Ani DiFranco Learned (and Cried) a Lot During Her First Year in N.Y.C.

Ani DiFranco Learned (and Cried) a Lot During Her First Year in N.Y.C.


In the late ’80s and early ’90s, I started reading Audre Lorde and Alice Walker and Judy Grahn and bell hooks and Adrienne Rich and Lucille Clifton. These poets and philosophers and writers seismically unlocked me to myself. I grew up in a man’s world, and I was taught everything through a man’s eyes in a man’s words. It wasn’t until I read these women that I realized, “Oh, there’s more.”


When I started getting legit gigs at folk and roots music festivals, they would throw you onstage with other performers. There might be a singer from Guam, some Tuvan throat singers, some African dudes with guitars and an Eastern European choir. We didn’t share a verbal language, but we could talk to each other through music and become friends in this way.


The first time I played Jazz Fest, I thought, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.” Every time I was not on tour, I would go to New Orleans, because I wanted to go where I felt inspired. Then I started renting an apartment, then I fell in love with a local, and he was my reason to stay and make a home. I’ve been there about 20 years, and the shine has not worn off one bit.


I’ve smoked a lot of pot in my day, and I know it to be a really instrumental element of my awakening. I haven’t engaged in mushrooms as much, but I feel like it is also fundamental to human evolution. Whole genres of music and artistic movements have evolved and moved forward hand in hand with these gifts of nature.


When I moved to New York, I was at the New School studying, and I found myself reading books and talking about them. It’s like, Oh my God, this is really important stuff. The format of a book, it’s a road deeply into another person’s mind and life, to a whole other way of being, to whole other worlds, that I don’t find paralleled in any other genre of art.

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