Michael Franti Spreads The Soulshine
You achieved mainstream success late in your career with ‘Say Hey (I Love You).” When that song came out did you notice any sort of changes in your fan base? How did you respond to the popularity of that song?
Well when the song first came out, it was 2009. It didn’t become a hit ‘til 2010. So we had already toured with that song. It had gotten some radio play, so we were happy with the success of that record, and we were ready to make another record when it became a top 20 hit. So we were totally shocked and then our audience expanded. Lots of new people started coming to our shows, and also their parents. You know, you had 13-year-old kids in the front room singing our songs, and 38-year-old parents. So it was a time when we got a lot of new people more involved in what we do, but we still kept playing all these new festivals we’d been to before, like Mountain Jam, or festivals that reach our core audience. So it was an interesting time, after being in the music business for 20 years, to suddenly be like the new kid on the block.
So you talk about festivals being your core. What is it about the festival scene that you think responds so well to your music?
We love to make music that gets people up and dancing and that also speaks to hardships in life and getting through that. I think that’s what really connects us to [the festival scene. It’s also where I grew up. It’s a world that I understand, just being free with the music. I still am, as a fan. I love to dance, I love to close my eyes and put my hands up in the air and just forget everything else around me, and just really connect to the music. And the final thing is the sensation of community. It’s hard for a lot of people who feel disconnected, who feel as though the world is grayer or bigger than us, that we can’t have any effect or influence on it, and we feel isolated. The music at festivals, it’s really important to take it back into your life after the festival.
Is there any particular festival or music experience that was transformative for you?
We travel around the world; we play tons of different festivals and we’re always there as a band. And so I think the way festivals have really affected me is that I’ve created lifelong connections just through meeting someone in line while getting a burrito at the end of the night or something. The same goes for other musicians, meeting John Butler for the first time at a festival, or meeting Warren Haynes or connecting with other artists. Other artists that are now brothers to me, whom I admire. They’ve all come through festivals.
So you released your latest album All People last year, are there any other studio projects in the works right now?
Well there’s two. I’ve already started working on a new record. There are a few songs to that, so it should be out early 2015, and I have been making a film called 11:59 about three people who have influenced my life, and none of them are musicians. One of them is a midwife who is from the Philippines, and another is a couple we met at the Wanee Festival last year, Hope and Steve from Denver. Steve is battling ALS. Then there is a man who works with a tribe in Indonesia reforesting land that’s been clear cut with bamboo, creating new jobs and opportunities for people to sustain their life, and at the same time preserve their forests. It’s a documentary about these people and the affect that they’ve had on me.
What are your plans for after the Soulshine tour wraps up? Do you plan to hit the road again or back to the studio?
Well we’re going to do some festivals in Europe after the tour wraps up. My son, who is 15, has recently been diagnosed with a rare kidney disorder; his kidneys are slowly dying on him. So we’re trying to keep our schedule open for whatever health concerns come up next for our family. My girlfriend’s mother is currently going through chemotherapy right now. So right now we’re just trying to enjoy the summer and our time together, just trying to get through it.
I very sorry to hear that. Best wishes for your son.
Thank you, man