Righteous mother

Outspoken: Feminist icon and songwriter Ani DiFranco plays The Orange Peel Saturday, Sept. 28. Photo by Shervin Lainez
Outspoken: Feminist icon and songwriter Ani DiFranco plays The Orange Peel Saturday, Sept. 28. Photo by Shervin Lainez

Folk singer and feminist icon Ani DiFranco begins her fall tour just five months after the birth of her second child, Dante DiFranco Napolitano. Admitting that mothering a newborn who “likes to party all night long” is exhausting, DiFranco says she’s eager to get back into the world and make music again.

Her latest album, ¿Which Side Are You On?, was released in early 2012, offering fearless calls for revolution leading up to the presidential election. (Regarding the ongoing conflict in Syria and U.S. involvement, DiFranco says “I would have hoped for better from our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president.”) These days, the musician has slowed her pace a bit to focus on family, explaining, “I went from putting out a record every two minutes to every two years.”

DiFranco recorded a few songs when she was six months pregnant and plans to schedule another session soon to “slowly push, pull and shove a record together.” 

Even though her current tour’s setlist will see more old favorites than new offerings, she did find time to make a guest appearance on the title track of Dumpstaphunk’s just-released Dirty Word. DiFranco, long affiliated with her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., currently lives in New Orleans, and her husband, Mike Napolitano, mixed much of Dirty Word.

But don’t expect the bold, outspoken activist to make a funk turn on her own albums. DiFranco’s folk leanings are evident in the artists she takes an interest in, like Pearl and the Beard, an eclectic folk-pop trio with stunning harmonies DiFranco describes as “super great.” Other artists she’s been impressed with recently: Anias Mitchell (on DiFranco’s own Righteous Babe Records) and Zoe Boekbinder, a Canadian songwriter DiFranco plans to work with on a project involving making songs with prisoners.

Followers of the folk singer know that each of DiFranco’s 17 studio albums offer rich narratives of self-examination, charged with emotions ranging from anger to bliss. She still brings her sociopolitically charged energy to every show, leaving fans feeling inspired. “When I go to places like Phoenix and Vegas, the people who come out to my shows are starved for affirmation, and in some ways it can be the most powerful of shows.” Referring to her upcoming Orange Peel performance, DiFranco says, “It’s nice to be among the opposite example.”

Impressed by the town’s Go Local campaign and sustainability-focused lifestyle, she believes cities like Asheville are pioneering the future. “It seems like a very hopeful place to live,” says DiFranco.

Right now, the singer is “all kinds of joyful and all kinds of grateful,” which she expects to resonate through her performances. Her focus seems to be on her family and touring.

“Ever since I had my first kid, I’m so grateful to be back on stage after many years of flogging it out,” she says. “After you’ve been hunkered down, breastfeeding a baby, it’s like ‘Oh wow, this is fun!’”

Baby Dante (like DiFranco’s 6-year-old daughter, Petah) will spend much of his first few years of life on the road. The musician says that motherhood has “helped me find inner-peace” and “create stability for the first time in my life.” And it shows: DiFranco’s music has evolved into a more elegant and polished version of her earlier work.

She offers this advice: “If you’re not getting happier as you get older, then you’re f—king up.”

who: Ani DiFranco with Pearl and the Beard
where: The Orange Peel
when: Saturday, Sept. 28 (9 p.m., $35 in advance/$38 day of show. theorangepeel.net)

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