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Interview With Ani DiFranco About 'Red Letter Year', continued

Ani DiFranco talks about her latest CD, Barack Obama, and being a folksinger


Ani DiFranco - 'Red Letter Year' CD Cover

Ani DiFranco - 'Red Letter Year' CD Cover

© Righteous Babe Records
Ani DiFranco has spent the past couple decades delivering music that is, at once, honest, provocative, experimental, and timeless. While the mainstream media has spent the last few months marveling over the fact that her latest record, Red Letter Year has some joyful songs on it, the truth is that DiFranco has been writing from a joyful place for years. And, anyway, Red Letter Year is just as complex and layered as any of her previous records, if not moreso. Now that the public has had a few months to digest it, she was kind enough to take the time to chat with me about the media's fascination with her happiness, among other things. Here's a continuation of that conversation:

Let's talk about Babeville a little bit. You built your own personal venue up there, which must please the girl inside who used to drive herself from club to club back in the day. Was this kind of the chance to build the dream venue for you?
Well, yeah. Although it hasn't been a really dreamy experience, I have to say [laughs]. I think if we had known what we were getting into, we might've thought twice. It's been a long-going renovation that's still not quite complete. It really just started with the desire to save that building from demolition—a sort of community activism that we've been engaged in for a long time at Righteous Babe in Buffalo, New York—led by my manager and the label president Scot Fisher.

Righteous Babe Records has always been in downtown Buffalo and, for years, he'd go to work and witness the destruction of historic buildings. Buffalo is very poor and evacuated. They're just tearing buildings down thoughtlessly, robbing future generations of our wealth and beauty. Scot has used the mantle of Righteous Babe to go on crusades to save buildings before. This particular building became such a big [crusade] that we decided maybe we should buy it, have our own offices, stop paying rent. It really started with that motivation and then we thought, "We can make this a venue!" It all seemed very simple.

I heard some locals in Buffalo were upset about the name Babeville.
Oh really? Um...sure [laughs]. As you can imagine. I had wanted to call it Babeville from way back. More conservative voices chimed in. During the construction process, we'd just call it the Church—we're going to the Church, what's happening at the Church. So it was called the Church when it opened. Then that was determined to be too staid and too churchy. A year or two into its existence as the new venue, I got my way [laughs]. But Righteous Babe Records...I remember Scot in the early days having a hard time answering the phone or writing it on checks. People at the bank would scoff. So, that's not a process I'm unfamiliar with [laughs].

Now that it's the end of the year, Ani, do you have any favorite music of 2008? How will you remember this year?
Oh let's see, 2008. One person that springs to mind is Bon Iver. Do you know his music? His record For Emma Forever Ago (compare prices) I love and have listened to a lot this year. He's actually going to be on a record that's being released on Righteous Babe. It's a folk opera written by Anais Mitchell. She's actually going to show up here tomorrow and we're going to work on it. He sings one of the voices, I'll sing a voice. Greg Brown is going to sing on it, as well as Anais, of course. It's really a gorgeous, gorgeous project that she's been working on for years and years. Anais is another artist that I've invited to open for me a lot this year. I've been really enjoying listening to her and also participating in this record. Those are two of the voices in my head.

Ani DiFranco spends a good amount of time touring the U.S. and the world, and you can find a list of upcoming tour dates at her Web site.

Interview conducted Dec. 12, 2008

Page 1: Ani DiFranco on Red Letter Year, the 2008 election, and more

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