Ani DiFranco: The extended interview

Categories: Q&A
My column this week is about my recent conversation with Ani DiFranco, who happens to be one of my all-time favorite musicians. You can read my giddy recounting of our interview in the print version of my column, or see below for the straight transcript of our conversation. Ani plays tonight in Rochester, tomorrow night in Duluth, and at First Avenue this coming Sunday, September 20, with Gregory Alan Isakov.

Are there musicians or writer or artists that have affected your life in a profound way?

Definitely. People like Greg Brown, Utah Phillips, my folk singing comrades. I think Suzanne Vega was a super early influence, and also an acquaintance when I was a kid. Then it was Thelonius Monk, just the way he phrases, and Betty Carter, this jazz singer, later on in my singing--she was my singing teacher. At some point, I stopped playing guitar and singing along, and really started singing. So many. So many people along the way. Maceo Parker, when I was hanging out with him, he really got me on the groove side of life. I can hear my music from the time we were hanging out, it's just total emulation. And then later on, incorporation.

Have you gotten the opportunity to meet you idols? You've worked with Maceo and Utah, obviously.

And Prince, yeah. Bonnie Raitt. I've met a lot of amazing people along the way, just being out there, on the road.

Do you still get nervous when you meet people?

Oh definitely. Sekou Sundiata, who was a poet that released a record on Righteous Babe, was also a teacher of mine, literally, in college for the few years that I went. And he was such a rock star to me. I couldn't breathe when I was in his presence, you know. I can be as much of a fan as anybody else.

You recently wrote a song about Barack Obama. What are your impressions of him as a president?

Well, I think right now is a tough little juncture. This health care bill is not going well. I think that Barack and all of the democrats have made way too many concessions; I think the bill is kind of bullshit already. I'm not even sure if I hope that this passes. I think we need real, socialized medicine, and I'm kind of aching for him to really stand up once again, the way he has done most of his political career, and question the kind of presuppositions of the media, which I think are very much still wedded to the conservative mindset of the past bunch of years. Even this silly accusation of "This is socialism!"--which, unfortunately, it's very far from it, but I think this is the time--Barack is such a great teacher. And I think this is his chance to stand up and say, what is wrong with socialism? The Cold War is very far behind us, and has capitalism really served us all that well, people? Let's look at the free market compared to the role of government, and really start shifting the way we're thinking about these things.

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