Power to the peaceful. It’s a fitting tagline for a soul rocker and his musical crew intent on battling hate with love by building community through rhythm and verse. On July 6, Michael Franti & Spearhead will bring their contagious optimism and vibrant music to the stage of Door Community Auditorium (DCA) through their “Love Out Loud” world tour.
Franti burst onto the charts with his 2009 single “Say Hey (I Love You),” just one of countless songs that demonstrates a musical outlook built on an upbeat blend of rock, soul, reggae and funk music carried on through inspiring, socially conscious lyrics.
The show at DCA is scheduled for July 6 at 8 pm. For tickets and more information, visit dcauditorium.org. In advance of the show, I caught up with Franti to talk about the power of music, getting on stage night after night, and where his music is headed.
Alyssa Skiba (AS): You recently said you feel a deeper sense of purpose in music today than ever before in your career. Why do you believe that?
Michael Franti (MF): Right now is a time where there’s so much division politically, socially, over sexuality, environmentally and I believe that it’s a time where people of all walks of life and experiences and political perspectives should be speaking out loud about what they want the world to become. Perhaps even more important than the freedom of speech is all of our ability to take time to listen to opposing viewpoints and that doesn’t mean that we can’t hold passion about the things that we feel strongly about, it just means that if we really want to create a new roadmap to the future, we have to listen without bullying.
AS: Who do you credit for your optimistic outlook on life?
MF: My Grandma Brown, my grandma on my father’s side of the family. She worked in people’s homes until she was in her 90s and I remember going to see her when she almost passed away and I had to go to the hospital, I get this emergency call like, ‘Come now. Grandma’s checking out.’ I go to the hospital and she’s got a tube in her nose and is on a heart meter, and I was like, ‘Grandma, why are you in the hospital?’ and she slowly opens her eyes and says, ‘Because I’m pregnant!’ I said, ‘Grandma, who got you pregnant?’ ‘Reverend Mitchell!’ She had this incredible ability to remain positive through humor, through food, through music, through her spirituality and faith, and her kindness and taking care of other people, taking care of whoever needed it whenever they were in need. I would credit her as my vision of that eternal optimism, of being able to find it even when you’re literally on your death bed.
AS: What’s your favorite song from your new album, SoulRocker?
MF: At the moment I really love the song, ‘Summertime Is In Our Hands’ because when we made the video I felt like my visualization of what the song was about came to full fruition. The lyrics from the song are like a blues song: ‘Summertime is always on my mind, even in the winter I want the sunshine.’ It’s like, even in the darkest moments of our lives or of my life I should say, I’m looking for some memory of light that I can call from to give me hope and strength. The video is about coming back after personal loss.
AS: You’ve got three months left of almost daily gigs on your North America tour. What keeps you going?
MF: I love what I do and as a musician, it’s the greatest job in the world when you can play music every night and make people feel uplifted. I remember when I was on tour in the early ‘90s and I had this really radical, political hip hop group called the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy and we were invited to open for U2 for a summer, and I would see U2 every night. For like 30 shows I saw them play on stage and people would sing the melodies of their songs and sing along to their lyrics and hug their friends and listen to the philosophy of the band and even though their music was not overtly political, people left inspired and it was really a lesson for me in how music works almost on a cellular level. It changes people when you sing a melody with thousands of other people in the same place, it changes you and if there’s positive intention put into it, that’s what the result is. I feel a sense of purpose right now to be a voice for people expressing their views in the most passionate way they can but always with an eye towards optimism. I believe in that because if we go out there and try to fight hate with more hate, then we end up just creating more of what we’re trying to fight against in the first place.