Taken from SFGate (May 19, 2016)
Spearhead’s Michael Franti on the reason he makes music
by Aidin Vaziri
Michael Franti and Spearhead perform in Stamford, Conn., last year.
Photo: Jason Rearick, Hearst Connecticut Media
Michael Franti is a musician with a mission. Since his days fronting the Beatnigs and Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, the San Francisco native has never lost sight of his motivation: preaching peace, love and good times. On Spearhead’s ninth and latest studio album, “Soulrocker,” he draws sleek dance beats into the band’s bouncy reggae and acoustic jams. Franti, 50, who recently married longtime girlfriend Sara Agah, will spend the summer on tour with the band, playing festivals like Mountain Jam. But first they’ll be at BottleRock Napa on Friday, May 27.
Q: It feels like this is a landmark year for you. You got married. You turned 50. You released a new album. Can you slow down a little bit?
A: It’s a lot all at once. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, though. I’m also feeling the most purposeful about my music.
Q: Did you feel extra urgency to get new music out with the current news cycle?
A: Yeah. Every day I wake up and kiss Sara on the cheek. Then I turn over and — I dread to say — pick up my phone and I read the news. Every day I wake up and think the whole world went crazy again: earthquakes, typhoons, terrorism, wars, police shootings, economic disaster. I’ve always wanted my music to help effect change or at least help people get through their life as they process these things.
Q: But how do you cope?
A: Last year I met Dalai Lama and he told me, we need more compassionate people on the planet. It’s not just enough to have empathy. You have to do things in your life that help other people. That has really resonated with me. I want to help other people and inspire others.
Q: I think the most inspirational song on the new album is “My Favorite Wine Is Tequila.”
A: I wrote that song last year at BottleRock. I was doing a little session on the culinary stage and they were talking about wine pairings and someone asked me about my favorite wine. I have no idea of any of that stuff so I just said, “Tequila! My favorite wine is Tequila.”
Q: It’s good you have songs like that to throw in the mix, lighten things up a bit.
A: Sara and I have a saying in the house: Be your best, serve the greater good and rock out wherever you are. Don’t ever lose that enthusiasm for life. If you can’t stop to spend a night dancing on the beach, then you’ve lost sight of what it’s all about.
Q: You have been doing this for almost 30 years. Do you feel like your message is getting through, or are you just a hopeless optimist?
A: You know, it’s funny. I put out my first record in 1987 with Beatnigs, and the world is still a s— show. Sometimes I think, did I do anything? You just try to put drops of fresh water and nurture the tree you’re growing, stay positive and know it’s eventually going to grow and bear fruit. So many great positive changes have occurred on our planet. There’s been some incredible differences, but we still have an incredibly challenging future in front of us.
Aidin Vaziri is The San Francisco Chronicle’s pop music critic. Email: email@example.com Twitter: MusicSF
Michael Franti & Spearhead: 4:15 p.m. Friday, May 27. Sold out. BottleRock Napa, Jam Cellars Stage, Napa Expo, 575 Third St., Napa. http://www.bottlerocknapavalley.com/