Swing Set 

Ani DiFranco's powerful honesty hits Richmond with her Vote Dammit Tour.

Her business sense has also redrawn some lines. Frustrated early on by record executives blind to the extent of her talents, DiFranco started her own record label, Righteous Babe, primarily to retain artistic control. She's now a model for both victimized artists and record executives who missed the boat. Her political nature has never waned, with her focus being on women's issues from the beginning, but most recently the poor for whom the last Presidential election inspired her to act. Reached at her home in Buffalo, NY, DiFranco commented candidly on things political and artistic.

Style: Do you felt the current political administration in the United States has inspired you in some way?

DiFranco: Yeah, absolutely. In my short life I've never seen a bigger crisis of our government, of our society. I see a deepening sickness in America. My friends and I sit around and say 'What can we do?' Well, first, a regime change! The thing that can save us is our will, and that's what makes me hopeful.

Why is it the Vote Dammit tour?

I think we're a little overdue with this voting thing. I think it's a shame with our history. People fought for the right to vote - women and African-Americans. Women only got that right 80 years ago, and we're already apathetic to this privilege.

Do you feel embarrassed or betrayed by how few young voters voted in the last Presidential election?

Well, there are so many things to feel, and those are probably amongst them, but I sympathize with the lack of inspiration to get involved. I think as Americans we tend to want to have a lot of power, instantly. To have to vote to make change may be frustrating to some.

What does power mean to you?

Ah, power. I've long subscribed to the idea that we are as powerful as we imagine that we are. In my life, it's manifested itself as managing to pull off things that people say is impossible. My power is to talk very personally, to not purport to speak for others. Hopefully I represent something bigger by truly expressing myself.

You seem strong and fearless. Are there things that you fear?

I'm not a big fear person, that's helped a lot! I have plenty of weaknesses - that first part was a lie, for example! I have colossal insecurities, all the Achilles heels that come with standing on human legs. My work is inventing a place where I can be strong, where I can be myself. I've been notoriously not so in my personal life.

Some feel you're a hero or a champion for them. Is that a burden?

Sometimes folks try to make it a burden. I try not to take it on. I'm clear that I can't be for someone else! Being true to myself — in the good moments, in the sucking moments — being true is what connects me to people, not being heroic or helpful. There's something very powerful about honesty. S

Ani DiFranco's "Vote Dammit Tour" comes to the Carpenter Center, 600 E. Grace St., Sunday Sept. 12, at 8 p.m. Dan Bern opens. Tickets $30.50-$32.50 through Ticketmaster (262-8100) or Plan 9 Music.

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