Singer-songwriter and Buffalo, N.Y., native Ani Difranco released her first album in 1990 when she was 19. She has since gone on to release 16 studio albums and several live ones since then, making her one of the most prolific artists of recent history.
So you would think songwriting would come easy to her, but that’s not always the case. “Sometimes it’s like I sit down and slice a bit of my spleen open and let a song ooze out.” She also keeps a journal and is always jotting down thoughts, lines and maybe a verse if one comes to her. Other times chords or riffs will float down to her to be joined later by words.
DiFranco is a pioneer of the D.I.Y. movement, having founded her own Righteous Babe label and remaining fiercely independent as she’s moved through her career.
Now at 43, she’s married to her producer Mike Napolitano and has two kids, including a 6-month-old. She and her family call New Orleans home.
DiFranco will be playing a sold-out show at the Stone Mountain Arts Center on Nov. 13, which marks her first show in Maine in about three years.
She has written what she estimates to be hundreds of songs and when asked, she said naming any specific ones as a favorite is tricky business. She did however note a certain time period. “I think I had a successful run right around “Not a Pretty Girl,” “Dilate” and “Living in Clip.”
“It took me a while to find my solo folk-singer-out-in-the-world-making-records groove,” said DiFranco, adding that people moving in and out of her life have always impacted where her head is at musically. “I think I’ve hit another groove recently. His name is Mike Napolitano, who I conveniently married and love, and he’s awesome in the studio; I have the voice of reason now.”
The conversation veered into the world of streaming music, which everyone seems to have an opinion on, DiFranco included. “I think a lot of that is natural and organic, and it’s a way that people in this modern ago share and turn people onto stuff.” But she also empathizes with the artists and their need to pay the rent. “My personal solution is to kick (expletive) live and you’ll always have a freaking job.”
DiFranco says that touring has always been her bread and butter. “There was a heyday of recorded music where a lot of people made a lot of money off rock and roll, and we’re realizing that was an anomaly.” As for the issue of streaming and downloading songs for free, DiFranco says that if the connection is made with the audience during performances, fans tend to police themselves.
DiFranco has tackled many political subjects through her songs, including women’s rights, reproductive rights, war and the death penalty. Her 1999 album “To the Teeth” took direct aim at gun control with songs like “Hello Birmingham” and the title track that includes the line, “School kids keep trying to teach us/what guns are all about/confuse liberty with weaponry/and watch your kids act it out.”
With the one-year anniversary of the school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., approaching, the issue still weighs heavily on DiFranco. “It’s maddening. There doesn’t seem to be much of a political process,” she said. I can’t even write any more songs about the … issue.”
DiFranco is able to find respite from the negativity while touring. “I have so much joy getting out on the road and gathering this community that had formed around my songs and who I have formed around. Music is such a connecting agent, it’s such a powerful medium, and I’m so glad I can be back out expending positive energy energizing progressive minds to make us feel less alone along the way.”
Aimsel Ponti can be contacted at 791-6455or at: [email protected]