Never a stranger to doing things her own way, Ani DiFranco has found herself doing them alone these days.
DiFranco, who recently split with her longtime partner and sound engineer Andrew Gilchrist, also decided to forego a band on her current tour. She also chalked up another first by producing her latest album, “Educated Guess,” entirely on her own — as well as playing all the instruments herself.
DiFranco, 33, has actively resisted categorization along with offers from major record labels. Yet she has often been hailed as an astute businesswoman for founding her own Righteous Babe Records label, as a voice for feminism and as a poster child of the independent music scene.
Basically, though, DiFranco is a folk singer with 21 albums under her belt, a hectic touring schedule and a “best recording package” Grammy for her March 2003 album, “Evolve.” The Buffalo, N.Y. native spoke recently in an interview with The Associated Press:
AP: Your approach, your energy on the current tour and on the new album seem different. Why is that?
DiFranco: The difference is solitude. I have it in my life now, and I didn’t for years, at all. But there’s been a lot of changes so now I’m alone on stage, it’s been like a year and a half, and I’m alone in my dressing room and I’m alone in my home. And there’s just a lot less people around. So it allows for more contemplation.
AP: On your new album, you’re performing all your own instruments. How did you decide on such an undertaking?
DiFranco: Like I said, I was alone. A few years back, I incorporated the recording process in my home life so I can be home for a few moments now and then. To be away in the studio when I’m not away touring, it gets a little overwhelming after a while. You want to be in the same place. So, to be able to go home and put ideas to take and work on that stuff, it’s been a sort of a dream I achieved when I was with my partner when we were together. He was my recording engineer — that’s how we met — so it was quite a symbiotic relationship that way, but also just 24-7. Since we broke up I decided to just simplify since I was the only engineer around, so I got myself an 8-track, reel-to-reel, and decided to try just recording the songs at home, even with no one to help, no voice of reason in the process whatsoever.
AP: What changes have you seen in reactions to your music and your politics over the past 10 years?
DiFranco: I was a hairy, scary, puppy-eating, man-hating ... militant feminist — that’s what I read everywhere — to, oh, Lord knows what all I’ve been in between. I think “indie queen” kind of took over from there, and then that’s it. I’m like the brilliant, business strategist.
AP: There was a piece in Fortune magazine about you a while back.
DiFranco: Yeah, they sort of get fascinated by the idea of making money, as though that’s what I’m doing. Actually, how I was trying to speak to (the audience) on stage, I feel more respected and appreciated than I ever have, just for being outspoken politically. ... I feel so much support for that now, you know, which strikes me heavily when people ask — because I get asked all the time now — “Is it difficult for you to be so politically outspoken at a time like this?” I know I’m supposed to say, “Yes, it’s very hard.” But the answer is: No, it’s way easier. I’ve never had more friends, more support.
AP: Earlier in your career, some of your fans didn’t like how you or your music changed. Does that happen much now?
DiFranco: I’ve never really aimed to be successful or accessible or instantly digestible or even likable, you know, or tolerable. I put so many things out there that are not that polished or even all that calculated or certainly not even close to perfected, these crazy recordings that I make. So it’s probably often a strenuous listen. It can be pleasing or not at any given time. I know I demand a lot from a listener. ... That’s the way I am, so I think it makes sense to me. ... I’ve always been aware that I’m just a person, you know, even though over the years, the media has said that this is girl music for girls — grrrls, you know, chick singer — and sort of dictated who showed up to the shows. So it’s kind of default who responded.
AP: What’s next for Ani DiFranco?
DiFranco: Now that I’ve made this record at home alone, one of the things I’ve wanted to do for a long time is make just a guitar record, just an instrumental record. I thought now that I got my engineering chops up at home and I’m kind of in the groove with my 8-track, I’ve sort of started working on that. And then I also, of course, still continue to write songs and I was thinking I might try collaborating in the studio with a producer and maybe make a different situation than I’ve recorded thus far. I think I’m at a point in my career now where I could maybe even call somebody up and say, “Are you interested in working on a record?” And they might even be.