Born in Buffalo, New York on September 23, 1970, DiFranco began her career at the age of nine, when her guitar teacher helped her land her first gig -- performing a set of Beatles' covers -- at an area coffeehouse. Befriended by the likes of Suzanne Vega and Michelle Shocked, she later gave up music to study ballet, but at the age of fourteen returned to the guitar and began composing her first songs. A year later, alienated from her crumbling family structure, she left home, living with friends while making the rounds of the Buffalo folk club circuit.
By the age of 19 DiFranco had written over 100 original songs, and after briefly studying art she relocated to New York City to further her musical aspirations; besieged by requests from fans for tapes of her performances, she recorded a demo and pressed 500 copies of a self-titled cassette to sell at shows. The tape -- a spartan acoustic folk collection of intensely personal essays on failed relationships and gender inequities -- quickly sold out, and in 1990 DiFranco founded Righteous Babe to better distribute her recordings, which were slowly spreading across the country on the strength of a substantial word-of-mouth following.
In 1991, after issuing the assured Not So Soft, DiFranco hit the road alone, touring the nation in her Volkswagen and playing gigs wherever she could find them; her cult blossomed, and her distinct image -- shaved head, tattoos and body piercings -- soon became the de rigueur look for her fans as well. As albums like 1992's Imperfectly and 1993's Puddle Dive expanded her musical ambitions as well as her following, DiFranco became the subject of considerable major-label interest, yet she steadfastly rejected all offers as Righteous Babe grew to become a highly viable business venture.
DiFranco continued playing over 200 dates a year, and soon even the mainstream media took notice of her cottage-industry music; after 1994's masterful Out of Range, she exploded with the following year's Not a Pretty Girl, which garnered notice from outlets ranging from CNN to the New York Times. Dilate (1996), a sprawling, eclectic work detailing a heated love affair with a man even debuted in the Top 100 of the Billboard charts, a stunning achievement for an independent release. The live set Living in Clip followed in 1997.
Early in 1998, DiFranco released the studio effort Little Plastic Castle; her most musically diverse release yet, it also was her highest-charting album to date, and set the stage for the release of Up Up Up Up Up Up the following year. Another new LP, To the Teeth, appeared in 1999 as well and in mid-2000 came the release of the odds-and-ends compilation Swing Set. Revelling: Reckoning appeared in spring 2001.
A folkie in punk's clothing, battled successfully against the Goliath of corporate rock to emerge as one of the most influential and inspirational cult heroines of the 1990s. A resolute follower of D.I.Y. ethos, DiFranco released her records through her own indie label Righteous Babe, slowly but steadily building a devout grass-roots following on the strength of a relentless tour schedule; her songs tackled issues like rape, abortion and sexism with insight and compassion, the music's empowering attitude and anger tempered by the poignant candor of singer-songwriter confessionalism.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Ani DiFranco’s release, Which Side Are You On? (2012), features eleven new songs alongside a radically reworked rendition of the classic title song, famously popularized by Pete Seeger nearly five decades ago, but no less relevant today. Backing DiFranco on this collection is a remarkably diverse line-up of stellar musicians, including members of her own touring band as well as guest players Ivan and Cyril Neville (of New Orleans’ first family of funk and R&B, The Neville Brothers), avant-saxophonist Skerik (Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Bonnie Raitt, The Meters), acclaimed singer/songwriter Anais Mitchell, guitarist Adam Levy (Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman, Amos Lee), and a host of New Orleans-based horn players known for their work in such outfits as Galactic, Bonerama, and The Rebirth Brass Band.