Ani DiFranco is no stranger to politics. A leader in the feminist movement, the singer-songwriter and poet isn’t afraid to dive deep, meeting social issues head-on not only through her music, but in activism.
There was a time when she even considered taking a more active role, flirting with the idea of serving in public office.
“This Trump as president business has us all thinking about it now,” DiFranco said. “Hey, wow, anybody can be president. It’s true! People have said it to me for a long time because I’ve been politically active for a long time.”
But the idea was fleeting. Given the nature of our mudslinging political system, DiFranco is well aware she would spend more time fending off opponents than she would addressing legitimate issues.
“I was just thinking about it last night actually, and I don’t think it would be possible in this climate of attack and ‘gotcha’ and takedown,” DiFranco said. “If I was running for some sort of office, someone would appoint themselves to be my personal attack artist, and I think it would make life untenable for me. I mean, I’ve not done anything criminal or wrong, or maybe even that I should be ashamed of, but I would be because I’m human, and I think the pain of that kind of life would make it impossible for me to pursue.”
That doesn’t stop her from tackling social issues through her music, as is apparent in her latest album, Binary. The debut single from the record, Play God, directly confronts the issue of women’s reproductive rights, with a hard-hitting refrain that challenges the listener with the words, “You don’t get to play God, man, I do.”
Yet even in such tumultuous times, DiFranco is cautiously optimistic. Even in the face of such enormous struggle, she sees brave people willing to stand up for what is right.
“I am heartened by every new activated citizen I see and encounter, and all of the ways I see people making themselves accountable,” DiFranco said. “When in doubt, if you have insanity at the top then we have to organize ourselves down in the trenches, and I think there is a lot more of that going on. That can potentially have a real positive, lasting effect for us as citizens and as community leaders.”
And it’s not just people in the spotlight who can make a difference. DiFranco believes in the small, everyday actions that anybody can make to effect positive change. Part of it is unplugging from the constant barrage of negativity prevalent on 24-hour news networks and social media — and part of it is simply acting.
“I would say turn off the device, look away and look around you,” DiFranco said. “That’s what helps me is to get involved with other people who are doing good shit, and try to help them. Try to help the person that is closest to you that is doing something positive in this world, and the effect on yourself, yet alone the world, I think is really liberating.”
You can catch DiFranco’s performance at the end of this month at 20 Monroe Live, where she will be joined by the pop piano-violin duo Gracie and Rachel.
“Gracie and Rachel are opening up the show and they’re awesome,” DiFranco said. “They’re going to be doing some sitting in with me and my band, too. It’s going to be fun.”
Ani DiFranco wsg. Gracie and Rachel
20 Monroe Live, 11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Feb. 27, 7 p.m. $39.50-$135
20monroelive.com, (844) 678-5483