Ani DiFranco Biography
Ani DiFranco's career as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist is proof positive that "alternative rock" can mean much much more than a group of guys with electric guitars and a hefty record contract. In a culture where multinational corporations sing the praises of the "indie" aesthetic, Ani has created a truly provocative means of producing music on her own terms and getting it to listeners. She has broken just about every rule of the music industry, and in the process has paved the way for other artists, emerging and established performers alike, seeking real alternatives to corporate control.
Born in Buffalo, NY in 1970, Ani's first interests were dance and visual art. Her earliest awareness of music came not from pop albums and radio airplay, but from first-hand encounters with working musicians in Buffalo bars, many of whom stayed overnight with her family on their way across the Northeast. The intimacy and hand-to-mouth economics of the folk tradition fueled Ani's own passion for live performance, and she began singing and playing acoustic guitar in these same Rust Belt bars before she was 10 years old. By age 15, she was writing songs of her own and hitting the regional coffeehouse and club circuit herself.
By the time she decided to record a cassette in 1990, Ani had more than 100 original compositions to choose from. Ani's lyrics, then as now, were as plainspoken as they were poetic; she wrote about the world around her, using her own experience as a starting (never an ending) point. Like countless performers before her, Ani chose to release that first album herself, without the financial backing of a able. Borrowing money from friends to cover the costs of incorporation and studio time, 20 year old Ani produced her own self-titled debut album and sold it from the trunk of her hand-painted car while blazing a path across the college campuses and seedy dives of America.
Those live shows, along with fourth-generation dubs of several early, acoustically spare recordings, sparked interest in Ani from coast to coast. Fans invariably asked for not just one album but every album Ani would ever produce; which then became fodder for homemade mix tapes passed from friend to friend. Offers from labels large and small began to pop up more and more often, but unlike most young artists under similar circumstances, Ani decided to continue releasing albums herself (11 of 'em by early 1998), which allowed her a far greater degree of artistic control than any outside interest would have provided. To this day, Ani has the last word on how often her albums come out, what songs they contain, what the graphics and accompanying merchandise look like, which singles and videos get released, and so on.
But Righteous Babe is no longer a dining-room-table operation. In the eight years since the first album, Ani has played larger and larger venues (currently averaging 2-6000 seats), sold more and more records (over 1,120,000 at last count), made the covers of various national magazines, and appeared several times on network television. Each of these developments, while not an end in itself, has provided the impetus for new opportunities. Ani's income from concerts and record sales get channeled directly back into future projects, which in turn allow her to support like-minded fellow artists, Buffalo businesses, and grassroots culture workers.
Everything happens organically in DiFranco-land. After figuring out for herself over the course of many albums how to capture her sound in the studio, Ani has become a sought-after producer (Janis Ian, Dan Bern) and guest vocalist and guitarist (Bruce Cockburn). She has contributed to the soundtracks of films from low-budget student projects to "My Best Friend's Wedding" and "The Jackal". And she has even begun to release work by other artists on her label, starting with her critically acclaimed collaboration with folk legend Utah Phillips, "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere."
There is no single sound or song which encapsulates the range of Ani's craft. Over the course of her career so far, she has performed solo, with accompanying bass and drums, and, on one memorable occasion, with the Buffalo Philharmonic; in the studio, she has employed horn sections, gospel singers, sample, and answering machine recordings; she has released spoken word tracks, dance remixes, and a double live album. The only constants in Ani's world are her commitment to writing and performing intensely personal songs, her fans' deep connection to her work, and her intuitive insistence on doing things her own way. -Righteous Babe Records
Band Bio..by aj
ani was accompanied by drummer andy stochansky for many years of her career. andy is a truly amazing drummer, and he always managed to complement ani's music very well. in addition to percussion, andy did a great job with backing vocals. andy has an album of his own material available (check his website at http://andystochansky.com). andy will no longer be playing with ani in order that he may work on some of his own musical projects. andy will surely be missed, i enjoyed watching him nearly as much as watching ani during live performances.
during her 1996 tour, ani had a new addition to the band, bassist sara lee, whose previous experience includes performances with the indigo girls, b-52's and gang of four. you can hear sara on the live release living in clip.
for the 1997 tour, ani had a new bass player, canadian import jason mercer. his other band (bourbon tabernacle choir) is on an extended break, so he was able to join the ani clan. in addition to electric bass, he also played banjo and upright bass during one of the shows i saw, and that was pretty impressive in and of itself... also, jason has the same birthday as ani.
on little plastic castle, both jason and sara shared the bass duties. since lpc, jason has taken over the all the bass playing. on dilate and all the previous studio albums, ani handled the bass playing in addition to her guitar duties. several other bass players appeared at scattered gig before 1996, but none of them stuck with the band until sara joined.
for the 1998 tour, ani was accompanied for the first time by keyboardist julie wolf. she is a great addition and adds many background vocals. julie has worked with laura love in the past, but now seems firmly entrenched as ani's keyboardist. also new in fall 1998, ani was joined by drummer denny fongheiser, who also played on dan bern's fifty eggs, among other work.
daren hahn is the new drummer for the 1999 tour. he played formerly with geggy tah. daren also appears on the utah phillips / ani collaborative album fellow workers. andy's shoes are big ones to fill, but daren is an excellent drummer and seems to be a great fit with the rest of the band.
the spring 2000 tour brings two new musicians into the band, saxophone player hans teuber, and trumpet player shane endsley. both hans and shane also add percussion talents as well.
in addition to the band members, there are some other people to mention... ani's guitar tech is reggie dickinson. occasionally in the past reggie has joined the band for "joyful girl". sometimes another one of the band techs, larry berger, has been playing on "joyful girl" instead. you can also see larry before each show setting up microphones and generally getting everything ready for ani. andrew gilchrist (goatboy) is the soundman, and is also often seen checking out mics before a show. goat does the sampling that ani sometimes uses in concert. in addition, heidi kunkel, the "mistress of merch", can usually be spotted selling ani-goodies at the merch table. incidentally, "little plastic castle" was written for heidi.
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Loved. | Reviewer: Matt | 2/12/09
I haven't yet seen Ani in perosn, but soon it will happen. Her music that she produces is very inspiring, especially to someone who loves her like myself. Her newest album, Red Letter Year, isn't what i expected. Her old songs are so much more thougfht provoking. My favorite song/poem she has written is "My IQ" and I feel like the words and quotes she is trying to get through to the listener is so real. But, I do and always will love Ani DiFranco.
AMAZING!!!!! | Reviewer: Stacy | 7/18/07
I saw Ani for the first time live Monday evening in Santa Cruz, CA. She completely blew me away and I'm in love. If you haven't seen her live yet it's a must!
Wow | Reviewer: Hippylicious hever | 2/28/05
I am a fan of ani and i am truelly inspired by her music. many of my friends have not heard of her because i she is not well known here, but that doesn't stop me.
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