Taken from LiveDaily (January 22, 2010)
Michael Franti, Spearhead prep for arena shows with John Mayer
by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski / LiveDaily Contributor
Social activist/singer Michael Franti [ tickets ] finds it ironic that his band Spearhead scored a hit with the upbeat song "Say Hey (I Love You)."
"I get tons of e-mails from people saying, 'It's the happiest song I've ever heard,'" Franti said via telephone from his San Francisco home. "I think it's ironic, coming from someone who, in the last 20 years, has made so much music about social issues and whatnot to have that be the happiest song of the year or whatever. It's really what I've learned traveling the world: people want to hear music that they can dance to and sing along to. That way, you bring people together with the music."
Franti and Spearhead are infusing that belief into their follow up to 2008's "All Rebel Rockers" called "The Sound of Sunshine," due out in 2010.
"I've just been thinking, there's so much in the world that seems so overwhelming to me--the economy, the environment and the wars that are taking place, the earthquake in Haiti," said Franti, formerly of The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and The Beatnigs. "I wanted to make the record that was the sound of sunshine; something that'll make people feel like there was hope, there was brightness, there was fun. That's what the record is all about. "
While recording the album, Franti and Spearhead have also been taking their upcoming arena tour with John Mayer into consideration. (See the itinerary at right for tour dates.)
"We've been saying, 'Gosh, will these songs, the way they're recorded, sound good in an arena?' Franti said. "We've been catering the sound of this record around that concept. But this is my state of mind, where my music has taken me. I don't really like politics the way that I see them today. I don't want to make music that's about political issues or discussing political differences. I want to make music that brings people together and shows the opportunity for there to be something greater."
Franti and Spearhead recorded the new album throughout the world, primarily in Jamaica with producers Sly and Robbie--the same arrangement employed for "All Rebel Rockers"--as well as in Bali and at home in San Francisco.
"Jamaica is really inspirational," Franti said. "Jamaica's an amazing place. It's really inspiring to be there. Incredible music and people on the street will stop by the studio and listen to the tracks. I can see what they dance to, sing to and respond to immediately. It's just a different atmosphere to record in.
"Working with Sly and Robbie, they're incredible producers and musicians, but they're also really great teachers. Just being around them, you learn so much about how to respect the song and what rhythms make people dance, and how to get that rhythm from the drums up to where the song and the melody are, which is really a trip.
"We also did a lot here in San Francisco. I was actually up until 4:30 in the morning in the studio last night finishing a song. I also recorded in Indonesia. I spent a lot of time in Bali. I just came back from recording there and playing a couple shows there."
Franti said he prides himself on his live shows. The shows with Mayer will feature a good chunk of "The Sound of Sunshine."
"We're just finishing this new album, so there's going to be a lot of new material that we play," Franti said. "Some old favorites and just a rockin' good time. We always try to do a mix of elation and moments of introspection and acoustic songs where you can really hear the words. Playing an arena, the idea--for us at least--it's to create intimacy with everybody there. Sometimes, you do that through quieter songs, more gentle moments."
Guaranteed to be on the set list is "Say Hey (I Love You)," a song that Franti didn't expect to be a hit.
"We were really shocked," Franti said. "We were caught off guard by it. We put the record out in September 2008. It had its run at radio, and got some AAA radio play. Then by the winter of 2008, the song had kind of waned at radio. We were ready to put out another single and do our normal touring and get on with making another album. In the spring 2009, some Top 40 stations, the programmers liked the song themselves personally and said, 'Let's see what happens if we put it on the radio.' The phone lines just started blowing up. The stations in Salt Lake City, Green Bay and somewhere in Florida started playing the song and pretty soon it just exploded.
"The week that it hit the Top 40, my appendix ruptured. I was in the hospital getting wheeled down to have my appendix taken out. I get this text that reads, 'Your song's in the top 40. We've never had a song in the Top 40 before. We think it's remarkable.' I'm thinking, 'Great. I finally have a song on the radio and I'm not going to live to hear it.' I'm grateful to be alive."