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Saturday August 23rd 2014

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Michael Franti: Architect of Happiness

Spreading Joy Through Musical Design
By ERICA HOUSE

Michael Franti, front man of the group Spearhead, has been in the music industry for almost 30 years, and has finally reached chart-topping success with last year’s single “Say Hey (I Love You),” along with the release of his latest album, “The Sound of Sunshine,” which debuted last month at number 17 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.

Aside from being a musician, Franti is also a social activist and documentarian. He has been a partner for the last 10 years with Soles4Souls, an organization whose goal is to not just hand out shoes to people who need them, but to also help people break the cycle of poverty. “I’ve been barefoot for 10 years; I started going barefoot after playing in countries for kids that couldn’t afford shoes.

“I decided I was going to come home and for three days go barefoot, and see if I could toughen up my feet, and that has now stretched into 10 years.”

In 2004, Franti and a few of his friends took their cameras and guitars to Iraq to play music for the civilians and troops stationed there. The resulting documentary, “I Know I’m Not Alone,” shows Franti playing music on the war-torn streets of Iraq during the day, and in the military bases at night for U.S. troops. His motivation for going overseas was to assess firsthand the situation he had been hearing about all over the media. Franti was most surprised to hear from both sides of the field that all anyone really wanted was peace.

Franti’s musical style has evolved tremendously over the last few decades. “I used to write a lot of very political songs—songs with very direct, personal messages in them, and every time I’d go somewhere where there was an intense situation like in Iraq or playing San Quentin State Prison, or playing for kids or veterans in Walter Reed Hospital, it wasn’t the political songs that made people feel changed. It was always songs that made people laugh and dance and sing and feel happy.”

These experiences, along with a nearly fatal ruptured appendix in 2008, helped form the basis of the upbeat and uplifting album “The Sound of Sunshine.” Franti is very aware of the process of building his music so that it best conveys the message he is trying to get across at the time.

“My goals are that I just want to make people feel happiness or joy, something that makes you laugh or dance—that’s the place I want to bring people to through music.”

When I asked him if there was anything else he’d like his fans to know, he commented on the excitement of playing at DeLuna Fest.

“We’ve only played in your area once, and had a really great time down there. Last year we started playing Florida a lot and we had never played in Florida for our whole career really.

“It’s a place that we’ve always wanted to go to and play and always felt our music would really resonate there. We’re very excited to be getting back.”

MICHAEL FRANTI AND SPEARHEAD
WHEN: 4:15-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16
WHERE: Wind Creek Stage
DETAILS: delunafest.com