Concert Preview: Michael Franti Showcasing 'SOULROCKER' At College Street June 27
If you only know Michael Franti as the frenetic frontman to the group Spearhead, and by the infectious 2010 "Say Hey (I Love You)" - then you don't know Franti.The Newtown Bee ahead of his June 27 set at New Haven's College Street Music Hall, across the phone line Franti presents like the kind of artist who might almost want you to know him - or at least remember him - for all the good change he has inspired in the world.SOULROCKER.SOULROCKER, "Once A Day", wasÃÂ written after Franti'sÃÂ son's diagnosis with a rare kidney disease called FSGS (Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis) in the hopes that the song would inspire anyone in the world who is going through challenging times.on his Facebook site, we jumped right in to talking about the kind of vibe he's trying to send out to a planet experiencing a seemingly unprecedented level of divisiveness.The Newtown Bee:ÃÂ I understand part of your 'Love Out Loud' message is dialing down one's own passion for their causes or beliefs and making a space to listen to others with opposite beliefs.Michael Franti:ÃÂ I believe now, more than ever before all of us, no matter what your political affiliation, need to be speaking out about what we want to see in the world. And what is the world we all want to be living in. And at the same tome, our freedom of speech is rendered useless if none of us take the time - with an open mind and an open heart to listen to one another. That's really the road map to the future, and what I mean by that for example, is I'm someone who believes the Paris Climate Accord doesn't go far enough in terms of controlling carbon emissions, and I feel we should be moving into a renewable energy future right now in terms of our investments. If we don't we're really going to suffer the consequences. But at the same time, if we don't listen to the coal families in Wyoming, or the oil and gas families in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and really understanding what their needs are in terms of their families, and in terms of unemployment - and start to create a renewable energy future that takes their needs into consideration, then we've failed.The Bee: Don't you find that it is just so inordinately more challenging to both advocate and sit back and listen, when the other side is exclusively motivated by making money?Franti: (laughing) It's the hardest thing to do - to hold space for others' opinions when, like you said, they're driven just by profit, or when they're just bullying. Unfortunately we've gone from Presidents like Obama and George W. Bush before him. Even though I had stark political differences with President Bush, he was a man of dignity. Both he and Obama have tried to be men of dignity, and of scholarship, trying to understand issues the best they could. Today we have a president who Tweets things that would give me cause to ground my son. So regardless of any political feelings I have about him, that in and of itself leads to a tenor in our country that is so painful that either people are becoming angry trolls, or they're checking out of politics all together. It's too much to deal with. So it's hard to hold space for people with that perspective - but if we're going to grow and change and evolve, and include heart and include people and include our planet in our solutions, we've got to be able to hold that space, and in turn be ready to speak with passion about the things we believe in.The Bee:ÃÂ As a recipient of a Global Exchange Domestic Human Rights Award - have you taken on a greater measure of responsibility for your messaging as you moved forward from that point personal orÃÂ professionally, or are you just kind of maintaining the same attitude you've always had aboutÃÂ promoting human rights, peace and love for one's fellow man?Franti:ÃÂ I think in order to get to a place where people can have compassion for one another, you have to be able to have an open heart and an open mind to what other people feel. That came to me through a gradual evolution because when I first started in music my songs were about pointing the finger outward and going: 'this is a (expletive)-up part of the system, and not ever taking the personal responsibility of the role I could play in making a difference. I would go to prisons and play, all over, and when I first started goingÃÂ I'd sing songs about how messed up the prison system was. But then the guys started telling me, hey, we don't want to hear songs about that - we live it. We want to hear songs about how much we love our girlfriends, how bad we miss our families on Thanksgiving, how much we just want to have fun and escape these four walls for even an hour.The Bee: So they really helped turn you around.Franti: It made me think about music in a different way. Music didn't always have to be something that is trying to speak forcefully about socialÃÂ issues. that sometimes... well, I don't know if music can change the world overnight, but it sure has the power toÃÂ help someone make it through a difficult night. And sometimes just helping someone through a difficult night makes them a more empathetic person.The Bee:ÃÂ You've also taken a new musical direction integrating Electronica on your latest project SOULROCKERÃÂ -ÃÂ and I, like you - was introduced to early-stage electronic music by groups like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk. Can you describe or recall your reaction when you discoveredÃÂ Kraftwerk for the first time?Franti: All right, Tangerine Dream, yeah! Well I would go to KDVS, my hometown radio station in Davis, California, where I grew up. And they had a basketÃÂ out in their lobby