Michael Franti & Spearhead
Fri, November 15, 2013
Doors: 6:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pm
The Capitol Theatre
Port Chester, NY
$30.00 ADVANCE/ $35.00 DAY OF SHOW
This event is 18 and over
This event will have a general admission standing room only floor and a reserved seated Loge and Balcony. Reserved Loge and Balcony tickets will NOT have access to the general admission floor.
The Sound Of Sunshine — the inspired and inspiring new album by Michael Franti & Spearhead — is a kind of musical sun shower, a bright, beautiful and often buoyant song cycle created to bring all kinds of listeners a sense of hope during rough and rainy times for so many in our world.
“Music is sunshine,” says Michael Franti, one of the most positive and conscious artists in music today. “Like sunshine, music is a powerful force that can instantly and almost chemically change your entire mood. Music gives us new energy and a stronger sense of purpose.”
“Music is something you can’t hold in your hands, smell it, taste it or even see it, yet somehow just coming together and feeling these little vibrations that tickle our eardrums can somehow lift us all up out of our most difficult moments in life to unimaginable heights.”
Ironically, often joyous and uplifting The Sound Of Sunshine actually came out of a darker and tougher personal experience for Franti. “Last August, my appendix ruptured suddenly in the middle of a tour and I ended up in the hospital for eight days while they figured out what was wrong with me,” recalls Franti. “I almost died and I wrote many of these songs coming out of that experience while I was in the hospital for another week or so after that. During that time, I really took a moment to prioritize what’s truly important in my life — and in the end, that’s really about the people who I love. Even in that hospital, I could laugh with the people I love, cry with them, and start to find the sun again.”
Well aware that countless others face far worse problems than he did, Franti wants The Sound Of Sunshine to communicate a sense of hope and possibility for anybody who needs it. Franti’s singularly open spirit reflects his own eclectic and intriguing background. Michael was born to an Irish-German-French mother and an African American and American Indian father in Oakland, then adopted by a Finnish American couple who raised him along with their three biological children and another African American son. While studying at the University of San Francisco, Franti formed the punk band The Beatnigs, and later the far more hip hop-inflected The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Through it all, Franti has crossed all sorts of musical and physical boundaries in order to make music for everybody.
In the mid-Nineties, Franti first formed Spearhead, and increasingly in recent years, he’s found his own voice musically and his own organic brand of popular success. Franti and Spearhead’s last album, 2008′s All Rebel Rockers — recorded in Jamaica with legendary producers and players Sly & Robbie – became the biggest hit of Franti’s career, hitting the Top 40 on the Billboard 200, and yielded his biggest hit, the Top 20 “Say Hey (I Love You).”
“I had a nice, long time to get ready for that first hit, and so I really appreciated it when it happened,” says Franti. “So when we were just mastering the new album, I was saying to my manager, “Boy, wouldn’t it be fun to have a sophomore hit?” He was like, “Sophomore hit? You’ve already been through grad school, man” So yes, I’ve paid some dues, and that’s made getting this far — and still being here — mean even more to me. The funny thing is that `Say Hey’ went into the Top Twenty right as I was being wheeled into surgery. I got the text, and I thought, `Wow, I’ve finally got a hit record, and I’m not even going to live to enjoy it.’ That put everything in perspective too.”
Michael Franti is not a man to openly chase success – in fact; he’s not a man who even wears shoes(for the last ten years). Still, Franti has absolutely no problem hearing his music on the radio now. “When I was a kid, I used to listen to AM radio on family vacations in the car, and at family barbeques and my dad would leave the radio on.
So songs that were the silly pop hits became a really meaningful part of my childhood – and of my adult life now. So when I think of the fact that there’s some family out there on the beach in the summer together listening to `Say Hey,’ it makes me feel really good. The truth is a good pop song that makes you feel good can be something of value and meaning to people.”
Arguably the most cohesive, romantic and life-affirming album that Franti and Spearhead have ever made, The Sound Of Sunshine reflects the fact that, as Franti puts it, “With time, you get a better sense who you are and how to put together all your musical passions into your own sound. I feel like for a long time, I dabbled in other sounds. Like `Let’s do something with a reggae vibe here.’ Or `Let’s really rock here.’ But now, I write everything from the acoustic guitar up — which keeps you honest. Then Jay Bowman, my songwriting partner and I, take a lot of time figuring out what’s the best way to present this song and make every word of it come across and ring true.”
Even the recording process for The Sound Of Sunshine reflects Franti’s desire to communicate directly with his audience. “We started in Jamaica actually recording a bunch of tracks with Sly and Robbie who are, of course, great, and we used some of those tracks. Then we got home and started mixing the record. Then I went to Bali and wrote some more songs, but we still didn’t have it finished. So we said let’s bring a portable studio on the road with us. We’d literally recorded the drums in the locker room of the Toronto Raptors or in the shower of some NHL team. Then we’d go right onstage and play the song and see how other people would react to it. We’d see what worked and go back and record it again the next day. So these songs have really been road tested in front of live bodies.”
