Ani DiFranco is one of the world’s most interesting performers. She is not searching for a Grammy. Instead, she is standing up for what she believes in and performs for people who believe in the power of music. Candice Rose speaks with Ani about her upcoming performance at Cassegrain Winery in Port Macquarie in February.
>What are your thoughts about Australia?
It’s great; it’s big and it’s lush. I find it somewhat familiar, because American and Australian cultures are somewhat related. A bear hug for a greeting, for instance. I remember when I first went to Australia, I was a struck a few too many times about women’s lib, and I thought it was a regressive place.
Then I went back, and I went back again, and I became more acquainted with the ways … and you are much more progressive than America. It’s been a learning process of course, like any travelling.
> You first started playing Beatles covers at local bars and busking with your guitar when you were a young girl. Has music always been your priority?
Yeah, I guess so. Since I was nine, I was out there making change, playing music, practising performance. I didn’t know it was going to be my job then! Now I’ve had many years to hone my craft.
> When you first started out you rejected major labels and instead started your own record company. Why did you shun these big money making machines and start off independently?
I guess I was always a very political beast. I recognised early on that big money making corporations are designed to do just that – make money. For me it’s not an acceptable priority on the planet.
I don’t think that helps people or art. When I started to get interest from labels, I realised that these are not my kind of people! I felt that it was wrong for me to partner with people that had very different priorities.
> Are you glad that you took that path?
Of course! It was a long, hard road to build an audience by myself, but it was a great ride. And now I feel I am on a very firm footing, because my audience is not based on a hit video or single.
It was based on slow, steady word of mouth, and that makes for a much deeper connection, I think, between my audience and myself. I’m very grateful for it.
> You’re a very vocal advocate for women and gay rights, and you use your music as a tool to promote this. Shed some light on how you’ve been a representative for that.
I speak my mind and my heart in my songs and also try to live it in the context around my music. There are too many ways to describe! I think living your politics is a day-to-day process and involves how you treat people and what to say when you open your mouth. I just try to be accountable to the world I want to live in.
> Do you think the world is listening to people who want to support equality? Is it becoming a bit fairer?
I think that gay rights are out there right now, on the tips of everyone’s tongue. It’s being discussed. Certainly in America there’s a lot of talk on gay marriage. Unfortunately a lot of that’s propelled by the conservative and Christian rights, because they want to use it to drive divisions between people and walk away with all the votes that way. I think there’s a lot of progress being made; I’ve seen it in my lifetime. Feminism, I don’t think, is evolving right now the way it should. I can only speak for my country; that’s all I’m really aware of.
There was great momentum, especially in the 70s, for feminism, but now it’s sort of floundering. There are a lot of people under the illusion that feminism is passé, it’s done, it’s old news. But I believe we should understand feminism now to be not just for women, but also for all people.
Feminism is a way out of patriarchy, which I think is harmful to everyone.
> Back to your music. You have been nominated 4 consecutive times at the Grammys. What is it like to receive such a distinguished award?
Well, I haven’t received any Grammys for music. They gave me one for packaging once! There’s a difference between a nomination and a statue for sure! I don’t put too much weight in the Grammys anyway; it’s a music business. Something crazy like 90% of the people that vote for these awards work for record companies. It’s all industry people, so it’s not really about the music, it’s about the industry.
> One of the amazing things about you is that you play all the instruments, perform your own vocals and record your own music. Why is that important to you?
Some recordings I have done everything myself. My new record has a lot of different people involved. Sometimes I just need to be by myself, and other times I’m the only one there! I’m a little girl from Buffalo, so when I first started making music I certainly didn’t know any producers; I didn’t have any one to help me.
I wasn’t about to phone someone I didn’t know and say, “Do this for me.” I’m the type of person to just go ahead and do it – make my own mistakes.
I think that for a long time it was about not waiting around for the professionals. More recently, when I made records by myself it was because I needed a break!
> You’re constantly touring. Does it ever get a bit too much for you, or do you have a place you call home?
In various periods in my life it’s become very overwhelming and exhausting – the touring and being public property. Now I’m happy to say I have much more balance in my life. I have a home, I have a family, things to go home to.
See Ani DiFranco perform at Cassegrain Winery on February 7th.
Tickets and info at www.sandevents.com.au