Ani DiFranco on DIY Career, ‘No Walls and the Recurring Dream’

Ani DiFranco [photo: Danny Clinch]
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Following in the footsteps of music legends like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco is a folk singer who stands for something. 

In her new memoir, "No Walls and the Recurring Dream," DiFranco charts her rise as an independent musician who took a stand against big record companies in the 90s by never signing a deal and doing it herself.

Somehow she became the DIY future of the music industry when all she wanted to do was avoid it.

"For me the choice to be independent and stay independent and never sign a record deal was not even so much about [that] I wanted to be in control.  People assume I'm a control freak and I couldn't hand over the reigns to anybody.  But for me it went even deeper than that.  It was about [taking an] anti-capitalist stance," she said.

The Buffalo native does not believe capitalism is inherently evil, but she is discouraged by what happens when it's allowed to run amok.

"[Capitalism] can trample so many things - the environment, culture, art, people, human beings.  So I just felt like my mission on the planet was not served by partnering with people in those spheres," she said.

In 1990 DiFranco began her own label, Righteous Babe Records, and since received nine Grammy nominations with one win.

It's worth noting she began her independent career before the internet and social media were as common as they are today.

"On one hand there are so many possibilities now, with the internet, for cutting out the middle guy, which I did pre-internet. So I like that I'm living proof that you don't even need that tool necessarily," she said.

DiFranco is quick to point out that the ease of the internet is a double-edged sword for those aspiring artists who should be given room to make mistakes.

"My heart really goes out to the young and intrepid of today in this social media environment of cancel culture.  One mistake and you're kicked off the planet," she said.

DiFranco is the mother of two children and now lives in New Orleans.  It was because of her young family that she decided it was time to write a memoir.

"Mommy being a road dog is just hard on the family unit," she admits.  "I was trying to reinvent my way of working in a way that allowed me to stay home more."

In addition to the memoir, DiFranco's also released a companion album featuring her modern takes on some of her earlier catalog from the early 90s mirroring the memoir's time frame.

"At the time that I was making a lot of those early recordings I was literally very out of place, very uncomfortable, alone in a recording studio, in a little city, being recorded by dudes who had no feeling for what I was doing, and feeling very uptight. The documenting process of these songs has always bummed me out in retrospect," she said.  "It was nice to go back and record a few of those really old tunes."

Ani DiFranco's memoir, "No Walls and the Recurring Dream," is out now from Viking while her new CD, "No Walls Mixtape," is available from Righteous Babe Records.

She performs at Cain Park Thursday, June 13. 

Listen to full interview below:

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