Righteous Babe

Singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco reinvents the music industry

| July/August 2001

Musician Ani DiFranco doesn’t just fly in the face of conventional wisdom. She flies circles around it. The spunky singer-songwriter from Buffalo, New York, has amassed a loyal horde of fans and consistently sells more than 200,000 copies of her albums—all without signing with a major label or kowtowing to the music machine in any of the usual ways.

She’s done it through sheer force of talent and will, producing 12 albums and releasing them on her own label, Righteous Babe Records, where she wears the pants of both CEO and flagship act. DiFranco’s do-it-yourself ethos has been an inspiration for countless fledgling artists, and her music—which began as a grrlish offshoot of folk but has mushroomed into an unclassifiable

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collage touching on soul, funk, and even jazz—has won admirers with its fierce honesty and rhythmic drive.

DiFranco has recorded with pop-funkster Prince, sung union songs with folkie raconteur Utah Phillips, and performed at Carnegie Hall with singer-songwriter Greg Brown. Her new two-CD album, Revelling/Reckoning, reflects her increasingly expansive musical and lyrical vocabulary.

Righteous Babe Records has put DiFranco’s progressive ideals into practice by locating its offices in struggling downtown Buffalo and supporting local citizens groups through the Righteous Babe Foundation. The label, which releases albums by an eclectic bunch of musicians, is also getting into publishing with plans for a how-to book on running an independent record label.

DiFranco recently took time out from a tour to speak by phone about her media consumption habits, Righteous Babe’s idealistic mission, and the importance of saying no to corporate culture.

Where do you get the bulk of your news ?
The Nation is mostly where I get what I think of as accurate information and reasonable opinions.

How about daily news on current events?
I’m on the road constantly. Every now and then we get a newspaper outside our hotel door—but usually it’s USA Today. Most of our news we get by word-of-mouth as we go venue to venue.