The 90s are back with a vengeance, but this time, we’re woke AND fabulous looking. Folk and femme-centered music is also making a major resurgence and people continue to speak out against Trump and band together in solidarity. As such, Ani DiFranco’s music is very much needed, and she’s still out there doing what she does best. We chatted with her about her upcoming Colorado appearances, her musical philosophy, and her inspiring life so far.
Are you excited for your upcoming trip to Colorado?
I can’t remember the last time I was in Colorado. I love it there, and it will be awesome to be back out there doing my thing with my band! There are some other acts playing with me that I’m really looking forward to seeing, too.
What made you want to write a memoir at this point in your life?
Crazily enough, I’ve been making music for 20 years now, 30 records or so, so I wanted to talk about what I’ve been through. I was also looking for a challenge as an artist, looking to try something new, get myself in the danger zone again, so writing a book was definitely new and difficult and scary and hard.
What did you take away from the experience of writing everything down?
First of all, I feel like I came out of it more grateful than ever before. I had some notes that I had jotted down for myself over the years, and I really sat down and tried to walk myself back through the years. I decided maybe things don’t need to be so dark and dire; I could focus on all the things that people gave me, you know, even the hard people. I just felt really glad about that.
Are you working on any new music currently?
I started working on a new recording back in the studio in the spring between tours, and I tried to really lay this record down and figure out what the heck it is. It’s been fun!
Are you doing any other touring, or is there anything else you want to promote?
Yes, one thing is a project called the prison music project that I’ve been working on for about five years. This other chick named Zoë Bookbinder, she went into the new Folsom Prison in California for about four years and did songwriting workshops and shared music with the people on the inside, and over the years, she came up with sort of this body of songs that the incarcerated people had written.
She wanted to make a record of this material, and so she came to me, and we put together a record that is finally coming out in May. The album is going to be called Long Time Gone. It’s a really diverse group of songs, as diverse as the people who wrote them. We really want to talk about this situation of mass incarceration within the United States and the humanity of the 2 million people who live in the U.S. prison system right now.
In these tense political times, are there any other causes that really stand out to you that you’ve been focusing on?
Voter participation is always big with me; we have to vote; our belief in democracy has to come first, and then we get democracy. It’s like love; you have to actually feel it and invest in it to make it real, and voting is step one. This year more than ever, we’re going to be focusing on that, especially trying to get young people to the polls because they can make all the difference in some very important things, like the future of life on the planet.
Are there any other artists whom you’ve been into lately?
My friend Anaïs Mitchell is an awesome songwriter, and she wrote this show called Hadestown which, over the course of 13 years, has made it all the way to Broadway. It’s super exciting for all of us who were involved along the way. I think it’s a good thing that there is more appetite for political discussion and political art.
What do you think are some of the biggest strides the LGBTQ community has made?
There is a real awakening happening in our society on many levels, an awakening to our diversity, which is really America’s glory. It’s our strength; it’s our particular genius, so I think that we are just beginning to recognize the full humanity of everyone. And that, I think, is the real story of what is happening now and this sort of political regression from the top down is like a backlash, like the last death rattle, at least hopefully.
How do you feel your sound and art have changed over so many years?
Over the years, I’ve changed and changed back again and changed again, and my music reflects where I’m at in the moment, and I feel like a very different person than the 18-year-old who started on this path to now, pushing 50, but also, my work is sort of the same. Singing a song I wrote when I was 18 still has meaning, but when I sing it, it feels different. It sounds different. It is different because I’m different.