Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Blurred lines

Michael Franti shares how he keeps it together on tour and in life

Express Staff Writer

Michael Franti encourages families to dance together whenever it’s possible, even when there is no music..
Courtesy photo

    Michael Franti’s uplifting tunes are not simply an extension of an indomitable happy place, but it comes from a lifetime of looking at life’s rough edges, learning resilience from others and being inspired to make his contribution to moving through.
    His contributions largely come in the form of his music, which he writes and composes as the creator and lead vocalist of Michael Franti & Spearhead, a band that blends unique hip-hop with a variety of other styles including funk, reggae, jazz, folk and rock.
    Franti says his ability to channel resistance and heartbreak into optimism, action and hope is due, in large part, to his yoga practice.
    “I’ve been practicing yoga on tour as a way to get my mind and my body and all my emotions working together while living the hectic life of shows, hotels, restaurants, new places, repeat,” he said in a phone call from Zurich, where he was sitting on the edge of Lake Geneva in a break from a European stint. “I found it to be a really great way to keep myself together on tour.”
    So he decided, after a pre-concert invitation for fans to share in some yoga in Colorado turned into a 2,000-plus gathering, that it was another aspect of sharing to include in his portfolio.
    Michael Franti & Spearhead announced last month the launch of the first-ever music and yoga lifestyle tour, “Soulshine,” featuring special guest artists SOJA, Brett Dennen, Trevor Hall, and acclaimed yoga teachers, such as Canada’s Ryan Leier.
    And Sun Valley, where the artist has performed before, is one of the stops. He will play here July 2 as a guest of the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.
    Soulshine is bridging daytime and evening experiences including live music, pop-up yoga villages, sustainable living activities and DJ performances. It promises to be a bona fide family affair, bringing the community together for a full-blown dance party.
    Franti has been practicing yoga for more than 12 years, and has graced the covers of numerous lifestyle publications including Yoga Journal, Origin, Mantra and Yoga.
    Celebrated yoga guru Ryan Leier heads up the daily sessions, bringing his innovative style of assimilating ancient traditions with a contemporary flow to the masses. Leier is the founder of One Yoga studios and Vinyasa Yoga for Youth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth through the practice of yoga.
    Over the course of his career, Franti has sold more than 2.5 million singles of his hit song “Say Hey (I Love You),” and has charted his albums on Billboard’s “Top 40” along with frequent appearances on CNN and television shows hosted by David Letterman, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres.
    In addition to being a social activist, Franti has diligently created and supported numerous environmental and humanitarian causes, which speaks to the evolution of sounds featured on his latest album, “All People” (Boo Boo Wax/Capitol Records, July 2013).
    The album features colossal dance beats and electronic effects, with Franti’s signature lyrical sincerity singing about what moves him.
    It was his adoptive mother’s influence that moved him towards the life he now leads.
    She raised five children with an absent, alcoholic husband, and managed to “give them wings,” he says.
    “She taught us, and then the expectation was we would do it for ourselves. If we wanted something that required money, we earned it. But she also was a person who pointed out the challenges of people around the world and we would talk about it.”
    A song on the new album called “11:59” addresses that idea of not wasting moments or being stuck in place.
    The person he is today lives by the mantra, “Do your best, serve the greater good, and rock out. Improve yourself, try and learn something new every day, touch your toes, read something or travel somewhere, find some way outside of yourself to make a difference.”

Two times the Soulshine
What: Soulshine Yoga and Music Event. Mass acoustic music and yoga jam.
When: Wednesday, July 2, at 11 a.m.
Where: Trail Creek Picnic Grounds in Sun Valley.
Tickets: $20, $10 if purchased with a ticket to the Soulshine Tour Concert.
What: Soulshine Tour Concert. Concert featuring Michael Franti & Spearhead, SOJA, Brett Dennen and Trevor Hall.
When: Wednesday, July 2, at 6 p.m.
Where: River Run Lodge in Ketchum.
Tickets: $40, Center members, $50 non-members.
Details: For information, visit


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