In a family way 

Ani DiFranco embraces the challenge of domesticity

Ani DiFranco is more than just a social activist, a feminist, an independent music pioneer, and a consistently challenging singer, songwriter and performer.

She's also a mom. And being a mom is very much on her mind as she starts her tour promoting current album Allergic to Water.

"I'm good," she says over the phone, "but my brain is a little scattered. I've got both my kids with me."

Those kids are 7-year-old daughter Petah, a veteran of mom's tours, and son Dante, who was born in 2013.

"It's a grand experiment," DiFranco says of taking Dante on the bus. "I actually brought him on the road when he was 5 months old and it didn't go so well. He's now a year-and-a-half. We're going to do this for a while and see if we survive.

"I went to Europe for three weeks last month," she adds. "That's a long time to leave a 1-year-old when you're a mom. It's hard. It really fucks with a baby's head to have a disappearing mommy. And it's hard for mommy, too. So we're trying this. I hope it works."

Even if Dante is back home in New Orleans, the little guy will still have an impact every time DiFranco performs one of the songs from Allergic to Water. The album was recorded, for the most part, while she was pregnant with him, and completed not long after he was born.

"I started making the record with him in my belly and I finished with him in my face," she says. "He affected the whole process. He's a demanding guy. So I found myself working on this record in little snatches, in the wee hours, whenever I could."

Allergic to Water's themes reflect the artist's recent bouts of domesticity.

"Having kids has affected me," DiFranco says. "It's not in that classic way: 'Now I need to worry about the future. Environmental apocalypse, whoa! Eternal warfare, whoa!' I was always on that tip. Kids, conversely for me, have brought a kind of balance in my life. I can put down the heavy things and play with the little things, the small things."

Although DiFranco and her band — bassist Todd Sickafoose, drummer Terence Higgins and, on some shows, violinist/vocalist/opening act Jenny Scheinman — will be performing many of the songs from Allergic to Water, the set list is never entirely static.

"I pull out whatever my spleen leads me to do on whatever day," she says.

Naturally, that will also include songs from throughout DiFranco's two-decade career, which has at different times incorporated folk, rock, jazz, soul, and even electronic elements.

Thematically, though, her material has a more linear through-line.

"For me, there's a lot about becoming yourself, on your own terms," she says. "Something that's been a theme in my music, and in my history, is to jump out of that box. And then that box. And THAT box. Burn 'em. Set yourself free."


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