Michael Franti & Spearhead perform at Artpark Ampitheatre tonight (June 21) beginning at 6 p.m., and I caught up with the bandleader, songwriter, philanthropist and activist earlier this week for a discussion centering on the positive role that music has played in Franti’s own life, and the lives of his international fanbase. That full discussion will be featured in an episode of my podcast, Why Music Matters with Jeff Miers, which debuts soon, via jeffmiersmusic.com.
Here’s a snippet of our chat, to get you primed for tonight’s show.
You’ve said in the past, ‘When I write, it’s always to get to a place of transformation.’ Can you talk about that process of transformation? Is it chemical transformation? Emotional transformation? Both?
“My mission, through music, and in everything we do with our hotel (Soulshine Bali, a boutique hotel that focuses on health and wellness through music) and the retreats that I lead, is to inspire change, so that people may inspire change in others,” he says.
“And everyone has a different idea of what change is. I think, early on in my career, I was thinking, ‘Well, what’s my change that I want to see in the world? And how can I impart that to other people?’ Like political ideas, or social ideas, or movements, you know?
“But as I’ve grown older and hopefully a little wiser, (laughs) I realize that everyone has something in their life that they want to change. For one person, it might be ‘I wanna lose 40 lbs,’ and for the next person, it might be ‘I wanna be able to learn to do this trick on my skateboard,’ and for the next person, it might be ‘I wanna make sure that river in our community is clean for generations to come.’
“Everyone has something in their life that they want to change. And when we feel empowered to do that, we get closer to what I like to think of as universality.”
“When I write music, I always write from my place of deepest emotions. And it could be deep joy and celebration and elation, or it could be deep sorrow and mourning. And when I write from those places, because I’m always wanting to create change in my own life, personally, I’m always writing about those experiences that were, for me, how I got to the other side.
“So, I don’t ever really write songs that are just about the pain, without showing the light. And conversely, I don’t ever really write songs that are just about the joy, without the pain.”