Has Ani DiFranco, the oft-labeled “angry” singer-songwriter, has finally found contentment? Now 41 and married with an almost 5-year-old daughter, DiFranco just released her 17th studio album, “¿Which Side Are You on?” She sat down with The Daily to talk about being a happier, healthier rebel.
In your song “J,” you continue your open discussion of pot smoking. Was there any debate over whether or not you’d remain a smoker after having your child?
Well, sure. You worry about things when you’re pregnant and breastfeeding and every woman finds their own balance with that. Now my kid is pushing 5, as she becomes more aware, you’re like, “OK, now do I have to hide it from her?” It’s ridiculously illegal in our society. But I don’t think it’s wrong. I think of all the mood-altering substances that we partake in legally all day long, this is far less offensive.
You say, “If you’re not getting happier as you get older, you’re f***in’ up.” Are you getting happier?
Thankfully, I am, and therefore healthier. I used to consider myself very susceptible, almost sickly. And now I realize that I was just stressed out. As I’ve become happier and calmer, I’m way healthier, stronger, I sleep better. It’s amazing stuff, happiness.
Does the old Ani ever creep in and say, “What are you doing? Work faster!”?
There’s something about driven people, artists, pounding away on the road and spitting albums into the world and furiously creating songs. People who do that are broken. They have huge, gaping holes inside of them, and they’re trying to fill them with something. That’s what I was doing.
If one were to consider the rabid consumption of an artist’s records over the course of his or her lifetime a relationship, then I have been seeing Ani DiFranco since 1995.
Like any long term love, we’ve had our ups (Dilate, Living in Clip, Not a Pretty Girl) and downs (Red Letter Year) but I am still loyal because, to me, Ani DiFranco is much more than just a singer/songwriter.
Listening to her on my Discman with my bedroom door closed, Ani put to words the teenage angst I couldn’t yet understand or express. Moreover, I admired how proudly she presented her shaved head, nose ring, and bisexuality. In my tiny Manhattan private school she would have been an outcast, and I imagined she’d be okay with that. I couldn’t claim such courage. If anything, I was her opposite. I spent much of my time trying to keep my own colors within the lines drawn by the popular crowd.
Eventually I got older and moved past my fear of not being exactly like everyone else. Around the same time Ani started to calm down, too. At 41 she may not be angry anymore, but she’s still every bit the righteous babe—the namesake of the record company she founded at the age of twenty—she was two decades ago.
In “Gravel,” my favorite single off of her 1998 album Little Plastic Castle, Ani admits to taking back an insensitive lover because as she says, “What can I say? I adore you.”
I know the feeling, Ani.