More songs are essential to DiFranco

June 10, 1999|By J.D. CONSIDINE | J.D. CONSIDINE,SUN POP MUSIC CRITIC

Ani DiFranco has a tour coming up and is a little busy at the moment. But where other musicians would be rushing to rehearsal or obsessing over the itinerary, DiFranco is trying to squeeze in studio time to do some recording before she leaves.

"I've got a bunch of new songs, as always," she says cheerily, over the phone from her home base in Buffalo, N.Y. "So I'm going to start working on my next solo record."

That DiFranco would be champing at the bit to get a new album under way is fairly amazing, considering that she has already released two albums this year -- the understated, eloquent "Up Up Up Up Up," and a brand-new collaboration with veteran folkie Utah Phillips called "Fellow Workers." For some singers, that would be enough recording work for three or four years, but for DiFranco, it's just a drop in the bucket.

"It's funny, because the word 'prolific' is often used in relation to me," she says. "But for me, it seems excruciating if I don't have a new song in any given week or month. Because I need to keep myself interested in what I'm doing -- which for me means always having new things. I can't get onstage and play the same songs over and over again, so I have to kind of keep writing just to keep myself in touch with my own music. So I tend to work kind of quickly, I guess. Or just a lot."

DiFranco believes that this feverish need to create comes from her background in the folk music scene, where artists are judged not by the number of albums they've sold, but by the number of songs they've written.

"When I first moved to New York City, there was this Monday night open mike down at the old Speakeasy, which was the last vestige of the West Village folk scene," she recalls. "All these songwriters would go to it, and you were supposed to have a new song every week to play. That was the deal. You had to show up and play a new song.

"It's just a different kind of mind set, I guess."

Having a "different kind of mind set" was part of what earned DiFranco her audience in the first place. A folk singer who was both totally of her time yet completely uninterested in playing the usual music industry games, DiFranco seemed living proof that a female musician could be herself without apology and succeed entirely on her own terms.

But now that she has achieved that success, she finds that there are some critics and fans who are upset at her continued personal growth and musical evolution.

"There's pressure on an artist to invent a shtick and stick to it," she says. "I'm becoming more and more aware of that, now. Like this new record, I think, surprised some people with the evolution that it was taking, and so there was a lot of resistance to it, which really blew my mind.

"But I try to tell myself I'm doing something right if I'm still [ticking] people off."

Ani DiFranco

When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Pier Six Concert Pavilion

Tickets: $27.50

Call: 410-481-7328

Pub Date: 06/10/99

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