that had all the records every week that they didn't want from the labels, and you could take whatever you wanted. So we'd go play some pinball down by the bowling alley and walk over to the radio station on a Saturday and take all these records and go home and play them - and we were like, this is too good to be true.The Bee: So you found a Kraftwek album?Franti: Man, we would take all of them (laughing). And at that time, most of them were seven-inch singles, and one of them was from Kraftwerk - "Trans-Europe Express" - and it's got this metronomic, I mean this hypnotic quality to the beat. And we just listened to that record over and over again, you know. And the flip side was the song ["Hall of Mirrors"], 'Even the greatest stars discover themselves in the looking glass'. And that was not only the first electronic song I ever heard, but it was an electronic song with a story. It talked about how even the greatest stars that we want to emulate, the greatest celebrities have to look at themselves in the mirror to discover who they are. And at that time that sound and those messages in the music were so profound to me.The Bee: So were you able to emulate that Kraftwerk feel on SOULROCKER?Franti: In doing this record, I wanted to do music that brought in those electronica qualities, but also had stories in it. It's not enough for me to just make a cool beat, or even try to make a record that people would dance to, but try to write songs that tell stories.The Bee: Did you approach writing the music for SOULROCKER like you alwaysÃÂ have done, and set it to this new instrumentation, or were you mindful of how you wanted to approach the electronic instrumentation as you were writing?Franti: Every song I still wrote from the acoustic guitar up - so I would sit there with my guitar and come up with a hook for a song, or a verse, and then I'd take it to my producers Stephen "Di Genius" McGregor and (Dwayne) "Supa Dups" Chin Quee and say I'm working on this, can you help me with a beat. And they'd start creating drums, bass and keyboard lines around it. Like the new song "Summertime is In Our Hands," it's got the acoustic guitar as its base, but it's got all these beats and synths surrounding it.The Bee: So you didn't start out to make Electronica?Franti: No, we'd been gradually incorporating it into our sets, messing around with it on tour. But it's always important to me that whatever song I make can be sung with just acoustic guitar. We play sometimes on a street corner, and we play acoustic songs in our show that on the album, probably had a fuller arrangement. But to me it's a true success if it can workÃÂ on an acoustic - that's the measure of a good song.The Bee:ÃÂ What if any challenges, or new dimensions does the SOULROCKER material bring to your live set?Franti: It works great. The guys in my band are awesome musicians, and we've programmed some synth parts that go along with what we're doing. But our show is super high energy, I like to get into the crowd with my guitar, and sing songs from the audience. We're a band that is all about reading the energy of what's happening in the crowd and we make a set list - but it's never followed. (laughing) We get to song three, andÃÂ between songs three and seven we'll pull out a bunch of different stuff, and my guitar tech will be looking at me with his hands up saying, 'what song are we on, man?' (laughing) It's never the same way twice.click here.ÃÂ This event is general admission / standing only on the floor, and reserved seated in the balcony. Doors open at 7 pm and showtime is 8 pm.
In a too brief chat with
But if you happen to want to pick up and danceÃÂ or sing along to his music at any point, that's just awesome too.
We immediately found common ground around the pioneering European electronic bands Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, as Franti launched into an engaging tale of how he and his childhood friends would raid a freebie box at his local Oakland radio station.
After coming home with an early Kraftwerk record, he was immediately struck by the soaring and sweeping instrumentation that these acts were exploring, while continuing to deliver material that also involved good songwriting and storytelling. A theme Franti said inspired his latest project,
A number of Newtown residents who attended the recent Mountain Jam festival concert got a taste of Franti's new material and lit up social networks with positive vibes about his June 18 performance. But while his music and shows still draw rave feedback, Franti has also enjoyed a variety of roles including as a filmmaker, while embracing a growing roleÃÂ at the forefront of lyrical activism, using his music as a positive force for change.
"I make music because I believe it can change people's lives and make a difference in the world," Franti says in his official bio, "music gives us new energy and a stronger sense of purpose."
The latestÃÂ single from
"Once A Day" was produced by Supa Dups (Eminem, Damian Marley, Bruno Mars) and features special guest Sonna Rele.
After just viewingÃÂ a video about Franti's worldwide call to "Love Out Loud"
For tickets to see Michael Franti & Spearhead June 27 in an all-ages show at the College Street Music Hall
On behalf of the artist, $1 per ticket will be going towards Do It For The Love, a nonprofit wish-granting foundation that brings people living with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges and wounded veterans to live concerts.
Satsang will be opening.
Check out Michael Franti performing "I've Got Love for You" at the Skoll World Forum in April 2017:
Michael Franti & Spearhead rock their monster hit "Say Hey (I Love You)" with a few special guest at Mountain Jam in 2010: