Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco on Rush Limbaugh, Protest Songs, and Being a Mom

Another one that stands out is "Chicks got it good now/ They can almost be president." How close do you think are we?

The problem with feminism is it hasn't evolved. You see women as CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, you see women as Secretary of State and this and that. So you have a veil of equality, and you have way more equality than most places on the globe, so that's something to celebrate. But meanwhile, you have women in high places within a patriarchal system. And that's different from addressing patriarchy, which hurts men just as much as women. That's the way our legal system and our social culture is designed. Then you're still going to have all these unchecked manifestations of unchecked patriarchy: war, environmental destruction, blah blah blah.

On your jazzier albums of the last decade, were the lyrics intended to be less important and more abstract to blend in with the denser music?

Well, uh, there's lots of things going on in the last decade or so for me, concurrent and contradictory things. There's certainly been plenty of political content; it's not like I had some long gap of abstractism, really. But yeah, I guess none of it has a strategy, I don't intellectualize it other than just as an artist who's changing -- I've written like, 200 songs -- and I'm just trying to find new stuff to write about, or a new way to write about stuff, or, you know, something. [laughs]

You've always been on your own label, so I wanted to know, has the collapse the music industry been something you just kind of watched from afar, or have you felt it? The new album debuted at No. 26 or something on Billboard, which is impressive for an artist of your longevity.

In terms of the overall economy and the music industry being sort of exacerbated there, the whole thing fell apart and the new thing is being born. We have felt it at Righteous Babe, but the thing about me is I have a live audience that I've built over decades of endless work, so I still have a job. Whereas somebody else who's suddenly selling a tenth of the records they used to, they might not be the same kind of working musician. I think music in its essence is a social act, and what I do onstage will always be most important to me.

Do you think it's viable for a lot of other people to have the same career model as you?

Absolutely! Anybody else who can fucking play! And that's the way it should be. There's nothing wrong with smoke and mirrors and making records with machines and exploring all those possibilities, but with the whole music industry like that, it's like a house of cards. If you can't really sing and you can't really put on a show, when the marketing muscle starts failing, so does your gig. I mean, I don't think it's the worst thing in the world that the music industry has been contracting and distilling down to its most passionate and dedicated people.

Do you think there will ever be a time when what's considered corporate will grow to mean compassionate as well?

Yeah, absolutely could be! You reminded me of Japan. It's a different flavor over there, you have these huge corporations, and they have a different relationship with their workers. There's honor and longevity. If you get a job at Sony you're gonna have it the rest of your life, and you're gonna be treated with respect. There's a different, not just chew-them-up-and-spit-them-out modus operandi. Like we talked about earlier, if you come at it with a different intention, you can use all of these tools for good. I mean, I own a corporation; you're talking to a CEO. So there's nothing wrong with capitalism really, if you have the right spirit.
Tue., March 27, 8 p.m., 2012

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