The Indigo Girls’ upcoming holiday album, “Holly Happy Days,” is the rarest of entries in the duo’s catalog. “We just both had a desire to do it at the same time, which doesn’t always happen with us,” Emily Saliers tells Billboard.com.
The 12-track set, due out Oct. 12, features bluegrass- and Appalachian-flavored versions of standards such as “Oh Holy Night,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” (with Julie Wolf) and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” as well as less celebrated fare such as “In the Bleak Midwinter,” Chely Wright’s “It Really Is (A Wonderful Life),” Beth Nielsen Chapman’s “There’s Still My Joy” and Mike Burn’s “Peace Child.”
Janis Ian and Mary Gautier join the Indigos for a rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Happy Joyous Hanukkah,” while Saliers and Emily Ray penned three original songs — “The Wonder Song,” “Misteltoe” and the buoyant “Your Holiday Song” — for the album.
“We spent a long time listening through Christmas songs,” Saliers says. “Our manager gave us a million different Christmas songs, Hanukkah songs…we went through everything and started out with a bunch of songs we were super, super excited about. Singing someone else’s songs are easier than recording your own for whatever reason, although there’s a lot of self-pressure in that you want to make them your own song.”
The Indigos recorded “Holly Happy Days” in Nashville with producer Peter Collins and an all-star band — Victor Krauss on bass, Alison Brown on banjo, Lloyd Maines on dobro and pedal steel, Luke Bulla on fiddle and Jim Brock on percussion — while good pal Brandi Carlile sings harmonies on several tracks. “It was maybe the most fun I’ve ever had making a record,” Saliers reports, “loving your job and getting excited every morning to get up and go into the studio. It was a joy. And to have those players who are just world-class, incredible, inspiring players, you can’t believe the stuff they come up with. It makes you want to never play guitar again.” As for the musical approach, she says that “both Amy and I love Appalachian and bluegrass music, and we just thought it would be so much fun to have it be of that ilk.”
The Indigos aren’t dipping into the holiday material for their current U.S. tour, which runs through Nov. 6, but Saliers says they’re putting together a small amount of special holiday shows for December with the band and some of the guests who appear on the album. Meanwhile, Ray is working on her fourth solo studio album, while Saliers is collaborating on some music for an independent film currently titled “That’s What She Said” and is still writing a hoped-for solo album of her own.
As for the Indigos, she says the duo “will make a new studio record in the new year” but “haven’t talked about” new songs or direction yet.