Ani DiFranco

The Exclaim! Questionnaire

BY James KeastPublished Dec 15, 2014

Ani DiFranco has been a pioneer for nearly 25 years. She founded her independent label, Righteous Babe, at age 18 in order to control her artistic destiny — the label remains active and headquartered in her Buffalo, NY hometown. Her personal politics have made her an icon for feminists, the LGBTQ community and poverty activists amongst many others. She's made albums with poets and been influence by reggae, hip-hop, funk and punk. But mostly Ani DiFranco has been following her own muse from town to town and album to album, the emperor of her own inclusive fiefdom. Her 18th studio album, Allergic to Water, a relatively quiet folk-rock album, is out now on Righteous Babe.

What are you up to?
Writing lots of new songs. Going deeper with my band (Todd and Terence) on stage every night. Preparing to work with Zoe Boekbinder on a record she wrote with prisoners in the New Folsom Prison.

What are your current fixations?
A book called The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain. This book really resonated with me and has propelled my thoughts into all kinds of new territory.

Why do you live where you do?
New Orleans is home to some of the most deeply moving music and awesome musicians I know.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
The Spell of the Sensuous, a book by David Abram. I read this book after reading The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, and consider the two to be related. Together these books have been mind-altering for me.

What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
There are so many memorable and inspirational gigs, it has become very hard to say. For our purposes, I'll pick Pete Seeger's 90th birthday party in Madison Square Garden. It was a huge gathering of wonderful personalities coming together to make some music, honour a great man and benefit Clearwater, an organization he founded.

What have been your career highs and lows?
Highs: working with Sekou Sundiata, Utah Phillips, Maceo Parker, Prince, Pete Seeger. Low: being alone.

What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
I guess there must have been meanness along the way, but I don't remember it.

What should everyone shut up about?
Other people. So many haters, so little time.

What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
I wish I was not so high strung. But I like that I am becoming less high strung.

What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?
Hanging with my family. Everyone laughs a lot.

What advice should you have taken, but did not?
No regrets.

What would make you kick someone out of your band and/or bed, and have you?
Not listening.

What do you think of when you think of Canada?
More benevolent, and less edgy than America, but all that seems to be changing.

What was the first LP/cassette/CD/eight track you ever bought with your own money?
Joan Armatrading Back to the Night.

What was your most memorable day job?
Working construction.

How do you spoil yourself?
I don't have time to spoil myself. I'm too busy spoiling my kids.

If I wasn't playing music I would be…
Dancing? Painting? Writing poems down on a page?

What do you fear most?
Interviews like this!

What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
See above.

What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
I don't know. My lunch with Brooke Shields?

Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Abraham Lincoln. Lamb stew and corn bread.

What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
She doesn't.

What song would you like to have played at your funeral?
No idea whatsoever.

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