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Taken from Jamaica Gleaner (Nov 22, 2009)

Journeyman Michael Franti finds right formula in Kingston

by Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Michael Franti

Michael Franti has spent most of his career happy being a journeyman performer, much in the vein of acts like the Grateful Dead and Bad Brains.

This year his big break came with a hit song recorded in Jamaica.

The 43-year-old Franti hit the Billboard pop charts with Say Hey (I Love You) which he co-produced with the legendary drum-and-bass team of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, and sang with Cherine Anderson. It is the lead song from his All Rebel Rockers album which was done last year at Kingston's Anchor studio.

Franti, who is scheduled to tour with John Mayer in early 2010, is currently in Kingston working with Sly and Robbie on new tracks for a follow-up to All Rebel Rockers. He said Say Hey (I Love You) has been a revelation.

"We've always been an underground group and suddenly we're on the airwaves with people like Taylor Swift and Britney Spears," the lanky vocalist told The Gleaner. "It's been a pleasant surprise."

say hey's success

Say Hey (I Love You) peaked at number 18 on the Billboard pop list with its music video reaching as far as number five on the VH1 Top 20. The song was also featured in Weeds, the hit comedy series on Showtime and spurred sales of All Rebel Rockers to more than 100,000 units.

Most important to Franti, it opened new doors for him and his band Spearhead.

"It expanded opportunities for us to be heard in places like South Africa, China and Japan where the song was played a lot. That's real exciting," he said.

Franti said he has cut eight songs to date on his latest trip to Jamaica.

He has been working with several of the musicians who played on Say Hey (I Love You) and All Rebel Rockers, including Sly and Robbie, keyboardist Robbie Lyn, guitarist Dalton Browne and percussionist Uzziah 'Sticky' Thompson.

pleased with Gloria

He said he is particularly pleased with Gloria, a Nyabinghi song featuring Thompson and traditional drummer Count Ossie Junior of the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. The track reflects on Franti's 10-day stay in a Los Angeles hospital, in August, to treat appendicitis.

Franti formed Spearhead in Los Angeles during the 1990s. Their blend of rock, hip hop and reggae have earned the quintet a cult following throughout the United States, Australia and Asia.

Songs like Light Up Ya Lighter and One Step Closer To You are underground favourites in the US, but Say Hey (I Love You) has done the trick for the veteran band. Franti said while he would love another hit song, he feels no pressure duplicating Say Hey (I Love You)'s success.

"It's important that we try to stay on the same path but I want my songs to reach people, not to be the beat of the week," he said.


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