The end of April was Michael Franti’s 10-year anniversary of going shoeless. Even in the winter time, he goes shoe-free.
“I always carry a pair of flip flops in a little bag for places that require shoes,” said Franti, the frontman of Michael Franti and Spearhead, who play the House of Blues in Boston on Friday. “I started going to places around the world that people didn’t wear shoes. I’d go play music on the streets for kids who couldn’t afford shoes, and I sort of just took my shoes off in solidarity with these kids… but I decided one day when I got back to San Francisco I was going to see what it was like to go for three days to not wear shoes.”
By listening to or reading the lyrics to Franti’s songs, it’s clear that he uses his music to connect people to what is going on around the world. In his song, “Nobody Right Nobody Wrong” he writes about his time traveling in Israel and Palestine and spending time talking to people on both sides of the conflict.
“That’s a goal in my life,” he said. “I like to make a difference, to make the world a better place, and I try to find ways to do that in my music.”
After Franti’s song “Say Hey (I Love You)” hit the top 20 last year, he was admitted to the hospital when his appendix ruptured. That’s where his current album, “The Sound of Sunshine,” got its title.
“As I was in the hospital looking out my window, I’d see the sunshine and I’d be like ‘Hey, it’s going to be a good day,'” he said. “And if it was cloudy out, I’d have to look for some kind of sunshine somewhere else. This record is about trying to find those bright moments, even if it’s the most difficult time.”
Franti and his band have brought those bright moments to fans on their new album, which they recorded on the road.
“We have a little portable studio that we set up in a dressing room, which has been either NBA or NHL locker rooms,” Franti said. “We put the drums in the shower and set up our guitars and amps in the locker, and then we go on stage and see how the audience responds. We come back and say, ‘Hey, you can change this,’ or maybe a song needs to be played a little slower. We make the changes right after the show so the audience really had a big influence on the way the album ended up sounding.”
In part because of that influence, he said the new album is the group’s strongest one yet.
“We tested it on the road and made changes and made the songs sound the way we play them on the stage,” Franti said. “When people come see the show, it’s going to sound the way it does on the album.”
IF YOU GO:
What: Michael Franti and Spearhead
When: Friday, June 4, at 8 p.m.
Where: House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St., Boston
How: Tickets are $45 and $30. For tickets or more information, call 1-888-693-2583 or visit www.houseofblues.com
This article was published in the Eagle-Tribune on June 3, 2010