Ani DiFranco hasn’t written a song in the past year.
That’s unusual for the activist and feminist singer-songwriter from upstate New York who has called New Orleans home since 2003. Given the 2016 presidential election and its postelection drama, the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement that it helped inspire, now would seem to be the time for DiFranco to write more of her socially conscious songs.
She is writing, but not songs.
“I’m still working on the damn book,” DiFranco said of her memoir-in-progress. “I only just now showed my work to my editor. I’m on the edge of my seat, awaiting feedback on this thing I’ve already dedicated a year to.”
Because DiFranco and her husband — producer, engineer and musician Mike Napolitano — are raising their two children, time to write is scarce. The scenario reminds DiFranco of Virginia Woolf’s classic feminist essay, “A Room of One’s Own.”
“Can I write a book in stolen mommy moments?” she asked.
When DiFranco finds time to concentrate on the memoir, it’s a different world from her customary realm of songwriting and performing.
“Over the years, I became accustomed to that interface of song and verses and choruses and storytelling,” she said. “But with this book, first of all, I’m on my own. It’s a new medium to try to figure out.”
The book work hasn’t stopped DiFranco’s usual spring and fall tours. Her “Rise Up” tour includes a performance Saturday at the Varsity Theatre in Baton Rouge.
The tour’s title is a direct reaction to Donald Trump’s presidency.
“It’s great that it (the Trump presidency) is instigating us to activate ourselves," she said. "We’re in a political crisis. All environmental protections are disappearing. Consumer protections are about to disappear. The internet will no longer be free.
"There are so many things happening right now in the political arena that need to be fought against. And my shows are gathering places for civic-minded people and activists.”
As for the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, they’re “mostly pure awesomeness,” DiFranco said.
“Women have been pushing their way into society. Now we’ve achieved this critical mass where, suddenly, our stories count," she said. "And I’ve never felt less alone. Now, if I say something ridiculous like ‘patriarchy’ in polite conversation, there’s a place for it. That’s new.”
DiFranco has been asked to run for political office. But as passionate as she is about her causes, she doesn’t what to be more public than she is now.
“In the takedown culture that we live in now, it doesn’t matter if I’ve done anything wrong or not, people could use my own albums against me," she said. "I don’t think I could withstand that. It would be emotionally debilitating.”
Following the projected completion of her memoir this year, DiFranco will be free to write songs again.
“I’m going to finally push this book over the finish line,” she said. “And then I’ll see if my songwriting muscle has atrophied. It’s hard not to panic about the whole scenario.”
DiFranco began writing songs at 14 and has written hundreds since. She also set the template for indie music artists. In 1990, after the 500 cassette tapes she made to sell to fans sold out, the then 20-year-old DiFranco formed Righteous Babe Records. Despite her fierce independence in the music business, she became a mainstream star in the mid-’90s.
“It’s been a great ride,” she said. “I am only jealous of my jazz friends, who’ve played even more fabulous corners of the world than I have. It’s been a joy to have music be my passport for so many years.”
ANI DIFRANCO/GRACIE AND RACHEL
WHEN: Saturday. Doors at 7 p.m. Show starts at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Varsity Theatre, 3353 Highland Road, Baton Rouge
COST: $22 in advance, $25 the day of the show