Not only is Ani DiFranco a Grammy Award-winning signer-songwriter, she’s also a political activist, wife and mother.
Through her music, she advocates for her beliefs and shares personal experiences.
Often classified as a folk artist with a knack for incorporating soul, funk, jazz, electronic music and spoken word into her music, DiFranco will be playing some of her greatest hits and songs from her latest album “¿Which Side Are You On?” Thursday, Nov. 7 at the Park Theatre in Cranston.
While she’ll perform a few songs solo, she’ll also be part of what she described as a “killer band,” with Todd Sickafoose on bass and Terence Higgins on drums.
“I’m working with one of the most fun trios I’ve ever worked with,” she said in an interview. “We’re really starting to get down together. We’re getting our own groove.”
Each year around this time, she makes her way to New England. She’s happy to be coming to Rhode Island, as she has cousins nearby in Providence.
“Hopefully, I’ll be seeing them,” said DiFranco. “I’m from Buffalo, so I’m from the Northeast, and I’ve got tons of friends in every major and minor metropolitan area in the Northeast. For me, I get to come in right around holiday time and check in with a lot of peeps.”
After she finishes her Northeast tour mid-month, DiFranco will head to California in January before visiting the Midwest and Canada in February. She’ll then revisit the West Coast for a few shows, and finish up in May with a gig in Maine with a couple breaks in between.
Being away from her two children isn’t easy, she said, but she’s used to juggling her career with motherhood.
“It’s created a sense of balance for me,” she said. “I have my happiness, my love and my interests poured into my work. When I go on tour, I feel so excited to be back out in the world amongst adults and doing what I love to do.”
When her now 6-year-old daughter was 2, she was adamant about not letting DiFranco play guitar. It was as if the guitar “was the enemy.”
“It was the thing that took me away from her,” said DiFranco. “She wasn’t in to me playing at home at all.”
Luckily, her daughter has grown out of that, and at times, her 6-month-old son is a distraction. But they are worth it.
“Like any mom or parent, the kids come first,” DiFranco said. “They don’t want you to go off into the world and play guitar.”
While her kids sometimes thwart her from writing new material at their home in New Orleans, there’s one family member who makes the whole process a lot easier: her husband, Mike Napolitano. He co-produced her 2009 release, “Red Letter Year,” as well as “¿Which Side Are You On?”
“He’s got awesome studio skills,” said DiFranco. “I’m very lucky.”
She said the album, which was released last year, includes a lot of “in your face” political songs. The title track is a revamped version of a 1930s labor anthem of the same name.
“‘¿Which Side Are You On?’ is a call to action type of song,” she said. “The chorus is not really about taking sides. It’s about, are you going to take responsibility, or are you just going to sit back? It’s that kind of rabble rousing tune. In these times, I thought it would be such a good one to put out there.”
Another song, “Amendment” highlights women’s issues, while “Splinter” focuses on the environment.
“There are all kinds of things going on,” said DiFranco.
She collaborated with a number of accomplished artists for the album, such as Pete Seeger, Cyril and Ivan Neville, Allison Miller, Andy Borger, Mike Dillon, also known as Mike D, and more.
With 20 years in the business and more than 20 albums, as well as her own label, Righteous Babe Records, she’s made many contacts through her career. She also has advice for aspiring performers.
“Just love what you do and continue to do it no matter what,” she said. “When you are doing what you love, really investing yourself in it and working hard, the world will rise to meet you. Worry about right now and connecting with the person in front of you.”
DiFranco is looking forward to her show at the Park Theatre. The event will feature two opening acts by solo performers, including slam poet Buddy Wakefield and singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick.
“They are both just super fun performers,” she said.
The Park Theatre is located at 848 Park Avenue in Cranston. To purchase tickets, which range in price from $35 to $45, stop by the Box Office, order via phone at 467-7275, or visit ParkTheatreRI.com. The show begins at 7:30 p.m.