08/04/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT
FOR MUSICIANS, BEING ON THE ROAD can be a bummer. When singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco finds herself in a strange city, she hits the bottle. Of hair dye, that is. "I have a hairdo a week basically," admits DiFranco, lately favoring shades of green and blue. When she gets really desperate, she simply shaves all her hair off. "There's a certain window of time in the middle of the night out in Middle America," says DiFranco, who tours over 200 days a year, "where there's no bar open and nothing on TV If you don't want to do too many drugs, you have to start bodily mutilation."
But for DiFranco, 26, slowing down is not an option. "I'm not really good at vacations—I tend to freak out," says the funky folk singer, whose devoted fans turn out in droves to hear her frank takes on such topics as abortion, women's rights and her own bisexuality. Since 1990 she has released a whopping nine albums, selling over 800,000 copies. Her latest, the April release Living in Clip, a two-CD collection of live performances, made its debut at No. 59 on Billboard's charts. What makes these figures astonishing is that she has released each album on her own label, Righteous Babe Records, which she started in '90 and runs today. "She's a Renaissance woman," says Indigo Girls' Amy Ray, a pal. "Her music's honest and empowering, and she's a good businesswoman."
The daughter of Elizabeth, an architect, and Dante, a research engineer, DiFranco began playing guitar around her native Buffalo at age 9 and was writing songs by 14. Moving to Manhattan at 18, she got her first gigs playing at colleges for "chicks at the women's center." A few years ago she bought a place in Buffalo that she is "slowly turning from a barn into a house." Her next album? "Pleasant Songs for Children," she deadpans, then flashes a mischievous grin: "Not!"