Twenty years on, Ani DiFranco steadfastly backs political progressivism with a student activist's devotion. The New Orleans transplant, now at work on a follow-up to 2008's 'Red Letter Year,' promises to bring provocative new material to Austin.
'I have a new song called 'Amendment,''' DiFranco says. 'It's a very direct proposal for an equal rights amendment. I've been pushing myself into extreme political territory, I think as a writing challenge.' The 39-year-old performs today at the Paramount Theatre.
American-Statesman: How's the new album coming along?
Ani DiFranco: Slowly! That's my new adjective for work now that I'm a mom. It's great. I've been puttering away on this recording in little fits and snatches since 'Red Letter Year' while the baby sleeps. I think it infuses a lot of perspective.
What's its focus?
Some of the stuff is very heavy feminist philosophy. Thinking about the evolution of feminism as maybe a solution to many of our modern social problems and issues. I'm getting back to the roots of imbalance in human society. It seems counterintuitive when we should be addressing war and the economy and the environment, but I think the best holistic way to solve the modern problems is to start with that imbalance.
You're living and recording in New Orleans. How's the city's spirit today?
Katrina? What Katrina? Man, did you hear that we won the Super Bowl? (She laughs.) Dude, it's all about the Super Bowl. The spirit has been super high since the game. The party is still going on despite it all.
Has the area's musical heritage influenced you as a songwriter?
Well, jeez. Overtly, subliminally, I'd imagine, in every way now that I'm here. That being said, I'm not here as much as I wish. My job has me traveling constantly. There's just a vibe down here that I feel very at home in. Overall, I've been learning how to chill out and have a good time (laughs). That's just what the doctor ordered for me.
You seemed in a good place when you wrote (the song) 'November 4, 2008.'
That was the incredible, transcendent joy of the last presidential election. The song directly addresses President Obama about halfway through, but mostly it's about feeling, 'Oh, (expletive), democracy lives!' I was really worried for a while. I've since changed the name of it to 'November 5, 2008,' which is the day I wrote it. It more speaks to waking up the next morning, the best Christmas morning times 10.
Will it be on the upcoming album?
No, it's not going to be on the new album (laughs). I still love (Obama) to death and I couldn't begin to fathom the world he lives in, but singing things like, 'You've done everything we've asked of you' just isn't ringing true to me right now.
You're dissatisfied with his first year in office?
I'm generally satisfied that he hasn't been completely crippled, prohibited and disabled by the roadblocks that are all around him. It seems the whole of the Republican Party is very openly stating that their only mission is to stop whatever he tries. It seems like a flagrant thwarting of their job to not even attempt to govern or participate and just try to cripple somebody. That's what I'm focused on.
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave.