Ani DiFranco is the Energizer Bunny of feminist folk rock. With her own label, Righteous Babe Records, 19 original albums, the release of a book of poetry and paintings ("Verses," September 2007) and the release of her third DVD ("Live at Babeville," April 2008), DiFranco manages, at 37, to continuously create art in one form or another, keeping it both real and real good.
Her rapid-fire singing style gets close to spoken word at times, the medium for her musical ruminations on sexuality, politics, the creative threat from major labels and war. Even when she's brokenhearted, discriminated against for being "not pretty" or writing from the underbelly of the underdog, DiFranco has a way of setting poetry to harmony that is raw, full of grace and unforgettable.
DiFranco's career took off in the early '90s because of a swelling college fan base rather than mainstream support, and she's been going ever since. Not even giving birth to her baby, Petah Lucia DiFranco Napolitano in January 2007, with producer Mike Napolitano, slowed her down. Much.
Style: Has being a mother influenced the way you write or play music?A,ÿ
DiFranco: Well, yeah, in that it's stopped it for the time being. But I think it's good because I just finished a new record and she's definitely factored into the new record. That collaborative act of creation in making a person supersedes all other acts of creation.
How did giving birth change your view of feminism?
By really deepening my respect for women, you know, even though I thought I had what was my fair share already. I've always been a woman's woman, and my mother before me, the same thing. And then I get pregnant and have a kid and it's like wow! It's the equivalent of building a skyscraper. The work and the love involved is so profound. Like so many things in life you don't know until you experience it.
Have you considered making a children's album?
I'd like to do an infant's album -- a record to help put babies to sleep. I was so captivated contemplating the transition between womb and world; it must be an amazing journey, the sounds that inhabit the interior, the aquatic atmosphere in music and of the outside world.
You left home at an early age. What were your parents like?
I left at 15 out of necessity -- it wasn't a boohoo story. I was paying my taxes myself by the time I was 20 and was able to start my career with my records and stuff. It was really great to have gotten that early start. My parents are older, as parents go -- they waited quite some time to have me. They are both very liberal. My mother was a very active citizen, which had a huge influence on me, and I'm really grateful for that. She started a local food co-op and campaigned around the neighborhood for local politicians that she supported.
You've received nominations for a handful of Grammys, were named one of the 21 feminists of the 21st century by Ms. magazine, and in 2006, you were the first musician presented with the National Organization for Women's Woman of Courage Award. Are there any lifelong goals you'd still like to accomplish?
Well, it's nice to have people in those kinds of places affirm your work after so many years of doing it, but really, that's all that it is. I wouldn't think of awards as goals, but rather as the gifts that come back when you're on the right path or following your heart. I think my overall goal is to have a life in music that is on the constructive side of that constructive-destructive line. It's a day-to-day thing. Ask me about the next ten minutes rather than the next five years.ÿ
Do you still consider yourself bisexual?
Sure. I think most of us are. I think sexuality is a continuum; maybe there's a line down the middle, but we're spread out all over this ruler. I've totally fallen for girls along the way, but right now I'm happily with my fella, my baby daddy. What I'd really love to put into this universe is my friend's idea of hemosexual, shemosexual and mosexual. So, I would say I'm mosexual, leaning toward the he. I think sexuality should be allowed to be the fluid thing that it is.
What model guitar are you playing now? Are you still playing the Bob Weir?
Yeah, I do still use that model on stage. I've had many guitars for many different lengths of time. Some are new and started their life with me, and some are antiques. It's nice to have an instrument that already has a soul, that I don't have to raise up.ÿ
Tell me about your current tour, "Love Is All Over the Place."
I'm really excited to be playing with my new band; they're great. I have a great new crew around me. The baby and her daddy are touring with me. I really have the best of all possible worlds.
Ani DiFranco plays The National July 11 at 8 p.m. with her new band, Todd Sickafoose, Allison Miller and Mike Dillon, and opening act Kimya Dawson, of "Juno" fame. Tickets are $25-$28. Call 612-1900 or visit www.thenationalva.com.