10 Things You Might Not Know About Singer-Songwriter Ani Difranco
Over her more than 20 year career, singer/songwriter Ani Difranco has released over 40 albums, covered thousands of miles while touring, and built a loyal fan base. Through her creativity and commitment to her music, she has gained millions of fans from all over the world. Despite all her success, here are some things you may not know about her:
1. Her Real First Name Is Angela
She was born Angela Maria Difranco in Buffalo, New York. According to various stories, her parents were involved in the local folk music scene and would invite touring musicians to stay at the family home when they were performing in the area. Ani began playing her guitar on the streets of Buffalo at age 9, but moved to New York City in her late teens to pursue her music.
2. She Shares a Birthday with Another Talented Singer-Songwriter, Bruce Springsteen
Both Ani and Bruce Springsteen were born on September 23 (Ani in 1970, Bruce in 1949), making them both Libras. They both performed at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday concert at Madison Square Garden on May 3, 2009.
3. She Has Always Recorded Her Music on Her Own Record Label
Over the years, Ani has passed up contracts from established record companies to run her own label. She started her record company Righteous Babe Records (originally called Righteous Records) in 1989, and released her first record, Ani Difranco, in 1990. This decision has allowed Ani to produce or co-produce all of her records, sometimes recording and releasing more than one record in a year. She has also signed other artists to her label and distributed their records.
As of 2013, Ani has released 23 studio albums, in addition to over 15 live and official bootleg recordings. Ani has also been nominated for four Grammy Awards for Best Recording Package, winning in 2004 for her album Evolve.
4. She Recorded a Cover of "Wishin' and Hopin'" for the Soundtrack of the Movie My Best Friend's Wedding
The movie My Best Friend's Wedding was released in 1997 and starred Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Rupert Everett, and Cameron Diaz. A number of popular recording artists were chosen to cover the classic songs that were featured in the movie. Ani's cover of the Dusty Springfield hit, "Wishin' and Hopin'" was one of the most popular covers on the movie's soundtrack.
5. Instead of Using a Guitar Pick, Ani Uses Fake Nails
Ani has discussed her guitar playing in a number of interviews, including her use of open or alternate tunings on her guitar. She is also often asked about using fake nails as her guitar picks. In the January 2012 issue of Premier Guitar magazine, Ani explained how she used Nailene fake nails, gluing them on with superglue, and reinforcing them by wrapping electrical tape down to her second knuckle. These thick pieces of plastic allow Ani to strum, pick, tear, and thump her guitar strings - a signature of her songs and live performances.
6. One of Her Most Popular Songs, 32 Flavors, Was Covered by Alana Davis
Pop/soul singer Alana Davis had her first radio hit with a cover of Ani Difranco's "32 Flavors" in 1997. Ani originally recorded the song on her Not A Pretty Girl album, released in 1995. Alana's version adds a dance beat to Ani's original folk/acoustic song, and changes the lyrics in the chorus a bit.
Ani also included live versions of the song on her Living in Clip and So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter albums.
7. Her First Biography, Published in 2000, Was Riddled with Errors
In 2000, Raffaele Quirino released an unauthorized biography of Ani, entitled Ani Difranco: Righteous Babe. Although the book relied heavily on interviews with Ani that were published in other sources, the biography still contained many mistakes and inaccuracies. Some of these mistakes are minor, such as referring to songs by the wrong title or misquoating her lyrics. Others are more serious, such as confusing Ani's longtime drummer Andy Stochansky with her first husband, Andrew Gilchrist.
8. She Has Turned a Renovated Church into an Arts Center in Buffalo
Although Ani now lives in New Orleans with her family, she has not left her hometown of Buffalo behind. In 1999, Ani purchased an old Gothic Revival church with the vision of creating a cultural center in the city's downtown that would serve not only as an arts space, but also encourage economic development in the area.
In 2006, "Babeville" as the building was renamed, opened with the main sanctuary rebuilt as a 1,200 seat performance venue, and a gallery space on the first floor, a screening room in the basement, and Ani's Righteous Babe record label offices on the second floor. Ani performed for the first time at the new venue on September 11, 2007.
9. Ani Recorded a Cover of "Comfortably Numb" with Dar Williams
In 2005, Ani collaborated with fellow musician Dar Williams on a cover of Pink Floyd's classic hit "Comfortably Numb". The song was included on Dar's album My Better Self. Although die-hard Pink Floyd fans may not appreciate this new version, the Difranco/Williams cover is a softer rendition of the song, with more emphasis put on the lyrics.
Dar Williams said in interviews at the time that she felt the song could serve as a commentary on the 2004 Presidential election.
10. Ani Has Received the Prestigious "Woman of Courage" Award from Now
On July 21, 2006, Ani attended the National Organization for Women (NOW) Conference and Young Feminist Summit to receive the "Woman of Courage" award. This award is given to women who have made great contributions to the feminist movement. She was one of the first musicians to earn the award. Past winners include Barbra Streisand and Senator Barbara Boxer from California.
For more information about Ani Difranco and her music, visit her website www.righteousbabe.com. Her site includes information on all her albums and songs, along with tour dates and the latest news.