Taken from SEE Magazine (July 22, 2010)
It’s Always Sunny In Michael Franti-land
After some negative times, Michael Franti allows the rays to be his guide.
by Robin Schroffel
Mid-tour last August, a burst appendix filled Michael Franti’s guts with enough poison to distend his belly like that of a woman in early pregnancy. Recovering from it was harder than he’d imagined.
“I thought it was gonna be a thing where I’d just kind of go in the hospital and I’m out and in two days I’m back on tour. But it really sidelined me for about three weeks before I could tour again and then another month of really being in pain on tour, coming back from the incision,” Franti explains over the phone.
Even with the California-born musician’s upbeat disposition, staying positive proved a real challenge. It was then that one of the basic ingredients for life on earth took on new meaning for Franti.
“Every day I’d go to the window and I’d look out to see if the sun was shining, and if it was, I’d get this feeling of optimism: Oh, wow, it feels really good to be alive today. And on days when it wasn’t, I’d put my blankets over my head or I’d play my guitar, and I’d take myself to someplace sunny and try to focus on that,” he says. “I thought, if I could bottle this feeling of sunshine for people, what would it sound like?”
Probably something like Franti and Spearhead’s new record, The Sound of Sunshine, due out September 21st.
The Sound of Sunshine was mainly crafted on a mobile studio during a tour with John Mayer in spring of this year. Franti would play the songs live, and make changes after seeing the audience’s response.
“I would see what their reaction would be and then we’d go back into the dressing room and re-record the songs based on what we saw in the crowd, like maybe something was too fast or too slow or people weren’t singing along to the chorus or something,” he says.
“Ninety per cent of the record was recorded in the dressing room of NBA and NHL teams,” Franti estimates. “In fact, we recorded ‘Only Thing Missing Was You’ in the Oilers’ dressing room.”
Edmonton has long held a special place in Franti’s heart. He spent his Grade 9 year here as a student at Highlands Junior High School while his mom participated in a teacher exchange program. Weekends meant rollerskating and dancing at Sportsworld; Franti’s other free hours were filled by a long list of sports under the tutelage of coach Gerald Kunyk, a former Edmonton Eskimo who touched the young Franti’s life in a big way, helping him through some dark family times. The two still keep in contact.
For a young California boy, Edmonton’s climate came as a bit of a shock. But more than the extreme temperatures, it’s the absence of his old friend and present-day muse that sticks out today in Franti’s mind.
“There was so much darkness. I remember going to school early for basketball practice in the dark and, coming home, it would be dark when I left,” Franti says. “Never experiencing the sun, for me, was the hardest part of that.”