Indigo Girls, the duo of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, will release their 16th album Look Long on May 22nd. It’s the folk group’s first LP in five years and one that finds a sonically easy alliance with country music and its small-town Southern roots. That’s especially true, in part, of “Country Radio,” the latest track to be previewed from the upcoming album.
The tune pays homage to country music’s storytelling tradition, even as that tradition remains complicated for those fans of the genre who don’t easily conform. A dreamy, bittersweet ballad, “Country Radio” embraces the small-town idyll while at the same time acknowledging the aspirations often kept hidden by what songwriter Saliers calls the “gender divisions and heteronormative realities” of country radio’s narrow playlists.
“This is the way I felt doing those four-hour drives from Nashville, listening to country music radio,” Saliers says. “I could almost put my own life story in these songs, but I can’t. There’s a lot of self-homophobia that I’ve had to work on in my own life that plays into this as well.”
“I want to be that boy, I want to be that girl,” Saliers sings in the voice of a young woman who works at the food court at a local mall, all the while idolizing a fictional couple in a country song playing on her radio. “I wanna know what it’s like to fall in love like most of the rest of the world/but as far as the songs’ll take me is as far as I’ll go/I’m just a gay kid in a small town who loves country radio.”
Having previewed the song in their live shows, including a February appearance on public radio’s Live From Here With Chris Thile, Saliers says, “I can tell it’s resonating with people; when I get to that line, ‘I’m just a gay kid… who loves country radio,’ there’s an audible verbal response from the audience.”
Along with the release of Look Long, the Indigo Girls are gearing up for a series of livestream concerts on May 7th, 14th, and 21st (7 p.m. ET on on Facebook Live and Instagram). They’re planning to take requests and field questions from fans, with Ray and Saliers properly socially distancing.