:: Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest :: August 10 ::
:: (Festival runs August 10 - 12) ::
By Hap Fry
When needed, Michael Franti can still pull an all-nighter.
On a recent mid-July day, the popular 46-year-old indie musician/poet/composer found himself still up at 6 a.m. in the studio of his San Francisco home tweaking vocals for his yet-to-be-released ballad “Love Somebody.” That song will appear on his upcoming album, which is scheduled to be released sometime later this year.
“You know, last night we had been working on a song that’s a full arrangement with the band, but I wasn’t really feeling the song so I stayed up last night and [guitarist]Jay [Bowman] and I sort of tinkered with the chords on the guitar,” Franti said during a recent phone interview with The Marquee from his northern California residence. “After we got off the phone at 2 a.m., I just started re-recording the guitar and voice myself, and that’s where it lead. I love the moment when the studio experience and the live experience meet – just when you’ve written something in the studio that you really love and then you get to play it for the first time in front of a live audience. There’s that part of nervousness – just wondering if it’s going to be good. I took something from my heart and now it’s here out in the open – into the real world.”
Franti is as deep as he is real. He’s traveled to spots all over the world including Iraq, Israel and Brazil, among other locales, to document and learn more about the volatile situations that exist in those places. Rather than come away with a negative view of society, Franti draws inspiration from the resilience people have that he often comes in contact with abroad.
“All the things that I believe in and write about in my songs are about people trying their best to find a smile, to find positivity,” Franti said. “I believe in the power of positivity. I’m always trying to find whatever is the most positive. To me, that’s not like a left or right or Republican or Democrat thing, it’s just about seeing whether we’re going to take the most positive route possible or are we going to resort to bombing each other?”
That positivity Franti seeks to incorporate in every song also comes out of necessity and experience. Franti was born to an Irish-German-French mother and an African American and Native American father. His birth mother gave him up for adoption because she did not think her family would be accepting of him. “I ended up being raised in the Franti family, who are Finnish Americans,” Franti said. “They have three kids of their own, and they adopted myself and another African American son. So the song ‘Love Somebody’ is really about how I believe anybody should be able to choose whoever they choose to love whether it’s a black person and a white person, whether a family chooses to adopt someone of a different race or two people of the same sex or two people of a different religion choose to be together. I believe everybody should be able to choose. The important thing is not who you choose, but do you love somebody?
“That’s the question that I think is going to be asked by each of our creators no matter who or what you believe in. At some point, you’re going to be called upon and be asked did you love in this lifetime. That’s what the song is about.”
Franti said he definitely plans to play “Love Somebody” during his Michael Franti and Spearhead performance Aug. 10 in Fort Collins as part of the Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest.
Franti and Spearhead, along with Allison Krauss and Union Station, and the Gipsy Kings, are the headliners for the three-day festival that runs August 10-12 in Old Town Fort Collins. With over 90 acts and a strong cast of headliners, some Fort Collins residents have said this year’s Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest could be the biggest musical event ever staged in town. That’s high praise considering The Rolling Stones (1969 and 1975) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers (1991) have made appearances in “The Choice City.”
“The last couple of weekends we’ve played some of these free, open-air street festivals. It’s been really great,” Franti said. “All these people come out who would normally never see your band. I mean, we love playing live and we love playing for new people. It makes for a fun time. It’s also really exciting to see how the festival season has evolved in our country. I remember as a kid, city governments were not that super-open about having masses of people in the open out on the street. Now they see the benefits for the community — for restaurants, hotels, stores and just the uplifting of spirits.”
Fort Collins, as the rest of Colorado, is in need of some cheering up at the present moment. The state has been besieged with tragedy this summer, including the close by Fort Collins, High Park Fire, which destroyed 259 homes and grew to 87,284 acres, becoming the second-largest and second-most destructive fire in Colorado history.
“I’ve been watching online the news about the fires,” Franti said. “It’s unbelievable the images that have been put out and just the enormity of the fire. My heart just goes out to everybody whose lives have been altered by it, whether you’ve been evacuated or have just been living in fear. It’s a stressful thing. You know, I have many people in my family who are firefighters, and it’s a difficult job. We’re looking forward to coming out there to do our best to make people feel uplifted.”
In the meantime, Franti doesn’t anticipate pulling another all-nighter for “Love Somebody,” but you never know.
“With this song, I’ve probably done six or seven whole treatments of the tune and, at the moment, I think, after very little sleep, I like this one the best. But maybe after a nap I’ll take it another direction. There’s a reason why we say ‘we play music’ because it is play, and we have a great time doing it. When you write something, you can spend as much time as you need to, and it never seems like it’s an arduous task. I always think passionate.”
:: Michael Franti & Spearhead ::
:: Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest :: August 10 ::
:: (Festival runs August 10 – 12) ::
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