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Some of them, such as “My Dog” and “Broken Record,” were resurrected for “Goodnight Tender,” her fifth solo studio effort released on her Daemon Records label that arrives digitally Tuesday and on CD and vinyl Jan. Others, such as the banjo and mandolin-inflected “The Gig That Matters” and “Duane Allman,” which features the harmonizing of Susan Tedeschi, wife of Derek Trucks — who is often called the second coming of Allman — sprang from Ray’s myriad influences, including her surroundings.“Before I moved [to the north Georgia mountains] , which was 20 years ago, my exposure to country was probably limited to Willie (Nelson) and Dolly (Parton) and Kris Kristofferson, which is all great.Well, when I was at the age that I found them, they were gay role models just like I hope that somewhere in the world a teenager is able to look to me and my records in the same way.I hope that they're able to say the same thing about me from a place of success and from a place of acceptance as a part of society, instead of oppression.Anyway, she was talking about the leaps and bounds that we've made as a community -- not that we don't have a long way to go -- and how much harder it was then when the Indigo Girls were coming out. [Laughs.] I'm actually not sure she knows it, because I was working out in a studio doing background vocals for people -- like an ambiguous voice, basically -- and her CD came through, and it was just something to sing onto.And I could see by talking to her that they -- along with k.d. So I'm not even sure she knows I'm singing onto it.and Melissa, Ellen, Elton John, and Freddie Mercury -- really laid it out on the line and demanded nothing short of acceptance from people. I spent a few days in New York City with Amy around the release of her record, and I saw her doing all these interviews for gay publications. I don't talk about my relationship because my partner didn't really make the decision to be part of my craziness. [Laughs.] Well, talk about this then, because I don't think a lot of people know that you actually did background vocals for Melissa Etheridge's Lucky album. You've met a couple of your idols -- the Indigo Girls and Elton John. I've always been a fan of Ellen, since she was doing stand-up -- before I knew she was gay. When I first saw you in 2005, you performed for an obnoxious group of drunks.I believe that if you asked them why they did it, they would tell you that they did it to be included, so for the generations to come there would be a real shot to walk through the world, including this industry. Those people are the way-pavers, and the best way for me to thank them is to take my place in the world seriously and live honestly. That's the first time the light bulb went on in my head, and I was like, 'Wait a minute, do these people want to talk to me? But I understand you want to meet Ellen De Generes and perform on her show. My parents knew I was a huge fan of Ellen back in the day, when I was a teenager. [Laughs.] I remember I taped her coming out episode and I had it on VHS hidden with all my other tapes with a fake label on it that said 'David's Softball Game.' When did you actually tell them? How does it feel to be able to play at venues for people who actually appreciate your music?
It was amazing, and I was so nervous about it and so full of things to say that were going to be really profound and really exciting because Elton influenced me in so many ways, personally and musically.
26 for her Variety Playhouse show – for a week of recording.
There, in the mountains, in a studio that used to be a church and still offers the atmospheric lighting from stained-glass windows, Ray and the band utilized vintage equipment to commit the songs live to tape.
Just after she finished up the first leg of a tour (the second begins in January) and overcame swine flu, Carlile sat down with to chat with Out about the best part of meeting Elton, her arresting girlfriend, and how her gay role models have made it easier to be out.
Out: There's a lot of soul-searching on Give Up the Ghost.