Ani DiFranco Interview Part 2 (Daily Camera 7/19/09)
Music and Motherhood
A Conversation with Ani DiFranco
by Adam Perry for the Boulder Daily Camera
Singer-songwriter and activist Ani DiFranco says that festival performances like her upcoming set at Mile High Music Festival this weekend represent her “one opportunity to see the musical community.” On the heels of her diverse and stunning 2008 LP Red Letter Year, DiFranco has been a road warrior, something she calls “solitary in a sense.” Talking to the Daily Camera via phone from her dressing room at L.A.’s famed Orpheum Theater recently, DiFranco chatted about the enlightening and complicated reality of being both a touring music sensation and the inspired mother of a 2-year old girl.
Daily Camera: How has becoming a mother affected you as a songwriter and performer?
Ani DiFranco: I had a little bit of resistance to the idea of taking energy away from my work, and the baby comes along and lo and behold that’s exactly what happens. But I did a lot of work with myself over the course of being pregnant and the first few months of being pregnant. It’s nice, the pace of being pregnant; it gives you a long time to not just germinate a baby but germinate the mother that you’re gonna be. And I did a lot of work with my own mind about letting go, giving over to this mom thing, and really pushed myself into a place of “Be Here Now.” I will have plenty of time in the future to write more songs; my job right now is just to be present and hang out with this little being, and the more I give over to that and get into that and not think about the songs I’m not writing but think about the simple joys that a baby helps you appreciate, the easier it is.
It takes a lot of patience; and I gotta say, as a side note, I’m really thrilled that this culture in this day and age, there are more and more women becoming mothers later in life, you know? There’s a lot of sacrifice involved. I had 20 years of just working non-stop, so for me to slow down and redirect a lot of that energy feels great right now and it makes me a happy mother, and I wish for a lot of women that they get a lot of “me” time in either before or after [having] kids.
DC: Your audience thinks of you as a social activist and maybe expects certain things from you as an artist. Now that you’re also a mom, are you getting back to a kind of simplicity?
AD: [Laughs] No. I still feel very much like myself. In fact, I think the way the child pulls me off of my little hamster wheel…as opposed to doing, I’m just being. You really have to be present and just go with the flow, follow the moment with a kid and I think that’s helping me get back to myself in a way. After years and years of throwing myself into my career, it’s almost like something gets whittled away, which is that primary intention, that drive that becomes more and more usurped by doing and getting out onstage. This is a time when things come back new and fortify me again as a person, which I think will just help me to help my relationship with my muse be fresh again.
DC: How important is it to maintain a secure intimacy with your family as a famous person?
AD: It’s pretty awesome that [my daughter] is two and a half and has a passport with a hell of a lot of stamps in it. Here we are in L.A. and I think she’s been to this venue three times already. She’s got a real window into the whole scenario, which I think is awesome. She’s definitely aware of me as public property, a famous person in that way, because we’ll be leaving a venue at night and there’s a group of people backstage who all want something. There’s something in me that propels me to smile and hug and sign this and converse about this and try to give those extra inches, but meanwhile I’m carrying this kid who has no obligations. She is my alter ego; she’s like “Fuck you! Fuck off! She’s mine now. You’ve had her all night and now she’s finally mine. Go away. This is my mom now.” And it’s made me really sort of embarrassed, like “oh you know babies, they’re crazy.” But I think “wow, I really have to work on welcoming people in my heart; not just in my words and in my face.” I have to really welcome interactions more and find that energy and appreciation in myself if I want her to be comfortable with it. It’s amazing how each baby pushes each mom in whatever direction they need to go. She’s my #1 teacher in a lot of ways.
DC: Are you writing lullabies?
AD: No, my writing is definitely informed by the whole experience of being a mother, but it’s not like I’m writing for her. I think I’ve always written for me and I guess I still do.