Ani DiFranco is a singer, songwriter, feminist icon, activist, and independent entrepreneur. She is headed back to the Queen City on her “VOTE DAMMIT” tour to be held at Bogart’s on Tuesday, April 5th. Matching the current political climate in the United States, DiFranco is using her tour and her music to encourage fans to have their voices be heard not in just the presidential elections, but the congressional elections as well.
Ani Difranco has been in the music business for over 25 years and has released more than 20 albums as well as live albums, EPs and collaborations. The music on her albums span from folk, soul, spoken word, electronica, funk, jazz and beyond. Early in her career, she made the bold decision to say no to every record label offer that came her way. These days that may not seem so out of the box, but think back and recall even a number of years ago, what a bold choice that is for an artist. Ani in turn created her own record label, Righteous Babe Records in 1990 on her own terms.
Many of her songs have been woven with her views on the issues she’s passionate about. “Trickle Down” discusses racism and gentrification, while “To The Teeth” speaks about the need for gun control, while “In or Out” questions society’s traditional sexuality labels. The “VOTE DAMMIT” tour also features DiFranco performing new songs such as “Play God”, that stresses the importance of a woman’s right to choose, featuring lyrics like, “I must insist, you leave this one to me.” Her boundary-pushing music and her progressive messages have made her one of the foremost feminist performers today.
We had the great honor to speak to the “Little Folksinger” prior to the show at Bogart’s on April 5th.
CincyMusic.com: What is the world of Ani DiFranco like these days?
Ani DiFranco: Kinda busy! I just produced a new record for my songwriter friend Peter Mulvey and I’m also wrapping up a record of songs written by men in prison. We are calling it the Prison Music Project and it’s meant to shine a light on the humanity of the thousands of people we have locked in cages in America. Mass incarceration is a really terrible fact that is somewhat hidden. There is a lot to be said about that but I hope that the music when it gets released soon on a record called Long Time Gone will do a lot of the talking. I’m also working on a new record of my own, and building ties with other activists in the arena of reproductive rights. My new songs are coming out very political and I have the will to double down on my dedication to the struggle for reproductive freedom for women.
CM: At every show you have ways for those who are not registered to vote to do so. I assume this tour will be no different. What does giving people this opportunity mean to you?
AD: If everyone who could vote did we would have a different (and much, much better) country! I feel so strongly that in order to have the functioning democracy we all desire we have to knuckle down and participate. Imperfect as it may seem, it is each of our civic responsibility to take it seriously enough to weigh in. Our right to vote was hard fought for! Why squander it?!
CM: This election season so far has been insane. Personally, I thought Trump was just playing a joke on everyone by running, but I fear I may be wrong. What are your thoughts on the debacle?
AD: I think Trump is the greatest thing to happen to the Democratic party since Sarah Palin! He is tearing the Republican party apart and showing it for what it has become: a home for racists, sexists, rich exploitive capitalists and gun-toting freaks! Trump's rise is also a window into how that mythical thing called fascism happens. Look sharp America! It can happen to you! Meanwhile: Sanders and Clinton are not bad choices for the remainder of thoughtful, caring citizens. We could, and have, done much worse.
CM: Are you feeling the Bern?
AD: I love that guy. Always have.
CM: Last one about politics, I promise. Final thoughts on Obama as he rides out his last months as President?
AD: I still love him and believe him to be a smart man dedicated to making things better for average Americans. His failures have been more evidence of the impossibility of his situation than... anything else.
CM: Your essay about Pete Seeger after his passing was truly touching. Do you have any more stories about things he taught you as an activist?
AD: He was one of the greatest people I have ever known. Every moment with him was school for me. The example he set as an activist and organizer I will sum up like this: go now and go direct.
CM: Who is going to be joining you on stage on this tour?
AD: Chastity Brown will be opening. I have been hearing about her and look forward to seeing her myself!
CM: I think your lyric, “Every time I open my mouth, I take off my clothes. I’m raw and frostbitten from being exposed.” Pretty much sums up the realness of your music. Do you feel that performing certain songs time and time again break open old wounds or helps to heal them?
AD: Music and Art is about healing ourselves. I would be nowhere without it. As would so many.