Ani DiFranco. Photo by Daymon Gardner

Never one to shy away from speaking – and singing – her truth, singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco has been a consistently powerful feminist voice, as demonstrated most recently on the track “Disorders,” which she intentionally released a few days before the Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Before heading to Maine for a show at the State Theatre on July 30, DiFranco spoke from her home in New Orleans about how heavily last month’s news weighed on her and revealed that, despite the rage of the new song, she operates from a place of empathy rather than judgment.

“My reaction first was to just feel like there was a 10,000-pound anvil on me. It’s so sad to think of the unnecessary suffering of women in the 21st century,” she said.

“Disorders” is a collaboration with Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard, as well as musicians Josh Evans, Skerik and Stanton Moore. DiFranco sings vocals and wrote the lyrics and melody. All proceeds from the track go to the National Network of Abortion Funds.

“I have entered into the negotiations with the blissful abyss of disassociation and all that it implies/Watching you weaponize your ejaculations,” sings DiFranco against Gossard’s guitar, Skerik’s horn and Moore’s drums. The song ends with a tantrum of DiFranco F-bombs and a ferocious fury of instruments. It’s glorious.

DiFranco released the album “Revolutionary Love” last year and will be drawing from it and a recording career that dates more than three decades and has yielded 20 studio albums at her upcoming show in Portland.


“Revolutionary Love” is home to several tracks that examine how to take cover, yet not shy away from the darkness of what’s happening in the world. “Station Identification” asks why we are fighting each other when we should be working together. “Simultaneously” straddles the line of a world that is both fractured and free.

Cover of “Revolutionary Love” by Ani DiFranco. Image courtesy of Righteous Babe Records

I asked DiFranco about “Lost Woman Song,” from her 1990 debut album, which chronicles the abortion she had at age 18 with lines like “And now I’m sitting in this waiting room playing with the toys/And I’m here to exercise my freedom of choice.” It ends with “No you can’t make us sacrifice our freedom of choice.”

Yet here we are.

DiFranco said she hasn’t played it live in at least 20 years because there’s a lot of hard emotions attached to it. “All this blame and judgment and I carried that, like many women do, for decades and decades,” she said.

DiFranco, now 51, identifies a whole lot more with the song “Play God,” from her 2017 album “Binary.”

“Right at the brink of menopause, I feel as though I finally arrived at my own fully formed understanding of what it means to have a reproductive system in this life, in this world, in this society and how to handle it and what my own perspective is on it,” she said.


DiFranco said that, as far as she’s concerned, the people who get to play god with reproductive systems are those who have them. She contends that god is the energy of love that gives people life and bonds us all together. “Reproductive system-having people, we are very much the hand of god, and when we choose when and how to reproduce – that is god choosing, that is nature deciding, that’s natural selection. ”

DiFranco also spoke about her ongoing work in criminal justice, trying to mitigate the damage she believes the system has caused. Through that work, she has met several inmates who have, in her words, committed great acts of violence but are now beautiful, loving and aware people. “I am experiencing human beings’ ability to transform,” she said.

To her, “Revolutionary Love” is all about transformation and is not just an album but a way to exist. “I’m trying to approach my work and my life now to always hold space for people who may even be presently committing acts of violence – verbal, institutional, or literal physical – that these are also god, these people.”

I told DiFranco about the one lone man shouting bible scripture at a recent abortion rights rally and march in Portland. Rather than shout him down, DiFranco had a different idea. “I would love to be the person that runs up to that dude and hugs him and says, ‘I love your hat, where did you get it?’” This, to her, is putting the concept of revolutionary love into practice.

DiFranco contends that humans hold onto their belief systems with such vehemence, even after having learned new information, because these beliefs are often the foundation of community and connection with other people. “The only way to change somebody’s mind is to offer them a new community, offer them a new family.”

This doesn’t mean that DiFranco isn’t willing to fight for what she believes in. “I don’t know that I’ve hung my boxing gloves up for good. I’m still in the ring in a lot of ways,” she said. But DiFranco is more invested in building bridges rather than throwing punches.


“Anger is such a powerful tool of action and an important energy that defends love and justice, so that’s absolutely primary to the struggle. But at this point, OK, I have some other tools in my toolbox. So let me try to use some of these.”

Now a month into her tour, DiFranco said the shows have been great and her appreciation runs deep, especially since the pandemic wreaked havoc for so long on her ability to perform.

“I am even more grateful to be out there in communities, to be able to be engaging with people, to be lifting each other up,” she said.

DiFranco will be accompanied by Todd Sickafoose on bass and drummer Terence Higgins.

Musicians Gracie and Rachel, Zoe Boekbinder and Jocelyn Mackenzie, all on DiFranco’s Righteous Babe record label, will open the show and will likely play some songs with her.

Ani DiFranco
8 p.m. July 30. State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland, $35 to $55 reserved seating.

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