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Taken from GoUpstate (July 26, 2018)

Singer Michael Franti hopes to spread message of hope with his music

by Jason Gilmer GateHouse Media

It makes perfect sense that singer, activist and filmmaker Michael Franti is a believer in the power of optimism.

He is, after all, a performer who had to wait more than 20 years for his first real hit. He began to tour in 1986 and his current band, Spearhead, began to perform together in 1994.

"We had our first top 10 song in 2010," he said. "It was like 20 years of overnight success."

"Say Hey (I Love You)" was all over Top 40 radio that summer, a year after it was officially released. The song was discovered by a radio programmer on vacation in Mexico and decided to play it on his station in Green Bay, Franti said.

Then it blew up and landed at No. 18 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart and No. 1 on Billboard's R&B charts and Franti became a more well-known singer. Franti, who will play at 7 p.m. Friday at Salvage Station in Asheville, N.C., is also known for songs like "The Sound of Sunshine" and "I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like)."

Now Franti has added filmmaker to his long entertainment resume. He released a documentary titled "Stay Human," which Franti described in a press release as "an experiential journey through music and stories of some of the most inspiring people on the planet that I've met along my travels, who have chosen to overcome cynicism with optimism and hope - and remind us all what it means to stay human."

The film hasn't played in theaters yet but has played at several film festivals and has thrived. It has earned four awards, including two Audience Awards (Nashville Film Festival and Illuminate Film Festival) and the Voice for Humanity Award at the Illuminate event.

What started as a five-minute video for his Facebook page turned into a much larger project.

"I was surprised that it turned into such a big project. We really weren't thinking that we'd make a feature-length documentary," he said. "There were so many emotional moments that happened along the way that we ended up catching a film that threaded the story of these other people and you can see why these people are important to me. That's what became the glue to us making the movie instead of these short, little pieces."

The film also has pushed Franti to write an album's worth of music from its inspiration. The album "Stay Human 2" will be released this year and Franti said he has already mixed the new music into his set.

Franti's message of hope and optimism is something, he said, the world truly needs.

"Right now, I feel like the 'Stay Human' message is really something people want to hear. We're living in this world that is so politically charged and there are so many voices of hatred and division and us-against-them and what I found on this tour is that people want to feel a sense of connection," he said.

"What I've discovered in my years of life is that everyone has a bright side and a dark side. If you fan the flames of darkness and hatred, racism, sexism, homophobia and all of those things, you can take someone who normally has 10 percent of (that darkness) and turn it into 50, 60 or 70 percent. People can become these fearful and hateful people.

"If you fan the good side, the side that is optimism, humanity and dignity and helping other people, you can make that light shine bright as well. I believe in that and I believe in the power of optimism. We need that now more than ever."


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