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Anaïs Mitchell

Feb 15, 2016

Singers unite for Use Your Voice tour

Greenville News

Donna Isbell Walker, [email protected] 12:21 p.m. EST February 15, 2016

In an election year when women’s voices are resonating on both sides of the ballot box, singers Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins and Anais Mitchell are joining their voices for a tour that weaves together music and political engagement.

The Use Your Voice tour, which comes to the Peace Center Feb. 23, is in partnership with the League of Women Voters. The tour was the brainchild of Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Griffin.

Griffin “wanted to do a tour that was partnered with the League of Women Voters, and sort of celebrating women by having other women on stage with her,” said Mitchell, a folk singer who has toured with Griffin. “And also because it’s sort of trying to get out the vote among women, and especially younger women, who are mysteriously under-engaged and under-served, still. She thought it would be a good idea to put together a bill of three women.”

The show kicks off with a solo set from each performer, and the main set features all three on stage together.

Fans can expect a set list heavy on original tunes from each singer, plenty of harmonies, and Watkins, a member of the Americana trio Nickel Creek, will play the fiddle.

Representatives from League of Women Voters will be on hand to offer information and encouragement from a non-partisan perspective.

“They’re really just trying to get women engaged, on whatever side of the political spectrum they’re on,” Mitchell says. “It’s just about translating women’s passions for issues into turning out at the polls and voting and being engaged in their communities.”

While the three singers’ music isn’t overtly political, there’s a lot of storytelling in the songs.

Griffin, in particular, “takes on the voice of many different characters in her songs,” Mitchell said. “And that’s something that I also like to do. … I guess there’s sort of a political action inherent in storytelling, and using your voice to give voice to other characters and their struggles and their situations.”

Mitchell, who has been described as the “queen of modern folk music,” started playing music as a kid, switching from violin to guitar as a teen.

She was named after writer Anais Nin, whose works ran the gamut from novels to erotica to her famous diaries. Being the namesake of an acclaimed writer couldn’t help but influence her work, Mitchell says.

From an early age, Mitchell was captivated by Nin’s writing.

“She was a woman using her voice at a time when that was a rare thing. … I get the sense about her writing that it’s so intricately observed. You almost feel like the books are better than the real life. Like, how could your life actually be as beautiful as the way it comes across in the diaries? Still, she was very influential for me, with this idea of observing the world and painstakingly trying to render it with language,” she said.

Another important inspiration was the music of folk-punk icon Ani DiFranco, which Mitchell discovered as a teen.

“I was immediately taken as a teenager by her unapologetic emotionalism and fierce passion for politics, certainly,” Mitchell said.

Even more inspiring was DiFranco’s DIY aesthetic, which led DiFranco to form her own record label, Righteous Babe Records.

DiFranco role in Mitchell’s life went far beyond listening to and being moved by the music. DiFranco signed the singer to her first recording contract more than a decade ago.

“She decided she wasn’t going to wait for the boys in the back room to give her a record deal and make her a star,” Mitchell said. “She started her own (record label) and held the reins of it, and still does. And that was really inspiring for me. … I truly don’t know if I’d be doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for her.”

YOU CAN GO

Who: Patty Griffin, Sara Watkins and Anais Mitchell

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23

Where: Peace Center

How much: $15-$35

For more: www.peacecenter.org