For Franti, “To play for people and share your songs with them is to make a real connection. That’s why we play outside our shows for those who can’t afford to come inside. They need the songs too – maybe more. That’s the reality. And as a musician I was on tour with put it recently, “Our fans didn’t come to us from a reality show. They came to us from reality.” And so, we mean something in their lives. We’re the music they put on when they drive their little kids to school, or hang out with the person they love at night. There’s no higher honor. So they have an investment in the music. And that means so much because this music is very personal to me too.”
Best thing, the Juno Award-winning artist says, she’s ever done.
Ryder has earned grass-roots acclaim as a guitar-wielding singer-songwriter, an approach at the core of the five dozen songs she had on hand. Starting fresh allowed her the freedom to see that she’d only been showing one side of her talents and passions. She put down the guitar and wrote, first and foremost, for her voice and for her full musical personality. The result is Harmony, an album of wide range and deep vision, driven by a fierce love — and matching talent — for music of soulful connections, for the voice as the supreme instrument, for “pop” values at their most grounded and most reaching.
Working with producers/collaborators Jerrod Bettis (Gavin Degraw, Better Than Ezra) and Jon Levine (K’naan, Nelly Furtado) in Hollywood and at her Toronto home studio, the rush of creativity was remarkable both for the results, and its ease.
“This was one of the easiest and fun records I’ve ever made,” she says. “Really, really effortless. We wrote and recorded all of the songs in a couple of weeks.”
The songs showcase boisterous pop (“What I Wouldn’t Do”), lushly sultry soul balladry (“Fall”), raw exuberance (the scat-driven “Stompa”) and earthy joy (“Mary Go Round”). And throughout each song is a blend of a joyous embrace of a wide range of styles, at all times honoring her whole musical life: The girl who sang along to her mom’s record collection before she ever picked up a guitar and the woman who had fallen under the seductive sway of generations of dynamic, poetic singer-songwriters.
“When I first started playing guitar I learned from listening to Neil Young,” she says. “And I learned to write lyrics from him too, and Tracy Chapman, Ben Harper, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, John Prine, Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristofferson. And on my guitar that was how I always wrote.”
There was much more to her, though.
“But I started singing when I was a kid,” she says. “I didn’t play guitar yet, so I was singing Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt songs. Bette Midler was massive! ‘Beaches’ was huge for me. Also ‘The Labyrinth’ with David Bowie, one of the first people I wanted to marry! These super-eclectic people I was into. So soulful and big. When I put down my guitar all those influences came through.”
After making the hard decision to forget all the written songs for a fresh start, Ryder headed to Los Angeles where she was put together with Bettis at his home studio. She arrived with just “the first idea of a riff.”
“He said, ‘That’s cool.’” she says. “We didn’t know it was anything. We recorded that and he created this unbelievable drum beat around it. And then the song came naturally. When I was a kid I loved Ella and all that, loved scatting, using my voice as a real instrument. All of a sudden I was scatting. And the word people came out of my mouth. Just came out!”
From that grew “Stompa,” one of the album’s irresistible centerpieces.
“He said, ‘What is this song about?’ I said that it’s about how magic music is. How music is one of the most powerful medicines in the world. That’s what I want to sing about, how powerful music is in itself. It can take you to a whole other place, shoot you out of your body and into your heart. I wanted something that would make you move, forget your lousy day, forget your awful job or car or disease. Music can do that. I forget that sometimes, even though I’m a musician. You know, it’s that simple!”
On “For You,” Levine brought in an idea he’d intended for her when they’d first worked together, but had not had a chance to use. Built around a string sample from Nina Simone’s recording of “I Put a Spell on You,” the song has a simmering tone manifest through Ryder’s sultry vocals. “Call Me” carries another shade of the same seductively dark edge. And “Fall,” she says, came from wanting “something where you were just so in love that you’re falling down that rapid river.”
Her favorite, she says. is “Baby Come Back,” about “me writing to that be-all, end-all power, God, the universe, whatever. People in their moment of despair will go to that higher power. I was thinking, why then in our moments of happiness, when everything is okay, you forget about that? Where’s the gratitude? So I wanted to write about that.”
The album’s lustrous sound, she adds, was brought to full dimension by the other key team member, Joe Zook, whose mix of the music has her “for the first time feeling I was hearing music in 3D.”
Ryder was born in tiny Millbrook, Ontario, pop. 2000, raised by her mom (a go-go dancer with rock revue tours in her youth) and step-dad (“Those oldies! He loved it. Could not sing at all, but would scream at the top of his lungs to the radio when we would go on drives Sundays in his truck”), with extra music influence from her uncle, noted singer-songwriter Bob Carpenter. Her musical pursuits took off in her teen years, with early recordings and steady performances on the Toronto circuit, both solo and with such bands as Three Days Grace. Among her accolades is the Juno New Artist Award.
The single of “Stompa” previewed the breakthrough of Harmony as a hit at home, as well as a featured spot in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
The songs, she adds, to her represent the elements — fire, water, air, earth — in respective, poetic ways. But also much more within that, the elements within her, within the emotions touched by music.
“All those elements coming together in this record,” she says. “That’s why it’s called Harmony. Harmony is being able to have a billion things happen at once. As long as they’re in harmony, it’s all good. You don’t have to think about yourself or deny yourself.”
The Capitol Theatre
149 Westchester Avenue
Port Chester, NY, 10573