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Michael Franti: Stay Even Flow.

9 December 2002 | 1:00 am | Alison Black
Originally Appeared In

Spears For Fears.

Michael Franti plays the Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay on December 9 and 10, the Tivoli on December 11 and the Surfers Paradise Beergarden on December 12.

For many, Michael Franti will need no introduction. As frontman of Spearhead, Franti has been a regular visitor to these shores, backing albums of immense power and wisdom with shows of intense passion and creativity. Now he’s back as a solo acoustic artist, kind of, and playing an all too brief East Coast Tour.

“I like coming out there this time of year,” he affirms, strumming an acoustic guitar in the background. “We’re just getting into our cold season and it’s nice tog et a little heat into your bones.”

This will be Franti’s second set of Australian dates this year, as Spearhead made an earlier appearance.

“We’ve been touring non stop with the Stay Even album, but we’ve been in the studio most of this month, working on the new studio album which will be out next year.”

And there’s more on the way. This tour should find Franti performing stripped back versions of Spearhead material, and there’s already an acoustic album, Songs From The Front Porch, under wraps.

“We just finished the acoustic record, and it should be ready for the shows. At first you’ll only be able to get it at shows, then on the website, and eventually you’ll be able to get it in stores. What we’ve got going on with these tours will be me playing guitar with our guitar player from Spearhead, Dave Shul, and Radio Active, the beat boxer extraordinaire will be beat boxing as well.”

And there’s something special coming for anyone keen on a little audience participation…

“We’ve put out a special call for any people who are planning on attending a show, and might know how to sing a song with a guitar or play a flute or whatever you know how to play. Get in touch by emailing and come to the soundcheck, and we’ll try you out to see if you can be part of the show.”

You know you’re just going to make some people’s year with that offer. Come perform with Michael Franti…

“Yeah, I hope so,” he laughs. “And I hope they don’t blow mine.”

Is this something you’ve done in the past?

“We’ve never tried it before. Every now and then someone jumps up with a harmonica or something, and we’ve had people from other bands sit in before, but this is the first time we’ve put out an open call. The reason I want to do it, is this tour is the Power To The Peaceful Tour, and in this time of world crisis we just want people to come together. I believe music is one of the healing arts, and I just want to make this an opportunity to express emotions we don’t always get the chance to express. To do that together is really important.”

“It takes a lot of courage to get up on stage and sing songs about not going to war at the moment, and not bombing other people. I believe that what we’re saying is right. If you really want to bring about lasting solutions to the problems the world has today, it’s not going to be through the military. I think artists need to speak out right now, because the corporate media is not representing these viewpoints, and in five or ten years we’re going to grow to regret these views, just like we now regret the Vietnam war.”

“We’re also inviting people to bring flowers or pictures or art or whatever and we’re going to create a little mandala on stage with candles and whatever people want to bring. We also have some books we’ve been travelling around with that people have been writing in the intentions for peace. So people can add to that, also.”

Does it make the event more organic for the band, and heighten the intimacy and connection with the audience?

“Definitely. That’s the goal. To try to bring people together and break down the walls between the stage and the audience.”

I’ve noticed you’ve also put out a call while you’re in Australia looking for Yoga instructors, or spaces you can attend classes each day. How long have you been a Yoga devotee?

“I’ve only been doing Yoga for a short time, but it’s been something that’s been really transformative in my life,” he enthuses. “It’s the one thing I do every single day of the week now. Even on tour I’ve been leaving messages for people in different towns asking if there’s a studio we can practice in. We’ll trade some tickets to the show for someone to teach a class for us. It’s been the one part of my day that really helps me.”