Before she issues her next studio album, ever-busy singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco tells Billboard.com she will unveil a two-hour movie about her life -- on and off the road over the past five years --
Before she issues her next studio album, ever-busy singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco tells Billboard.com she will unveil a two-hour movie about her life -- on and off the road over the past five years -- and a live album via her Righteous Babe Records label. Shot largely by DiFranco friend Hilary Goldberg, "Render: Spanning Time With Ani DiFranco" is due June 11 on VHS/DVD and features performances of the previously unreleased songs "In the Way" and "Slide."
Featuring cameos by Hammell On Trial, as well as Righteous Babe artists Utah Phillips and the duo Bitch & Animal, "Render" shows the singer on the road, in the studio, and at home in Buffalo, N.Y. Coinciding with several of her songs, the film also touches on urban decay, racism, sexuality, and the death penalty. It includes performances of such songs as "Fire Door," "Subdivision," "'Tis of Thee," and "Two Little Girls."
Slated for a fall release is DiFranco's second live album, "So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter," which will include a version of "Self Evident," a riveting poem about the events of Sept. 11. The artist's prior live set, 1997's "Living in Clip," debuted at No. 59 on The Billboard 200 and has sold 378,000 copies in the U.S. to date, according to SoundScan.
Though she had performed the poem -- a detailed recounting of what it was like to be in New York that day -- on previous stops on her recent tour, DiFranco says doing "Self Evident" recently in front of an audience at New York's Carnegie Hall proved both terrifying and, ultimately, cathartic.
"I launched into it, luckily for me, before the panic really set in," DiFranco says of the performance. " I started flapping my lips and then I thought, 'What the f*** am I doing?' Ya know? I mean, who knows what these people in this room lost, who they lost, how [9/11] impacted their personal lives. Like, ya know, 'I'm dumping something pretty big on people unsuspecting in this audience right now, and just summoning all of our collective emotion around it -- which in New York can be pretty heavy. I remember standing there onstage and hearing somebody sobbing from the second upper balcony.
"I was just panicking the whole way through," she continues. "I felt so compelled to speak to it, but, ya know, you're always questioning, 'What do I have a right to?' or 'What am I asking of my audience right now?' It was really heavy for me. I was crying, and they were crying, we we're all crying. And it was beautiful at the end."
DiFranco says the song was still unfinished until that very performance. "I was in New York on the 11th," she relates. "There was a lot to process, a lot to think about, a lot to write down, and grapple through. It was called 'Work in Progress' until that show. When I went back and performed that poem before a house full of witnesses and bore witness before them and amongst them, I felt like it was done. I had worked on it for months, just kind of tweaking it and changing it, adding to it. The question just became when to stop, ya know? There's just so much to say."
The song has ended up being "six or seven"-minutes long, DiFranco says, adding that "In the Way" and "Slide" will show up on her next, as-yet-untitled studio album, the follow-up to last year's two-disc set, "Revelling/Reckoning."