Taken from Gazette.Net (September 18, 2013)
Michael Franti & Spearhead gear up for first-ever gig at the Fillmore
â€śAll Peopleâ€ť tour stopped by Fillmore On the heels of latest album
by Cara Hedgepeth
Michael Franti & Spearhead have been a band since 1994.
They got their first Top 20 hit last year(? - 2009)
with "Say Hey (I Love You)."
Photo by Lauren Dukoff
The San Francisco-based musician and leader of Michael Franti & Spearhead has been preparing for the bandâ€™s first-ever performance at the Fillmore in Silver Spring on Saturday. Here, A&E catches up with the socially conscious singer about the success of the bandâ€™s single â€śSay Hey (Love You),â€ť his charity work and why heâ€™s been barefoot for more than 10 years now.
A&E: Your single â€śSay Hey (Love You)â€ť from the 2008 album, â€śAll Rebel Rockersâ€ť was on the Top 20 Chart for 63 weeks. It also had a ton of commercial play including on an episode of â€śWeedsâ€ť and in the movie â€śValentineâ€™s Day.â€ť Were you anticipating the success?
Michael Franti: No. Not at all. We started in 1994 and that [song] became a hit in 2010 so it was like 16 years of overnight success [laughs]. Weâ€™ve never had a song in the top 20,000 let alone the Top 20, so we were like, â€śThis is a big surprise.â€ť Weâ€™re all just grateful for the success the last few records have had. Really well-received by both our fans and the radio.
A&E: You had a pretty serious health scare around that time the song was released, right?
Michael Franti: Right when the song came out, my appendix ruptured on tour and I came very close to dying. So it just put everything in perspective, like, wow you have a big hit but you could be dead the next day...
A&E: What was the inspiration for the latest album, â€śAll People?â€ť
Michael Franti: The songs are all about asking yourself, â€śIf I only have x amount of days on this planet, how do I want to spend them and who do I want to spend them with? Whatâ€™s the mark I want to leave here, on this life, my friends, my family, the planet?â€ť Itâ€™s also a celebration of diversity. The diversity we see in this country and around the planet and the title track â€śAll Peopleâ€ť is really a statement. No matter if theyâ€™re black, white, gay, straight, rich or poor, all of us are significant. All of us matter. And thatâ€™s really what the record is about. And then stylistically, we really wanted to combine songs that Iâ€™ve written on the acoustic guitar with electronic song and dance music.
A&E: How would you answer that question? How would you spend your days knowing you only had x amount left on the planet?
Michael Franti: First thing, I have an amazing partner in my life, Sara, who is really incredible. I have two great sons who I love dearly and the three of them are really the most important people in my life. But I also want to make a difference in the world. I want to be somebody who promotes positivity and I really believe that the positivity in me will find solutions for problems that we face in life and in our world.
A&E: Youâ€™re known for your social and political activism. What are some of the issues that have your attention at the moment?
Michael Franti: Obviously right now in the news itâ€™s the issue with Syria. Should we attack Syria for using chemical weapons? I wrote a song years ago called â€śBomb the World,â€ť and you know, we can bomb the world to pieces but we canâ€™t bomb it into peace. Today is Sept. 11. We felt what it was like to be bombed and any time we do that anywhere else in the world, people are going to feel the same thing. Before we consider dropping one bomb thatâ€™s going to kill even one civilian, we should make sure that every form of diplomacy has been enacted. So thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m hopeful for in this situation.
A&E: Youâ€™re also giving back through the foundation you recently started, â€śDo it For the Love Foundation.â€ť What can you tell us about the mission of the organization?
Michael Franti: We started the foundation to bring people with advanced stages of life-threatening illnesses and kids with severe disabilities and wounded veterans to live concerts. Any fan can contact us and say, some band is coming to my town who I want to see and weâ€™re kind of like the Make-A-Wish Foundation for music. We like making it possible to get to shows for free.
A&E: What inspired you to start the foundation?
Michael Franti: Sara is an emergency room nurse so weâ€™re always trying to think of ways to combine what she does in health care with what I do in music. Throughout my years of touring, Iâ€™ve had lots of people say, you know, â€śI have cancer, I have Lou Gehrigâ€™s disease, I have something where Iâ€™m close to dying and I want to come to your show.â€ť We would always invite them and bring them backstage and find a special place for them to watch the show from. Fans who did that were always really moved. Theyâ€™d say, â€śConcerts are my favorite thing and it made a beautiful memory for myself and my family.â€ť Sara and I met a couple, Hope and Steve. Steve has Lou Gehrigâ€™s disease. A lot of times you see somebody whoâ€™s in a wheelchair or whoâ€™s paralyzed and you think to yourself, â€śOh, that poor person.â€ť But having met Steve and Hope, I donâ€™t think that anymore. Now when I see someone I think to myself, â€śI wonder what their name is. Iâ€™d like to talk to them and find out about their life.â€ť
A&E: You havenâ€™t worn shoes for the last 13 years. When and why did you make that decision?
Michael Franti: It started 13 years ago on my birthday, April 21. I had been traveling to a lot of countries where kids couldnâ€™t afford to wear shoes so I came home and I was like, â€śI wonder if I could go just three days barefoot, just to see what itâ€™s like.â€ť So I decided to go barefoot for three days and then three days turned into three weeks and a month and a year.
A&E: And itâ€™s actually led you to a partnership with another charity, right?
Michael Franti:After ten years, I started partnering with â€śSoles4Souls.â€ť They bring shoes to people who canâ€™t afford them or who lost them in some natural disaster. They started after Hurricane Katrina bringing shoes down to New Orleans and from there they went to Haiti and now theyâ€™re in dozens of countries around the world. They collect shoes and bring them ... we have shoe collections at our shows and weâ€™re working with them to get the word out about the work they do.â€ť