You were off the road for a while. What were you doing? How was it to be off the road for so long after so many years of touring all the time?
It was awesome. It was great! I would have never chosen it. You know, I was forced into it by this tendonitis problem that I’ve developed, so I guess I have my hand and my wrist to thank for what ended up being the best decision I’ve made in a long time. My hand didn’t totally heal, but the rest of me did. I didn’t realize how much I needed a break. Just not being on the road, and not being public property for a while, was really good for my spirit
Do you miss it now that you’re back?
Well I have a better balance going on. I don’t do long tours. I’m not out all the time. I’ll go out for a couple of weeks at a time and then I come home and, again, that pace was dictated by the hand. But it’s really working for me. As a folksinger and a storyteller it’s really hard to stand on stage night after night for a month and have anything to say to anybody. That sort of grind makes doing what I do extra hard. So to go out for shorter tours and feel more refreshed and more excited to be onstage is really nice for me.
I was thinking, you know, I’m a folksinger too … coming off tour is always this mindf**k sitting in your living room, coming to terms with the fact that you’re gonna wake up in the same place tomorrow. How is that transition for you going from your last show to kind of, okay, I’m not on tour anymore.
Yeah the transitions are really the hardest. Once your on the road and you’re out there, you kind of acclimate to it. And when you’re home, after a while, you acclimate. But it’s the transition that’s so hard. Yeah, I would definitely dread leaving for every tour. It just felt like it was such a chore. Then you get home and, for a few days, you’re just lost. Nobody knows you’re home, so the phone doesn’t ring, you can’t remember who you are or what you do. So, but, um, that sort of extended time home, I guess … I found I got to a peace that I couldn’t get to in a week between tours.
Let’s talk more about Reprieve, which is such a great record. The last couple of records have been a little more relationship struggle sort of songs. But this is more political … why was that, aside from the obvious?
Well the obvious prevails I guess … I was dealing with a lot of personal stuff for years. I had a pile of poop to shovel. And once that’s cleared away, you have time to think about other things other than ugh what have I done. I’m happier now, which means I have more room in myself to give energy to things outside of myself, and to write political material, aside from trying to work out my personal s**t.
Something I’ve heard come up a lot lately among songwriters is, can songs change peoples minds anymore? Where are the protest singers, considering what’s going on now?
I have a friend … you know Hammel on Trial? Yeah he’s awesome and inspirational. It really feels good to have him out in the world writing political songs. He was at the Folk Alliance recently. He’s just getting onto the folk circuit after so many years of playing in rock bars, and he’s like what the f**k is this folk music? Where are the protest songs? He’s feeling like the Last of the Mohicans out there trying to make political change through music. It’s an incongruously quiet time for political song, given the political crisis we’re all facing.
And given the fact that all the songwriters are kind of united on the fact that they don’t like it.
Yeah, right … I mean … um … yeah I forgot your original question.
So did I. Oh, can songs change peoples minds anymore?
Um sure. I don’t think songs are magic. I don’t think you could write the perfect song and change the world. But everything contributes. We all have opportunities to change peoples minds, and I think a lot of that is cumulative. You have to hear alternative voices a lot sometimes for something to sink in, for there to be a shift. As songwriters we should be speaking up. But everybody, in whatever their work, has an opportunity to speak up. I think it’s that cumulative effect that will put all of us together to make that change.
Page 1: Ani talks about the making of Reprieve
Page 3: Ani talks about feminism and its role in her music