Folk singer Ani DiFranco has defined her career through her independent spirit, both on her albums and in her founding of Righteous Babe Records nearly a decade ago. But DiFranco's latest record, Educated Guess, due January 20th, pushes the limits of her independence further than ever. She played all the instruments, sang lead and backing vocals, and recorded and mixed the album alone in her home studio.
"I've mixed my records and been heavily involved in the recording process in the past," she says, "but there was always at least an engineer there to at least push record and set up microphones. It was like an exorcism of sorts -- a very lonely, very frustrating, excruciating process but also really empowering and really instructive."
In the last year, the prolific songwriter, whose last album was March's Evolve, made significant changes in her personal and professional life when she found her self struggling to keep up with her own schedule. "I was surrounded by a lot of people," she says. "The circumstance of my life changed drastically from the girl who wrote those first few albums alone. Then the audience grew, so I could afford to have a crew and a band. And suddenly I'm surrounded by people 24-7."
It was for those reasons that DiFranco set out on her own again for Educated Guess. "It takes a colossal amount of time and energy to be a bandleader, to be an arranger, to get five people up and at 'em every night," she says. "To power this big machine everyday and attend to it, feed it and fuel it. I let go of the band. I also let go of my dear lover. I feel like I'm only just beginning to feel myself over the past few years and come to terms with who I was amidst it all."
Educated Guess, DiFranco's twenty-first solo album, is one of her sharpest, most honest works to date. Its fourteen tracks document the struggles and empowerment of solitude and the desire to reconnect with a more authentic version of herself. The album's gritty sound -- DiFranco plays a series of guitars, some percussion, bass and even keyboards -- matches her candid songwriting.
"There's this unspoken assumption that you're supposed to get clean sounds and separation between the instruments," she says. "And you're certainly not supposed to have any ambient noise in the background. But I sort of abandoned that on this record out of necessity because I was recording in my house. To me, it sounds like home."
DiFranco is also compiling a live album on her solo tour -- which will run through early 2004 -- which she hopes to release next year as well.
Educated Guess track list:
Bliss Like This
The True Story of What Was
You Each Time
Ani DiFranco tour dates:
11/10: Burlington, VT, Flynn Theater
11/11: Portland, ME, Expo Center
11/12: Providence, RI, Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel
11/14: Poughkeepsie, NY, Mid Hudson Civic Center
11/15: Amherst, MA, Mullins Center
11/16: Boston, Orpheum Theater
11/18: Ithaca, NY, State Theater
11/19: Philadelphia, Keswick Theater
11/21-11/22: New York, Beacon Theater
11/25: Buffalo, NY, Kleinhans Music Hall
1/17: Chicago, Chicago Theater
1/18: Des Moines, IA, Hoyt Sherman Theater
1/20: Cedar Rapids, IA, Paramount Theater
1/21: Lawrence, KS, Liberty Hall
1/23: Minneapolis, Northrup Auditorium
1/24: Milwaukee, Riverside Theater
1/25: Madison, WI, Orpheum Theater
1/27: Ft. Wayne, IN, Scottish Rite Center
1/28: Kalamazoo, MI, Kalamazoo State Theater
1/30: Ann Arbor, MI, Hill Auditorium