A seasoned entrepreneur, singer, activist and talented songwriter will be visiting the Charleston Music Hall on May 10th. Ani DiFranco is promoting her new album released last year, Allergic to Water, which was produced by her private label Righteous Babe. Her extensive history in music has allowed her to explore a variety of styles while providing a political and human rights forum to her fans. Songs from Allergic to Water, are a slight deviation and are influenced heavily by her young family with two small children. They incorporate jazz and electronica with a side of rock and roll. While her core sound is inherently folksy, Ani’s live shows are more of a dance party with upbeat melodies and harder jams.
We got a chance to interview her before the Charleston show, and here is what she had to say to her fans in South Carolina.
SCMG- I know your kids have inspired you with songwriting, and touring was certainly affected by their existence. Has it gotten any better with your son (who was difficult to tour with in his younger years)? Has your daughter shown any interest in music yet?
ADF – Yeah, my daughter is very musical which is exciting. She was on the road with me. We didn’t spend the day apart. She was by my side, on the road, playing instruments during soundchecks. She got a pretty good window of a touring musician from early on. It seeped into her. She can sing better than me, I swear to God. My son, he was a totally different beast. I think it lasted about 3 tours. I fired him and sent him home. We are all gonna explode! I got him a nanny and sent him home. Now I am touring childless. Get me away from my kids, and I am writing a new song. I’ve been pent up deep in the mothering thing for two years with the new baby.
SCMG- Are you writing any new songs for a new album at this time?
ADF – I am already doing a recording session with my band. Two weeks ago and 9 new songs. So, I am sure we’ll be playing some of those songs when we come out. I’ve got 20 albums to pull from now. I’m happy to have so much to choose from.
SCMG – What is your process in songwriting? Do you have a specific routine, a certain guitar, or do you find inspiration in places like a coffee house? Where is your comfortable place?
ADF – You know, what my routine is these days? It’s when I do my writing workshop. When I walk offstage and go back to my dressing room. I stay at the venue until they kick me out. I am a night owl, and when I come off stage I am still so full of energy from the audience. We’ve had this whole thing, and then they are gone. I do my writing after shows in dressing rooms. I relish that time. No babies, no nothing, just here on the energy of sharing music and inspired to make more.
SCMG – Have you had a favorite style or album over the years that really sticks with you?
ADF – I don’t really think about them. As soon as I make them, I turn my back. Part of it is mental health. There is only frustration, regret, and embarrassment. I hear recordings that aren’t as good as they should be. To relearn an old song can be excruciating. I don’t know, I wonder how most artists relate to their own recordings. Probably not. For me, it’s a very ..yeah, that’s something…luckily, I’ve learned to be less self critical. I have been known to torture myself about daily performance. I’m over that phase of life, but I don’t need to delve into what critics are saying. I’ve found a pretty good way of working which involves that once you’ve done the best you can in the moment just keep going. (Let the) energy (go) down the drain. Definitely making music in the moment is always joyful.
SCMG – What has been your favorite style of music that you’ve explored? Jazz, folk, or do you thrive on having the freedom to just do whatever the hell you want?
ADF -The songs I like to play most on stage are the ones that rock the hardest. It’s a high energy situation with all the people. Those are the songs that work the most. I have way more slow peaceful songs than I need when making a set list. I’ve got these 15 rockers that I play every night, and then I have 2000 slow ballads to choose five from every night. I’m not a low-key person. I don’t put on a low-key show. (I’m currently) trying to make some more rock and roll songs that are new, so that I can keep that going.
SCMG – How do you see the music scene has changed over the years with Youtube, the internet, people not buying CDs as much?
ADF -I’ll put my husband on the phone, and he’ll give a tirade for you. It was a small blip in time when there was all this money to be made in recorded music. The history of making music, ya know, this sort of intellectual recorded music. The heyday is over. The more inherent circumstance of a musician is you have to be a working musician and give it to people live. I think music is a social act, not a product. I was never an album seller, ya know, like the top of the pops. Touring has always been my bread and butter. Yeah, you have to tour. If I want a job, I have to get out of my house and make music live. I don’t wish it to be any different. I am not saying music must be free, but there is definitely a mine field of legalities that need to be worked out. How far does it go? How much are musicians owed? It’s very blurry and complicated. I trust in the fact that if you’re doing something that is connecting with people, and it’s important to the people, the Universe will show you a way to pay your bills. So, I don’t worry about it. The relationship with my audience – I hear about them policing each other. “Hey, don’t buy that bootleg copy! Buy it from Ani.” I find that if you treat your audience with respect and realness, they’ll come back at you the same.
SCMG – Do you have any words of wisdom for the youth of today who are getting into the music scene?
It’s really tough, but it’s always been tough to make art. I’m one of the lucky ones. I guess, making music and sharing music is an end in itself. I was excited by it and as gratified when I was playing for 5 people in coffee houses as I was playing in a stadium with 5000. Do it for itself. You might not ever get recognized like you’d hoped, but there is still so much value there. It’s uplifted my soul, healed me emotionally, made me less alone, and connected me with others. Sharing music, it’s important to the process. Focus on that and reap the benefits of that. Whatever the peripheral is, enjoy it. Maybe you’ll have to get a day job, and that’s ok. You should still play music.
A lifetime of music addiction and appreciation has led Stephanie to her passion of live music photography and the entertainment industry. Having a particular interest in exceptional guitar work, she is best known for introducing her kids to Steve Vai’s and Yngwie Malmsteen’s talent in an effort to promote musical discovery to a new generation.