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Taken from SiouxCityJournal (Jun 28, 2010 )

Michael Franti & Spearhead: Melding reggae, funk, rock

by Laura Johnson Weekender Editor

Michael Franti
Michael Franti's band was formed in the 1990s, but it
took until 2009 to land a Top 40 hit.

Michael Franti was naked in the shower (as one normally is while bathing) when his big hit “Say Hey” came to his mind.

“I was actually watching Woody Harrelson’s house for the weekend, so I was in his shower when the song came to me,” Franti said. “I had nothing to write it down on so I wrote the words out in the steam on the glass. Then when I got out it started fading so I took a picture real quick. Of course the words were backwards in the picture so I had to have a friend show me how to Photoshop it. And that’s kind of like trying to land a 747.”

Franti may not be technologically savvy but his musical ability is not to be questioned. With his self-described unique mix of reggae, funk and rock, the musician who started as a street performer, has always enjoyed being with the people and playing for the people.

“I’m very excited to be coming [to Sioux City] for the weekend,” Franti said. “July Fourth is the peak of summer and it’s just going to be a lot of summer fun.”

Franti is famous for going into the audience at concerts.

“I feel really comfortable in the audience,” Franti said. “Thinking about it, being out there is so blurry. I see a smile here a laugh there. I never worry about getting attacked or anything. The only thing I ever worry about is my wireless system being bumped.”

Franti and his band Spearhead have been together since the early 1990s but it wasn’t until last year that the group had a Top 40 hit with the song “Say Hey.”

“Of course when I wrote the song I knew it was great, but I didn’t know it would catch on.” Franti said. “Before that song we didn’t even have a song in the top 20,000. After playing for 20 years, I am just so grateful for the chance to reach more people.”

Most recently, Franti and his band came to Omaha while on tour with tabloid king John Mayer.

“It was great touring with him,” Franti said. “Not only did we make lots of new fans performing for people who had never heard of us, but being with John then was such an interesting time. It was right in the height of his media frenzy, and he spent a lot of time talking to me about it.”

Along with helping soul-searching rock stars, Franti enjoys helping all sorts of people.

“Although I call San Francisco home,” Franti said. “I also have a place in Bali that I open up to 25 students at a time. We eat coconuts, do yoga and play guitar.”

While all of this is happening, Franti goes barefoot. Not only is he barefoot on the beach, but everywhere else he goes, too.

“I’ve been shoeless now for 10 years,” Franti explained. “I was playing in this place where a lot of people couldn’t even afford shoes. It really affected me so I decided to go three days without wearing shoes. I couldn’t even go two or three steps without saying ‘ouch’ at first. But then I just never stopped.”

Now Franti has started a foundation that provides shoes for the needy called Soles for Souls.

The practice of yoga every day is also very important to him.

“Yoga is all about the level of clarity and connection to ourselves,” Franti said. “My whole band actually started it at the same time but I was the only one who continued with it.”

Franti practices daily while on tour.

“While I’m in these uncomfortable positions,” Franti said. “My mind is able to stay clear. There was that time I was that dude who would smoke or drink before shows, and it’s not that I’m against that stuff, it just doesn’t help at all.”

The band has a new album coming out in August called “Sound of Sunshine.”

“Get ready for us to play a lot of the songs from the new album,” Franti said about the SITP set. “But the main thing about our show will be that we just want an incredible dance party. We want it to be a family experience something kids can look back on and remember that night as being am amazing part of their summer.”


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