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Indigo Girls Reflect on “Barbie”'s Memorable 'Closer to Fine' Scene: 'A Huge Honor' (Exclusive)

Emily Saliers and Amy Ray discussed the film while speaking to PEOPLE about 'Glitter & Doom,' the new movie musical built on a catalog of their hits

<p>Paras Griffin/Getty</p> Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls attend

Paras Griffin/Getty

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls attend 'It's Only Life After All' screening during the 2023 Atlanta Film Festival at The Carter Presidential Center on April 23, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia

Indigo Girls are having a moment that even surprises them.

Over 34 years after the release of their eponymous self-titled second album, the legendary folk rock music duo — made up of singer-songwriters Amy Ray and Emily Saliers — have reemerged into the cultural zeitgeist thanks to a string of projects, including April's forthcoming documentary, It's Only Life After All, and Glitter & Doom, a movie musical in theaters now that uses their catalog of songs as its score.

It all started with the Barbie movie in July 2023, when a cover of their 1989 hit "Closer to Fine" by Brandi Carlile and Catherine Carlile showed up in a memorable scene.

Looking back on it in a conversation with PEOPLE earlier this month, the Grammy Award-winning duo both admit they were happily taken aback when they heard the tune was being included in the blockbuster, and feel blessed to be experiencing this full-circle resurgence.

Related: Brandi Carlile and Wife Catherine Cover Indigo Girls' 'Closer to Fine' for Deluxe 'Barbie' Movie Soundtrack

"It's just funny, you stick around long enough and something happens," Saliers, 60, says. "Early on, we took a lot of flack about our lyrics, and to have it come around and have a positive, welcoming vibe about our music, it feels really nice. To create music that filmmakers and writers want to use is really huge honor."

"You never know when you're going to get something happening and when it's all happening at once, it's really special," adds Ray, 59. "You can't chase these things. They just fall out of the sky. We're really lucky."

She joked: "I used to say when I was booking clubs early on when we first started, 'Emily if we stay together long enough and we persist, something will happen.' That was like, 40 years ago..."

<p>R. Diamond/Getty</p> Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls perform at Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park on June 09, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.

R. Diamond/Getty

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls perform at Cadence Bank Amphitheatre at Chastain Park on June 09, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Saliers and Ray chatted with PEOPLE at a post-screening Q&A of Glitter & Doom at Quad Cinemas in New York City on March 11.

The celebrated film, from writer Cory Krueckeberg and director Tom Gustafson, is based on Krueckeberg and Gustafson's real-life love story. It follows the journey of a circus dreamer named Glitter (Alex Diaz) and struggling musician named Doom (Alan Cammish), whose romance is told with the aid of 25 of Indigo Girls' biggest hits including "Galileo," "Power of Two," "World Falls," "Get Out the Map," and of course, "Closer to Fine."

Krueckeberg penned the script for Gustafson as a gift for their 20th anniversary in 2018. "When I gave it to him, it didn't have music in it," he says. "And we were trying to think about music that was important to us at the time, and [Indigo Girls] immediately popped into our heads."

The pair didn't have to wait long to receive a blessing from Indigo Girls to move forward with the project.

"We were really, really impressed with the script," says Saliers. "We really liked the story, thought it was really creative, had a lot of energy, and was different. We do get some solicitations, but this one stood out as special and it has been special. It's just been a real, real joy for us. These guys are cool."

But whittling the prolific songwriters' "amazing, vast" catalog down became "the real challenge," according to Gustafson.

"It took about three months," Krueckeberg notes. "I listened to every song... and I'd be like, 'I love that song, it's perfect for this moment for the story.' And then you'd go and look at the lyrics and be like, 'That has nothing to do with the story. So it was a lot of that.'"

