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Taken from Connecticut Post (June 21, 2011)

Michael Franti opens Ives concert series

by Erik Ofgang, Correspondent

Michael Franti
Michael Franti and his band Spearhead will kick off the Union Savings Bank Summer Concert Series
Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed Photo/James Minchin / The News-Times Contributed

Michael Franti said his latest album, "The Sound of Sunshine," is about what really matters.

"(It's about) the simple things in life that we overlook that are really the only things that we live for," said Franti, who is best known for his upbeat dance mega-hit "Say Hey (I Love You)."

Franti and his band Spearhead will kick off the Union Savings Bank Summer Concert Series at Ives Concert Park in Danbury on Monday, June 27.

On the bill with Franti will be jam band bombshell Grace Potter and her group The Nocturnals. PBS film crews will be filming Potter's show for a documentary on female rockers.

In a recent phone interview from his home in San Francisco, Franti was laid- back and friendly (if music hadn't worked out for him, he would have made a great yoga instructor) as he discussed songwriting, what his live shows are like, and why he hasn't worn shoes (except when forced to at airports or restaurants) for more than a decade.

Q: What is your songwriting process like?

A: Well you've caught me in the act. I'm sitting here in front of my laptop with my guitar and I just got done writing some lyrics in the shower, and I'm singing into my iPhone to try to remember it and listen back to it. I tweak a lot with my songs. I don't think I've ever written a song that just came out in one take. I spend many months agonizing over every word and every chord change. My manager always feels like, "That song was done two weeks ago, what are you doing changing it?"

Q: For those who know you only through albums, what are your live shows like?

A: Our live shows are about audience participation and getting the audience to play along with us -- to dance and to sing and to feel connected. We obviously do our songs that people know, that they've heard on the radio, but we also always dig into our collection of older songs.

Q: You haven't worn shoes for a number of years now. Can you tell me about that?

A: It's been 11 years since I stopped wearing shoes. We came back from a trip where I had been playing music on the street in a lot of countries where kids couldn't afford to wear shoes. So I would take off my shoes and sing and dance and play along with these kids. I thought to myself, "Wow, it must be really difficult to go through life never having shoes." So I decided to go home for three days and just do like a shoe fast and see what it was like to be barefoot for three days. That extended into a week and a month and a year. Last year, I partnered with this organization called Soles4Souls that provides footwear (to the needy). Now we invite our fans to bring shoes to our shows and we collect them and get them to Soles4Souls to distribute them.

Q: What do you see as your first mainstream breakthrough?

A: Well "Say Hey (I Love You)" was the first song we ever had go into the Top 20 on the pop charts. We never had a song on the pop charts and we never had a song in the top 2,000 before, I don't think. But it happened the same week my appendix ruptured. I was in the hospital; I thought I was going to die. After the surgery and battling the infection for several weeks, everything took a new perspective for me. I thought, "Wow, it's really great to have a hit song, but it certainly doesn't mean as much as being alive or hanging out with my kids or seeing the sun for the first time in the morning." That's how this new album "The Sound of Sunshine" came about.


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