Ani DiFranco’s Best Songs, Chosen By Her | Interview

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Ani DiFranco’s Best Songs, Chosen By Her | Interview

ANNIE DIFRANCO: There’s just something about that song that I feel very tender about. It’s one of the many songs that I don’t feel I realized as well as I could have on the record.

I think the record of Postponement the album maybe happened at a time that wasn’t the right time for me. It was an unfocused Annie documenting this song and I kind of regret it because I think it’s a crappy song. And I still play it live. Usually at that moment on set when everything falls apart and it feels like there’s enough room for something very quiet and subtle to come out.

It’s funny that I wrote this song in Japan, which seems like a long time ago. I was there on a tour and ended up staying a week to do some sightseeing. I went to Kyoto and I went to Hiroshima which was very impactful.

BEST FIT: Ah, that explains why there’s a tree half-destroyed by the atomic bomb on the album cover.

[looks surprised] Oh yes, that’s right. I had forgotten!

Well, while I was in Japan, I met a French guy in a cafe and we had a brief encounter that was just out of time and space and out of body for both of us, and that’s how the song was born. I wanted to write about an encounter that wasn’t a storybook kind of thing, but more like two maybe somewhat broken people crossing paths and comforting each other, briefly. It’s not pretty and it may not last, but it’s real.

I was also kind of thinking about the world of soulless, commercial art and music that so many people are absorbing, and I guess in this song I’m positioning myself somewhere to the left of that. You know, maybe I’m a little rough around the edges, but I’m real. I have this.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think this song is related to another important stage in your life because it was the first time you worked with Mike, who you later married.

Yeah, wow, it was definitely a turning point for me. True. You are much better at context than I am [laughs].

I remember setting up a recording session that was maybe ill-conceived because it was in this little apartment that I was living in at the time in New Orleans, and it didn’t really fit. It didn’t really have a studio atmosphere, so it was kind of a mess. Anyway, I flew with an engineer and Todd [Sickafoose], my bass player, and we planned to record the first week of January. Except, of course, I went out with a friend on New Years and got deathly ill. I was so crowded I couldn’t sing at all.

It’s the only time I’ve ever had a recording session scheduled and people flew in but couldn’t make it, so it was a real bummer. The whole thing was a wash so I had to start over and then Mike, who was a new friend at the time, stepped in and became the engineer because the first session didn’t work out.

It’s interesting because later that year Hurricane Katrina forced you to finish recording the Postponement in Buffalo, New York. It was two recording sessions that didn’t quite work out. No wonder you were unfocused. There were many things.

Oh yeah, that’s right. To be honest, it was so long ago that I can’t remember the order of things, but it was definitely around the same time period.

One more thing: this song starts with a noise that sounds like a muffled, distorted gunshot, and I was wondering what the meaning behind that was.

Oh God, well, I didn’t go back and listen to the album tracks before I did this interview because that would have made me sad, so I don’t really remember that detail. But, you know, I had this gizmo that made really crazy sounds and I was really into it at the time. I was just messing around with all the samples and I think maybe I needed someone to tie my hands behind my back with this one…

But, as you say, this was the first experience working with my husband, and I think things got even better and more effective later when I gave him more options. On this Postponement album, I still insisted on making my own wild and questionable choices [laughs].

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