<p>Robert Okine/Getty</p> Tom Gustafson and Cory Krueckeberg at the world premiere of 'Glitter & Doom' during the Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival Closing Gala at TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 3, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario

Robert Okine/Getty

Tom Gustafson and Cory Krueckeberg at the world premiere of 'Glitter & Doom' during the Inside Out 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival Closing Gala at TIFF Bell Lightbox on June 3, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario

The Voice finalist Michelle Chamuel produced, arranged and reimagined the songs for the film, merging many of Indigo Girls' tracks into impactful mashups that even moved the composers themselves.

"She made it absolutely new for us in her production and treatment," Saliers praises. "We write and record our own music, but I never listen to the songs and go, 'My God, isn't this song good?' But Michelle treated it in a way where like, a song would come up and I was like, 'Oh! Okay... That's a good melody!' "

"The mashups were really a cool idea. No one's ever sent us a script that had mashups in it," explains Ray. "That was really new to us to read a script using this song and this song — totally obscure things that not a lot of people know, and then putting them together to [create something new]. And Michelle just did a phenomenal job."

<p>Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty</p> Indigo Girls appear on 'Today with Hoda and Jenna' on March 12, 2024

Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty

Indigo Girls appear on 'Today with Hoda and Jenna' on March 12, 2024

As if that weren't enough, Indigo Girls wrote and recorded a new original song for the film.

Called "What We Wanna Be," the anthem of self-acceptance — which Chamuel worked on as well — will be eligible for a Best Original Song nomination at the 2025 Oscars.

Penning the tune started with an idea from Ray. "I read the script quite a few times and I was moved to tell that story between Glitter and Doom, and what they would be saying to each other in support of trying to be their own selves," she recalls to PEOPLE. "I struggle with that myself. I see in these times so much hatred against people who are trying to be who they are, and kids who are trying to be who they are. So I was just thinking about what I would be saying if I was each character."

Hearing the song for the first time was especially emotional for Krueckeberg and Gustafson, who Ray says contributed their ideas to the song, too. "We constantly have to pinch ourselves," says Gustafson. "We have collaborated with two of our heroes and it's amazing."

"It's really strange because so much of the script comes from our real lives; there's even dialogue that is lifted from letters we wrote back and forth to each other while we were apart," Krueckeberg shares. "So what was amazing about hearing the lyrics was it was literally like Amy was singing to me. I like, actually wept for an hour. Because it's so bizarre to have been such fans of these people for so long and have their words sound like they're written just for me."

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<p>Kieran Frost/Redferns</p> Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls perform at the National Concert Hall on August 17, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland

Kieran Frost/Redferns

Amy Ray and Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls perform at the National Concert Hall on August 17, 2023 in Dublin, Ireland

That's part of the power of Indigo Girls' music, and why it's had such a lasting effect on listeners. "It feels gratifying that the songs have enough of an emotional expanse that someone else would apply them to their own stories," explains Saliers.

Ray agrees, noting how meaningful it is to hear how their music impacts fans.

"I love hearing anytime anyone has a different experience with a song. I think it's cool," she says. "I don't like songs to be stagnant and to always have one meaning because they don't for us over time. They change, and sometimes we don't even remember what the initial impotence was for them."

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Glitter & Doom is now playing select theaters, ahead of a nationwide theatrical rollout and a VOD release.

Diaz and Cammish aside, the film also stars Ming Na-Wen and Missi Pyle, plus a supporting cast of popular queer talent including Tig Notaro, Lea DeLaria, Kate Pierson from The B-52s, RuPaul's Drag Race alum Peppermint and Tony nominee Beth Malone. Saliers and Ray even make cameos, too.

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And while some have questioned if the movie "appropriates lesbian culture" by using their songs to tell a male-led love story, Indigo Girls say fans should see the film more as an example of unity among the LGBTQ+ community.

"When we came up in the '80s and '90s, there was a big split between the gay male communities and lesbians — there was such a split," says Saliers. "And then to have the confluence of this creative project bring everyone together felt really powerful. So we were both very struck by that, watching the movie. And think others will as well."

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