was steeped in a musical culture that included James Brown, Otis Redding, and all the great R&B artists of the time. That’s the music that really stirred my spirit and made my body want to move. I found myself loving music from West Africa and South America for the same reasons. I think of it all as ‘body music.'”
The result is a record that defies easy categorization, with Saliers effortlessly mixing disparate musical traditions underneath poetic lyrics that take their cues from the natural world around us. Album opener “Spider,” for instance, brings together hints of heavy metal and Native American a capella music as Saliers weaves an arachno-centric metaphor for geopolitical trickery, while Spanish guitar gives way to orchestral strings and an electronic beat on the slithering “Serpent Love,” and the elegant “Fly” draws on avian inspiration for its message of community and cooperation.
In the end, it all comes down to balance: artistically, emotionally, spiritually. The album showcases a side of Saliers that few knew she carried within her, but one that burns as bright today as it did when she was just a youngster discovering the wide world of music around her. Thirty years is a long wait for a debut, but with Murmuration Nation, it feels like Emily Saliers is right on time.