The Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, each write individually, although they have performed together since they were teenagers. Closer To Fine, their biggest early hit, was written by Saliers.
In an interview with the website Songfacts.com, she spoke about the song:
The Indigo Girls were nominated for a best new artist Grammy following the release of their self-titled, second album which contained “Closer to Fine.” They lost that Grammy to… guesses? Milli Vanilli. Harsh.
Their recording of the song featured members of the Irish band Hothouse Flowers (on mandolin, tin whistle, bodhran and backing vocals). You might remember Hothouse Flowers’ song “Don’t Go”:
The song also featured backing vocals from Luka Bloom (Christy Moore’s younger brother), a great songwriter and performer in his own right.
The Girls must have been in some sort of Irish phase.
I learned how to play guitar around the time “Closer To Fine” came out and it was one of those songs that people passed along because the chords are just a little bit different from standard but if you master them, you sound just like the record. (Or so we told ourselves.)
In particular, this was a moment when the C9 chord was huge. Learn this chord and it seemed like you could play a whole bunch of songs.
Just on acoustic guitar, you hear C9 on “Closer To Fine” (1989) and Guns n Roses’ “Patience” (1989) and the same chord shape is used in Lyle Lovett’s “If I Had a Boat” (1987) and Oasis’ “Wonderwall” (1995).
On electric, you can hear it on “Welcome to the Jungle” (1987) (Izzy Stradlin’ must like this chord) and the GoGos’ “Head Over Heels (1984).
Once you master that C9 — and figure out the strumming pattern — “Closer To Fine” sounds great. There aren’t too many oddball covers of the song, but here’s a small selection of other versions:
“Closer To Fine” with male voices, from two guys from Sister Hazel
A punk version:
The Indigo Girls play “Closer To Fine” at every concert (fans might not go home until they do). They claim they are not tired of doing the song, in part because they invite their opening act, audience members or other guests to sing along so it’s always a little different.
So here’s… sigh… a version with ADA Claire Kincaid — I mean, actress (and former Toronto busker) Jill Hennesy:
For some reason Jill keeps giving the satan salute. Not sure if I like her more or less because of it.