Indigo Girls Look Back on Band’s LGBTQ History in Sundance Doc: ‘We Just Were Ourselves’ (Video)

Sundance 2023: “We didn’t really have an image that anyone could market,” Saliers told The Wrap

There have been documentaries about all manner of rock ‘n’ roll figures, and at this year’s Sundance Film Festival alone there’s two. Alongside telling the story of Little Richard, Sundance unveiled director Alexandria Bombach’s tribute to the Indigo Girls, “It’s Only Life After All.” The documentary aims to break down the success of the popular folk rock duo and how they broke ground being out about their sexuality.

Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, the Indigo Girls, stopped by TheWrap’s Portrait and Video Studio at The Music Lodge alongside the documentary’s director, Bombach, to discuss the film.

The band came to prominence in the late-1980s, releasing nine studio albums between 1988 to 2007. They’ve become icons of the LGBTQ movement for their unwillingness to hide their sexuality, as well as being staunch activists for the environment and Native American rights.

“There weren’t a lot of openly queer artists, gay artists,” Saliers told TheWrap during an interview at Sundance with editor-in-chief Sharon Waxman. Because of this, the duo was hard to promote. “We were the lesbian band,” Saliers said. “We didn’t really have an image that anyone could market. We just were ourselves.”

That being said, the band had hesitation about how open to be about their personal lives in their early days. Saliers noted that in the documentary her concerns about being out are showcased, though Ray was always open about her sexuality.

But Saliers explained that it was certainly a different time to be part of the LGBTQ community in the 1990s, especially when looking at where gay and trans rights are today with numerous laws and conversations about the rights of, specifically, trans people. “In some ways it has gotten better. Societally, though, the homophobia that exists—transphobia in particular, right now—we’re always going to have a long way to go,” she said.

“It’s been incredibly liberating to be open for more, or all of that,” Saliers said, but she cannot forget the numerous LGBTQ activists that came before them. “I have a lot of respect for the continuum.”

Saliers and Ray’s open insight into their lives no doubt helped make Bombach’s job as director easier. The director explained that the actual filming of the documentary was a “joyous” experience, but the true challenge came in the edit.

As she said, there was nearly 1,000 hours of footage to work with, including extensive concert sequences. “A lot of [this edit] happened during COVID,” said Bombach. “It was very isolating … it’s two people’s lives over a long period of time … there was a lot to go over.”

TheWrap’s Portrait and Video Studio at The Music Lodge during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival is sponsored by NFP along with support from Sylvania and HigherDOSE.