Ani DiFranco: “political songs and happy songs don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

Sigh. Another cool show near Hilton Head scheduled after I left the place. At least I got my lifetime allotment of Eagles cover bands out of the way.

Change has come to Ani DiFranco

By Tim Donnelly • Special to the Guide

Change is in the air in Washington, D.C.

Yes, there’s the skinny guy in the big house making decisions now. But two miles down the road, Ani DiFranco also is feeling a lot different these days.

Her first daughter turned two on Inauguration Day, and her songs are now channeling positive themes after years of frustration — and occasionally outright anger — at the government, cultural conformity and struggles over love and identity. The feminist icon, neo-folk hero and owner of her own label, Righteous Babe Records, has released more than 20 albums over two decades, and her fan base has stuck with her even as her music has evolved and grown up.

“I was already on a personal mission to write my joy into music more,” DiFranco said by phone from the back room of Washington’s 9:30 Club, where she performed last weekend. “Now, as it turns out, political songs and happy songs don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

Ani DiFranco

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Trustees Theatre, 216 E. Broughton St., Savannah

Tickets: $36

Information: 912-525-5050, tickets.scadboxoffice.com
Q. You’ve been successful for a long time. Have you seen your fans change over the years as you have?

A. It’s hard to articulate specifically, but it’s just parallel to me. Having spent so much of my evolutionary years on stage, I sort of play the role of reflecting those lessons we learn along the way, the changes that befall us. I think there is always a new contingent of mostly young women who come along and connect with all these songs written by a young woman with those experiences, that experience of becoming yourself and sort of elbowing out a room for yourself in this world.

Q With having your daughter (in 2007), you spent a lot more time than usual between your previous album and last year’s “Red Letter Year.” Did that allow you to do anything different with the final product?

A. Yeah — time, the final frontier. Who knew (laughs)? I’ve always made records really quickly because I’ve always done everything really quickly. ‘Go, go, go,’ that’s my scene. The baby has slowed me down quite a bit. It’s just what the doctor ordered for me — having more time to develop more perspective. It’s more kind of ambitious production than I usually have on a record. I feel more solid about it — having not plowed through in the moment.

Q. Does that mean you’ll be taking more time with future albums?

A. Yeah – it’s definitely a lesson to be learned, one of the many my kid has taught me so far. Slow down, look before you leap.

Q. Do you think the new era of leadership in the country will affect your song writing?

A. Oh man, it feels so different. It’s a total atmospheric change if you ask me. It’s a great atmosphere, all over the world. I just got back from tour of Australia, and, you know, people everywhere are psyched. Obama’s election was a victory for democracy, the very concept. It was a victory for the people versus the corporate elite, the oil tycoons.

There’s nothing more that I want to do than support those who are doing good in the world. I think we get caught in sort of trying to fight the great evil, slay the great dragon. That’s kind of beating your head against the wall. For the left, it’s more important to lift each other up, support each other with our causes. It’s great these days to have sort of momentum to contribute to, momentum in a positive direction.

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3 responses to “Ani DiFranco: “political songs and happy songs don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”

  1. I love Ani! Last time I saw her perform was in Eugene, Oregon about six years ago. Toshi Reagon–another great artist–opened for her.

  2. sweet interview, Tim

  3. I hate Ani. I remember a psychotic government teacher I had sophomore year played her Sept. 11 protest song in the middle of an auditorium in… Tydings Hall, I think. A girl with a huge ponytail secured with a giant pink bow — and I mean like six inches across — got up from the front row and stormed out of the auditorium. She was equally retarded, but the incident made me hate the teacher and Ani DiFranco by extension.

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