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Taken from Poughkeepsie Journal (February 20, 2004)

Michael Franti finds music means more from the heart

Spearhead on bill with Ziggy Marley

by John W. Barry

Michael FrantiMichael Franti wanders the halls of hip-hop, cultivates the roots of reggae and tip-toes along the parameters of pop.

Whether he writes about AIDS, poverty or war, Franti typically looks at himself before taking in the world around him.

''When I wanted to write a song about the AIDS crisis, my own experience of getting tested, that really changed the way I wrote songs,'' he said during a recent telephone interview. ''I realized that pointing the finger outward all of the time doesn't work as well as when you write from the heart.''

Franti is scheduled to bring his band Spearhead to Poughkeepsie on Wednesday for a concert at The Chance that features Ziggy Marley as headliner. Also on the bill is Beth Hart.

''I'm a fan of Bob Marley, I'm a fan of Ziggy Marley,'' Franti said. ''Bob had this amazing ability to make music that was both danceable and soulful, but also very poignant socially. He wasn't afraid to write a song about what was happening in the world and the next song was what was happening with his girl.''

A good storyteller

Franti can tell one heck of a story, apply a beat and take the listener on a true journey with sights, smells, sounds and feeling. ''Hole In the Bucket'' is a tale as much as a tune about poverty and personalities and recounts Franti's experiences living in San Francisco's depressed Tenderloin section.

''It's about waking up this morning, out on the front porch, sitting on my doorstep were people who had spent the night there the night before,'' he recalled. ''Everyday they would ask for change. Everything goes through your head. It's really a metaphor for our whole country.''

On his latest album, ''Everyone Deserves Music,'' Franti scores home runs with two new songs, the title track and ''Bomb the World.'' Each song has its own pop hook, but Franti doesn't sell out for commercial success on either track, offering insightful lyrics and extended jams.

''That's the craft of songwriting, to communicate, making it easy for people to understand,'' Franti said. ''And it takes a while to learn that. I'm still in the process of learning. That's why I get inspiration from artists like Marvin Gaye and Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder -- bringing up social issues without beating people over the head.''


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