Ani DiFranco on Art and Motherhood

Maranda Pleasant: What are some of the things that make you come alive?

Ani DiFranco: Playing music for people. I mean, playing music at home and writing and hanging out with my guitar is kind of medicinal for me, but when I bring the songs to people on stage, it’s very joyous. I’ve actually taken about a year off because I had a baby and coming back to work is like, oh wow! It’s startling to me how cool my job is and how much it invigorates me.

MP: What are some of the things that make you feel vulnerable?

AD: Oh wow. Everything – waking up in the morning and interacting with people. I am a thinned skinned type. I am very sensitive, very emotional. Vulnerability is kind of always a part of my day. It’s trying to find that balance. I’m easy to cry. I’m out there. It’s kind of a hard way to be, as all of us sensitive creatures know. I can’t even remember how your question started, but vulnerability is something that I negotiate every day.

MP: As a single mom myself, I wonder if you ever feel pulled between that part of you that wants to create as a woman and that part of you that wants to be with your baby all of the time?

AD: Yeah, I don’t know what it feels like for you, but so often it’s like one or the other. It takes everything you have to do each one. I was just talking to a very very ripe song-writer. I was actually speaking with her on her due date. She was asking me about what it was like to write songs and create and have a baby. I was like, “Forget about it. Lower your expectations right now.” As any mom knows, having a baby is an extremely creative act and to love and create a baby, it’s on par with any other creative act that we could come up with. Women, I think I am not alone when I say this, have to choose. You have to do one or the other. Sometimes you have to take time off this to do that and that to do this. It’s a juggle, but here we are doing it, whether or not it’s understood or honored in greater society. Moms know what it takes.

MP: What is love to you?

AD: I think I have explored and experienced many different types of love in my 43 years. About ten years ago, I met somebody who gives me unconditional love and I have been hanging on to him ever since. It’s hard to define it. When we first started hanging out, I was always on the road and he would just hang out in the dressing room during the shows and he wouldn’t even watch the shows. I was like, “Do you think I suck? Are you even interested?” Then it sort of dawned on me that he was just there for me. His frequency and my frequency resonate. His inner person loves my inner person no matter what we do and I have tested it plenty of times. Fucking up and saying stupid stuff, and there it is still – his unconditional love. Its something that I am capable of and I think everybody is capable of. He has been my great teacher. Ever since I met him, it’s my idea of love. Now we have two great kids and we get to pass it on.

(Both crying)

Look at us!

MP: I just saw Jack Johnson and he wanted to talk about love and I was like, “Let’s just talk about sustainable biofuel.” What are causes that you are passionate about right now?

AD: So many things. There are so many things that we have to be very concerned about. But I always come back to feminism. People look at me sideways now and are like, “With everything going on, the destruction of the environment, these endless wars, this capitalism that has a stranglehold on our culture and our world and you’re talking about feminism still?” At this point in my life, my feminism has evolved way beyond self-empowerment and I see feminism as a path to peace on earth. The fundamental imbalance that is behind all of the other social diseases is patriarchy. I do believe. As men and women, together, I really long to feel my society evolve its understanding since we’re one of the leaders in the f-word. I want us to grow our idea of feminism collectively and get both men and women involved in undoing patriarchy. It’s huge. It’s a huge job. It’s the ground that we walk on, it’s where we sit, it’s the language that we use. It’s a difficult undertaking, but I think without healing that and creating more of a balance between the sexes, we will never have balance globally. I feel like I am going deeper and deeper into this space where I came from that I barely understood. I happened to be born there. My mother was a feminist and she gave me some tools of self-possession and self-empowerment, but now that I have lived here for 43 years it’s like, whoa, there is just so much more to do, other than become myself. I’m still talking about it. I still drop the p-word, patriarchy, on unsuspecting people in everyday conversations.

MP: Will you please keep doing that?

AD: Oh, I will keep doing that at least and hope for the best.

Photo in chair: Patti Perret

Photo by wall: Shervin Lainez