Michael Franti

Song Biz: Michael Franti and Spearhead

Traveling around the world on an ambitious tour with his band Spearhead, Michael Franti avows that summer festival audiences might be his favorites. “When night falls and the lights come on there’s a certain type of magic and a different sense of freedom.”

No doubt they will be singing along to Franti’s newest single, “Summertime is in Our Hands” from his most recent full-length collection SOULROCKER. “The song is about how the feeling of summer is always accessible to you, even when you’re in the most challenging moments of your life. It reminds me of my childhood, and my late dad. I loved to go fishing with him. Now, I have a son who has a chronic kidney disease, so every summer memory that we create together is even more meaningful.”

Directed and produced by Franti, the accompanying video presents a narrative of a young woman dealing with a profound loss. Franti says this fabled Indonesian island of Bali where he shot the video imparted a spiritual backdrop to the process. “It’s a Buddhist and Hindu culture and the people make offerings three times a day; these little baskets with flowers, some rice and maybe a coin. There’s a constant sense of gratitude.”

Franti writes almost every day. “When I first started writing I used a drum machine and a sampler. Then I switched to an acoustic guitar. Now my instrument is my iPhone. I get up in the morning and I have an idea for a song, and I sing it into the phone. Later in the day, I’ll pick up my guitar and work out some chords for whatever melody I’ve written, and then record it back into my phone, make a beat and come up with a little demo.”

Although the technology has changed, he says he still writes from the same place. “I have an idea or a feeling in my heart and I just freestyle and sing melodies, sometimes with words attached, or sometimes I hear a phrase in my head that’s meaningful or could become a hook. I usually get 30 to 40 percent of the song through adlibbing, then I sit down later and craft it. That initial impulse is the most important thing. You’ve got to grab onto it before it flies away.”

Among Franti’s related endeavors is Do It for the Love, a foundation he started with his wife Sara. They were inspired when the wife of a longtime Franti fan reached out to say that her husband Steve, who was living with ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), wanted to meet him at a show. She also shared that this would probably be the last concert in his life. “During the middle of my set they were on the side of the stage. Steve was in very advanced stage of ALS and could only speak in whispers and communicate with his eyes. He wanted to get up out of his chair and dance. So his wife Hope lifted him up with all of her strength and we had this beautiful slow dance in front of 20,000 people.”

“I said to my wife, ‘Let’s do this for as many families as we can.’ Our mission is to bring children, adults and veterans with serious medical conditions or special needs to see any live concert by any artist in North America. In last three years we’ve sent people to see everyone from Drake and Beyonce to Garth Brooks, Celine Dion to Red Hot Chili Peppers, you name it. If anyone is checking this piece out and they need it for their families, write to us at doitforlove.org and we’ll get your family member to see any artist in any city.”

Franti is optimistically enthusiastic about the current state of music. “It’s an amazing time that the digital age has ushered in. It allows audiences to come to music without having it go through a traditional channel, like MTV or the radio, or some other filter that really narrowcasts. It’s a great time to be a songwriter. Having done it as long as I have, I feel like I’m still getting started.”

Contact Mike Gowen, MSO, 818-380-0400 ext. 239,
[email protected]