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Taken from NorthJersey.com (October 28, 2010)

Michael Franti & Spearhead playing the Wellmont on Friday


Michael FrantiMichael Franti & Spearhead's brand-new album, "The Sound of Sunshine," came together about as organically as possible.

"We did it while we were out on tour," Franti recalls. "Most of it was recorded when we were out with John Mayer in February and March and April. We'd set up our little portable studio backstage, go play our show and see how our audience would respond to these new songs that we were playing live for them. Then we'd go back in and make changes based on what the audience's reaction was.

"We actually spent a lot of time on this record, more time than we have on any other record. … It really wasn't difficult or arduous. We just wanted to get it right."

And "The Sound of Sunshine" definitely gets it right. It's a boisterous, catchy collection of songs that range from reggae-pop to folk-rock. Songs include the title track as well as "Shake It," "Only Thing Missing Was You," "Hey, Hey, Hey" and "I'll Be Waiting." Speaking by telephone from somewhere on the road in Oklahoma, Franti compares "The Sound of Sunshine" to the band's first album, "Home," which dates to 1994.

"That's the closest one to it in that there are a lot of personal lyrics and it's a fun record," Franti says. "Some of the records I've done in the past five or six years were maybe more serious or political or had a really direct social statement. The statement in this one is about finding gratitude for the simple things in life, the small things that we often overlook."

So why the sudden burst of lightheartedness?

"I went to Iraq in 2004 and 2005 and played music on the street there," Franti says. "I played for Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, and when I played really serious songs about the war they'd say, 'Play us something that makes us laugh and dance and sing and clap our hands. We don't want to hear songs about war.' That kind of shifted my way of thinking about how music affects people.

"Also, this album came out of what happened last year, when my appendix ruptured in the middle of our tour. I wasn't sure if I was going to make it. When the surgery was all done and the infection had gone down after several weeks, I had this really deep appreciation for simple things, my family, seeing the sun for the first time in the morning. I remember one day eating an orange and feeling, 'Wow, this is really amazing.' I wanted to bottle that sensation and put it into music, and this album is the result."

And now Franti is spreading some "Sunshine" on fans. He and the band are in the midst of a lengthy U.S. tour that will stop at the Wellmont Theatre on Friday. Franti is asking anyone attending to donate a pair of shoes (or money) to Soles4Soul, a charity organization that provides free shoes to people in need.

"We're excited to be on the road again," Franti says. "The song that really seems to stand out for everyone in the band is 'I'll Be Waiting.' It just has that anthemic feel when we play it live. The title track is really great live, and so is 'Shake It.' And 'Hey, Hey, Hey' is a song I like to get out into the audience and sing. … It'll be a fun night."


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