So even though Ian grew up very much in public, she actually did in fact grow up. As she says now, "I'm too old to be self-conscious." Coming of age atop the record charts can certainly knock the self-consciousness out of you. "If you have any sense, it does. It can go one way or another. You're either like a Liza Minnelli, where you're so hyper-conscious of yourself all the time that you sort of defeat your own purpose. Or you take the route an Ani DiFranco takes or I take, which is, then I'll just be myself."
And ultimately, Ian has one final secret. "Just don't settle."
"When you've been doing the same thing since you were 15, it's really hard to keep an edge," says Janis Ian, the 52-year-old singer-songwriter who first hit at 15 with "Society's Child."
Janis Ian performs at Uncle Calvin's Coffeehouse on Saturday, March 6.