Taken from Pollstar (Nov 15, 2018)
Q's With: Michael Franti & Sara Agah Franti Doing It For The Love
by Andy Gensler
Sara Agah Franti & Michael Franti
Married couple Michael Franti and Sara Agah Franti have been doing what many might term "God's work." This with their aptly named philanthropic organization Do It For The Love, which gives people with life threatening illnesses tickets to a live show by any artist anywhere, from Beyonce and Paul McCartney to Guns 'N Roses, ASAP Rocky and Sam Hunt and beyond. Pollstar caught up with the dynamic duo on the eve of their annual Nov. 16 fundraiser to get the scoop on their organization, Michael's upcoming album, a new film and tour and how without live music the Frantis might not be together.
Pollstar: What is Do It For The Love?
Michael Franti: We started Do It For The Love five years ago with a mission to bring people with advanced stages of life-threatening illnesses in children, adults, specials needs people and wounded veterans to see any live concert by any artist in any city in the world. People write us and say, "My sister has stage four breast cancer, and she's always wanted to see Garth Brooks." Or "My son is autistic, he's always wanted to see Drake or Beyonce." Or "My friend has PTSD. He's just back from Afghanistan and wants to see Metallica." And we get them, along with three of their family members, out to see any concert.
How does it work logistically with getting tickets by some of the biggest artists on the planet?
Sara Agah Franti: When we share our mission with other artists, promoters and managers, it resonates with them because they see how music is able to change lives and create these really special moments for the families we reach. We've grown exponentially every year. Some artists have tickets they're able to give, some give us reduced rates and sometimes our wish grants are so time sensitive we end up purchasing the tickets.
How many wishes has DIFTL granted?
Sara: We've done over 1,800 wishes. We send up to four people to a show so Michael says, "You gotta times that number by four."
Do It For The Love's annual Rockers Ball is Nov. 16 at the Fairmont San Francisco; what's that about?
Sara: Rockers Ball is our fundraising event. This is our third year and this year it's a white party or come dressed as your favorite artist. We'll have a meet and greet prior to the reception and a nice dinner. Michael and his band play the reception and then we have an after-party which is new this year and which you can buy a separate ticket to. Tim [McGraw] and Faith [Hill] and their Soul2Soul tour team are receiving our Founders Award because they've done an incredible job supporting the organization's mission. Last year we raised over half a million dollars with all proceeds going to Do It For The Love. We're hoping to beat that.
Michael, you've toured the globe for three decades. What do you think makes live performances such a peak experience?
Michael: A live concert is unique for every single person who attends. Nobody has the same experience at the show and no one has the same experience twice. Even when you see the same band on the same tour.
Sara: And it's also the power of connection of bringing people together. I'll be at one of Michael's shows or another show and that one song comes on and everyone's singing the same words and everyone becomes your best friend. That's the power of live music.
Rumor has it you two actually met at a live event.
Michael: It was a really great moment - at least for me, it was. It was 10 years ago at the Regina Folk Festival. I was performing, and Sara was in the sixth row to the left. It was raining and she had on this poncho that she told me later she bought at Walmart for five bucks. All I could see was this little beautiful face poking out from this poncho in the rain. Afterwards, I always walk to the front of the stage and say hello to the audience. She was there and we said, "Hi" and then she started to turn and walk away and I reached out my arm and tapped her on the shoulder and was like, "Hey, do you wanna come hang out?" And she looked at me with this look on her face like, "If you think I'm just one of those girls, I'm not." We kept in touch and for three years, we were long distance friends.
Isn't there also a live aspect to your marriage proposal?
Michael: I wrote a song, "Life Is Better With You" thinking, "This is going be the song that I propose to Sara with." I made a little music video with the video clips I had on my iPhone. I showed her the video and then sang her the song, got down on one knee and did the whole thing. And "Life Is Better With You" is actually the song that inspired Do it For The Love.
Michael: We were playing at the Wanee Music Festival and I had been getting tweets from Hope Dezember and she would say, "My husband Steve has ALS. And he would love to come to one of your shows, he's your biggest fan and it could be the last show he ever gets to go to." So Hope and Steve show up. ALS slowly robs you of your mobility and so by this point Steve could only move his lips and eyes. During "Life is Better with You," he whispers, "Hope, I wanna get up and dance." So with all her strength she lifts him up out of his wheelchair and they had this beautiful slow dance in front of 20,000 people. Myself and 20,000 people are crying and cheering. That's when I looked to Sara and was like, "Sara, let's do this for as many families as we possibly can."
Sara, did working in an emergency room help inform your desire to do this?
Sara: I'm a registered nurse and did ER nursing for quite some time. Michael and I as individuals, prior to being in a relationship, were always very philanthropic in our own ways. We knew we always wanted to do something together and so Do It For The Love has been this beautiful union of his music and my experience in medicine.
And Michael, you've got a new album coming out?
Michael: Yes, Stay Human Vol. 2. In 2000, I put out Stay Human about how we hold on to our humanity during challenging times, like the ones that we're living in now. I made a film also called "Stay Human" about how most days I wake up and read the news and feel frustrated, scared and pissed off. Then I meet people along the way who are ordinary people doing extraordinary things who make a difference in the lives of others and I realize that it's possible to keep going. It's possible to do good stuff and live a life that is centered on creating happiness for ourselves and others, and that's what the film's about. It's out officially on Jan. 25 and we've been hitting film festivals.
Is there an upcoming tour?
Michael: We're doing a film tour starting next week. We'll screen the film and do a short Q&A after an acoustic set with songs in the film. We have a new song called "Flower in the Gun" with an artist named Victoria Canal. It's a song about healing from violence and bullying and we're filming the video over the next few days and traveling to different parts of the country, filming survivors of violence and seeing how they heal from it.
For more information on Do It For The Love, visit www.doitforthelove