Famous for its alternate-tuning adventurousness and a percussive attack that’s influenced as much by funk bass playing as it is folk, world music, and jazz, Di Franco’s playing is rife with hammer-ons, pull-offs, snaps, and pops—all amplified through a multi-signal rig that includes pro-audio outboard gear, a wah pedal, a Rivera combo, and, more recently, a ’60s Magnatone Twilighter tube amp that her husband and producer, Mike Napolitano, got her hooked on.We recently spoke to Di Franco about her inner guitar nerd and how playing at protest legend Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday in 2009 impacted her upcoming release, (in stores January 17)—the first album she truly feels is an accurate reflection of who she is as a guitarist and songwriter. I’m not touring with the other new instruments I’ve got—but I’ve been recording with them.You’re a hero to a lot of musicians and everyday people because of your courage to stand up not only for yourself but also for big causes—you’re kind of a thorn in the side of The Man, really. I’ve been playing Alvarez guitars pretty much my whole career, and they’ve served me really well.But we thought it’d be fun to mostly set aside that stuff and talk to Ani Di Franco the guitar nerd. The company has been a great friend to me and has designed guitars for me along the way, including this new baritone that I’ve been playing and really loving—and I think a lot of my stage sound is very related to those instruments and their strengths."There's nothing better to make your job seem like a vacation than children," she laughs. From sticking with a new hometown amidst post-storm chaos to raising two children (Petah, eight, and Dante, two) while maintaining the prolific touring and recording schedule she's kept up for 25 years, Di Franco seems to thrive on motion.
Though most of Terence's musical incarnations have him playing drum kit, this record really features his hand-percussion prowess – like the congas on See See See See, the Mardi Gras Indian style tambourine on Genie – he nailed it every time."And speaking of New Orleans, the incredible Ivan Neville joins the band on a good number of these tunes and, like Todd, has a way of elevating and deepening (does that make sense? Ivan sunk his funky footprint into the mud of Dithering and brought a steamy shimmer to Tr'w.
Because the new babe is so high-maintenance (Welcome to parenting a boy!
say my knowing friends) I pretty much mixed and produced this one myself, after years of working very closely with my ace record-producing husband, Mike Napolitano."Mostly I worked alone in headphones, in the wee hours, while my family slept.
In the process, she’s become a role model for everyone from busking students to superstars like Prince, who once told CNN, “…
she’s a brilliant musician, but she’s really inspired me with her take on life and … It’s self-evident what she stands for, and you either let that inspire you, or you let someone who sings about drugs and violence and goes to the top of the charts inspire you.” Though some may not subscribe to the frequently heavy and political lyrical themes in her songs—she’s an avid commentator on political ironies/hypocrisies and issues ranging from racism to poverty and sexual equality—few could fault her stalwart refusal to let any corporation dictate what, when, where, why, how, and with whom she records.