‘My goal is to make people dance’

Courtesy of Michael Franti

Michael Franti & Spearhead will headline a day-into-night happening Saturday at Three Springs. Zach Heckendorf will take the stage first at about 3 p.m.

By Mark Hayden Herald staff writer

Michael Franti is passionate. Whether it’s yoga, Indonesia, politics or music, he’s all about it.

Those were a few of the topics Franti and I discussed recently. And on Saturday night, almost two years to the day after playing at Three Springs, Michael Franti and Spearhead will return to the outdoor amphitheatre.

In August 2010, the group was attracting substantial attention with tracks such as “The Sound of Sunshine” and especially “Say Hey, I Love You,” Spearhead’s most successful single to date.

Since then, Franti and Spearhead have been riding a wave of momentum. They have been touring the world and recording a new album while on the road, of which Saturday’s audience might get a taste.

The audience can also expect an energetic show with little time to stand around.

“My goal is always to make people dance. I like watching people be uplifted and feeling very positive about what’s coming in their life,” Franti said. “There are a lot of days I go to sleep worried, but when I wake up, I feel uplifted, and I want them (the audience) to have that feeling,” Franti said.

Franti and Spearhead came here for the first time in 1997 for a performance at Fort Lewis College.

Since then, the group’s sound has evolved. The hip-hop and reggae sound has been retained, but there’s also been a dash of pop and dance-inducing vibes added to the mix. And that combination has proved effective.

“Say Hey (I Love You)” peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard charts, and it even made its way into Corona Light commercial in 2010. That was the band’s first Top 20 hit. Oddly, Franti was being rolled into surgery to have his appendix removed when he first heard the song earned the honor, as he posted on his website.

Legendary Jamaican producers Sly and Robbie (Bob Marley, The Rolling Stones, No Doubt) also had a hand in that accomplishment. They produced the albums “All Rebel Rockers” in 2008, which spawned “Say Hey,” and 2006’s “Yell Fire!”

“Those guys are amazing,” Franti said. “I like to record in different places. It adds to the energy wherever you are.”

“Yell Fire!” was inspired by a trip in 2004 to Iraq, Israel and Palestine. While there, Franti and few of his friends observed the dangerous effects of war on regular people. Later, the trip was turned into the 2006 documentary “I Know I’m Not Alone.”

“On my tour bus in spring of 2004, I was telling my friend I was tired of politicians talking about economic costs of war, never the human cost, so my friend was like, ‘You should go to Iraq.’ So I said, ‘OK,’” Franti said.

These days, Franti is sticking to making music and the road has been his studio. He and his crew have been producing most of their forthcoming album on a portable studio and a bit at Franti’s home in San Francisco, he said.

On June 8, in front of a packed crowd at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, the band had a chance to play about half of their new songs, Franti said.

The group’s new album, as yet untitled, may be released by the end of the year with a possible single to be released in the fall. Franti said they like to wait until the last minute to release a record. After all, that was when “Say Hey (I Love You)” came to be in the recording process.

“We reserve releasing until the last moment,” Franti said. “You never know what you might get.”

For Franti, it’s more than just about the music, though. He enjoys touring the world and spreading his messages to packed crowds, but he also enjoys mingling with the people and exploring the places he sees.

When Franti first visited Bali five years ago, he was so captivated by the country’s culture that he opened a business there with his friend, Carla Swanson. His yoga hotel, Soulshine Bali, gives Franti a good reason to visit the country “a lot”, where he likes to swim, ride motorcycles and, of course, do yoga.

The fitness studio is on the third floor of the hotel, with a mostly open roof with views of rice terraces all around, and it is there that people partake in the exercise, Franti said.

“It’s an amazing culture. Everybody in Bali is into some kind of art. They have their profession by day, but by night, they are doing some kind of art carvings, painting, jewelry or something,” Franti said.

That doesn’t sound too different from Durango. And with this weekend marking his third visit to the Durango area since 2008, he’s staying loyal.

“It’ll be good to be back there,” Franti said.

mhayden@durangoherald.com

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