CHARLESTON — Ani DiFranco feels overwhelmed.
After more than a year away from touring, the acclaimed indie singer/songwriter, who headlines Mountain Stage at The Clay Center Sunday night, Sept. 12, hit the road earlier this summer.
“It’s totally crazy,” she said. “Me and my touring partners have to be very vigilant with masking and testing, and it’s still hard out there.”
Despite the precautions, her bus driver and someone on staff with the tour both tested positive.
“So, then we have to quarantine that person, do vigorous testing for the rest of us and then get people home safely in a rental car and fly new people out,” DiFranco sighed. “It’s very stressful.”
That stress was multiplied when Hurricane Ida blew through New Orleans, DiFranco’s home. She and her family were suddenly refugees, forced to stay with friends in Tennessee while she waited to see would happen next with the tour.
And of course, she follows the news.
“There are just fewer and fewer places you can go that aren’t on fire or under water,” she said.
She means that literally and figuratively.
“I feel right now like I’m going to start crying,” DiFranco said. “There’s so much going wrong. It’s so big. There are so many things you could legitimately say are at crisis level. I almost feel helpless.
“But on the other hand, it’s been incredible to check in with what I love. It’s just so much to deal with, but a few nights into the tour, it was like, ‘Oh, this is my favorite thing.’ Playing music and connecting with people and uplifting each other is amazing.”
Despite the gloom, DiFranco has tried to make the best of past year.
She used her time off the road to record and release a new album, “Revolutionary Love,” which came out in late January. The record has nods to the pandemic and an eclectic sound. The circumstances of making a record during a pandemic created opportunities to work with different people in different ways.
“Unprecedented times lead to unprecedented methods,” she said. “I think it brought out some wonderful things.”
She celebrated her 50th birthday, but said the milestone was just like any other day.
“I didn’t get a cake,” she said. “I think my husband picked up some flowers at the pharmacy. Everything was just so overshadowed by the pandemic.”
While some people begin thinking more seriously about retirement when they reach that age, DiFranco said she hasn’t thought about slowing down.
“I don’t have a plan,” she said. “I still love making music and with certain aspects of what I do, I feel like I’m still mastering them. In some ways, I’m just arriving and there are things that I’ve been working toward this whole time and I’m only now getting close.”