Taken from Citizen-Times (June 25, 2015)
Ahead of show, Michael Franti lists favorite Asheville spots
by Emily Patrick
(Photo: Jay Blakesberg/Special to Scene)
At 6’6,” Michael Franti isn’t the sort of celebrity who blends into the crowd. Still, whenever the genre-blending pop songwriter comes to Asheville, he likes to explore.
“There’s a couple of great vegetarian restaurants that I love to go to,” he said. “Rosetta’s is one of them, and I practice yoga a lot of times there.”
Another noticeable quirk: He doesn’t wear shoes.
“I started going to different countries where people could not afford shoes, and I would take off my shoes and try to play soccer with kids or something, and my feet couldn’t even take three steps,” he said. “I was going to go barefoot to see if I could toughen up my feet and also just see what it feels like to live that way.”
What started out as a weeklong experiment turned into 15 years (and counting) of bare feet, although he does have a few pairs of shoes just in case: Havaianas flip flops (for airplanes and restaurants), running shoes (for gravel paths) and snowboarding boots.
Five years ago, he started working with Soles4Souls to help collect shoes at concerts to send to impoverished countries.
What does all this have to do with the music? Franti is upfront about making positive change through the way he lives — the theme permeates his upbeat music.
“People love to get together and forget about what’s happening before and dance, sing, laugh, tune into the message that I have of equality and inclusion for all people and celebrate that,” he said. “At our shows, we try to make them be the most positive and uplifting experience they can be for all the people that attend.”
It’s easy to see why Franti feels at home among Asheville’s healthy restaurants and progressive attitudes. But what happens when he goes to cities with fewer kindred spirits — say, Cheyenne, Wyoming?
Franti actually has played Cheyenne with his band, Spearhead, on the rodeo grounds, no less.
“What I’ve found is there’s people all across the country who really care, and it doesn’t matter what political party you’re from, what race you are, what economic background,” he said. “I believe that America is more than just a nation; it’s an idea, and there’s this idea that people of all walks of life can live in the same place and succeed together, and sometimes you get it totally right, and sometimes you completely F it up, but there are those of us in this country who are still willing to try to make that idea be a reality.”
In an industry that seems somewhat removed from politics at best and jaded at worst, Franti’s patriotism stands out.
“I love our country, and I believe in that ideal of people of all walks of life succeeding together in this country because I’ve been to so many other countries where that doesn’t exist,” he said. “If you look where we’ve come from 50 years ago to where we are now, and you project forward to 50 years from now, it’s come a really, really long way.”