Ani Difranco

She was DIY before you could google it.

Widely considered a feminist icon, Grammy winner Ani DiFranco is the mother of the DIY movement, being one of the first artists to create her own record label in 1990. While she has been known as the “Little Folksinger,” her music has embraced punk, funk, hip hop, jazz, soul, electronica and even more distant sounds. Her collaborators have included everyone from Utah Phillips to legendary R&B saxophonist Maceo Parker to Prince. She has shared stages with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, Greg Brown, Billy Bragg, Michael Franti, Chuck D., and many more. Her most recent album Binary was released in June 2017 on Righteous Babe Records and her memoir No Walls and the Recurring Dream was released in May 2019 by Viking Books.

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She was DIY before you could google it.

Rejecting the major label system, Ani DiFranco has referenced her staunchly-held independence (and the accompanying creative freedom) in song more than once, including in “The Million You Never Made” (Not a Pretty Girl), which discusses the act of turning down a lucrative contract, “The Next Big Thing” (Not So Soft), which describes an imagined meeting with a label head-hunter who evaluates the singer based on her looks, and “Napoleon” (Dilate), which sympathizes sarcastically with an unnamed friend who did sign with a label. After recording with Ani in 1999, Prince described the effects of her independence. “We jammed for four hours and she danced the whole time. We had to quit because she wore us out. After being with her, it dawned on me why she’s like that – she’s never had a ceiling over her.”

Her lyrics are rhythmic and poetic, often autobiographical, and strongly political. “Trickle Down” discusses racism and gentrification, while “To The Teeth” speaks about the need for gun control, and “In or Out” questions society’s traditional sexuality labels. Her 2016 single “Play God” has become a battle cry for reproductive rights. Rolling Stone said of her in 2012, “The world needs more radicals like Ani DiFranco: wry, sexy, as committed to beauty and joy as revolution.”

Over the years she’s performed at countless benefit concerts, donated songs to many charity albums, and given time and energy to many progressive causes. She has learned from and demonstrated beside Gloria Steinem, Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich. In 2004, she marched in the front row of the March for Women’s Lives along with Margaret Cho, Janeane Garofalo, Whoopi Goldberg, and many others, later performing on the main stage. She has beaten the drum for voter registration and turnout with “Vote Dammit” tours in multiple presidential election years, including most recently in 2016. She’s currently on the board of Roots of Music, an organization that provides at-risk youth with support and musical education in New Orleans, and the creative council of EMILY’s List, which helps elect pro-choice Democratic women to office.

As a songwriter and social activist, she has been the inspiration for woman artists and entrepreneurs for over two decades. She has been featured on the covers of SPIN, Ms., Relix, High Times, and many others for her music and activism. She is the idol of empowered women who came of age in the 90s and continues to bring younger fans into her fold. From Alice Walker to Amy Schumer, Ani is respected by wordsmiths across milieux and generations. She blazed the trail for self-directed artist careers and has been cited by musicians from Prince to Bon Iver as an inspiration to release their own art outside of the major label system.

Ani has been the recipient of many honors and awards, including a Grammy for best album package (Evolve), the Woman of Courage Award from the National Organization for Women, the Gay/Lesbian American Music Award for Female Artist of the Year, and the Woody Guthrie Award. At the 2013 Winnipeg Folk Festival she received their prestigious Artistic Achievement Award, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Winnipeg. In 2017, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from A2IM (a nonprofit trade organization that represents independent record labels) and the Outstanding Achievement for Global Activism Award from A Global Friendship.

As her first studio effort since the release of No Walls and the Recurring Dream (DiFranco’s widely praised 2019 memoir) her transcendent new album, Revolutionary Love, marks the latest proof of one of her most powerful gifts as an artist: a rare ability to give voice to our deepest frustrations and tensions, on both a personal and political level. “My songs have always reflected an acute connection between my personal life and the life of my society,” says the trailblazing musician and activist. “As I started to come out of years of dealing with marriage problems, I saw my entire country in the same situation; the complete breakdown of communication and loss of empathy and connection. But after what seems like unforgivable damage, then where do you go? You can’t kick each other off the planet, you can’t change the past, so what then?”

As the 22nd studio album in an iconic career, Revolutionary Love began taking shape in the final weeks before the Covid 19 pandemic came to change the plans of everyone everywhere. Returning home to New Orleans from a West Coast tour in February of 2020, with a new batch of songs written on the road, Di Franco found herself without a path to recording those songs and lost in the creative abyss of the collective need for social isolation. “And then I decided I wanted to start pushing this new music out by fall… before the election,” she recalls. “I felt very strongly that I needed a horse to ride to try to help get out the vote—to get people inspired and get them believing in democracy, believing in each other and in themselves.”

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  • Q&A: Ani DiFranco On The Importance Of Voting, Feminism, Billie Eilish, Beyonce And More
    Rebel, trailblazer, troubadour, folk hero, CEO — there are a lot of superlatives that can be used to describe indie icon Ani DiFranco. But maybe the one that best sums…
  • The Prison Music Project: Songs from Inside New Folsom Prison with Ani DiFranco
    There are 2 million people in prison in the United States. Let that sink in for a moment. Another way to put that: the US has 5% of the global…
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