Hailing from the USA, Michael Franti is a musician, filmmaker and humanitarian known for his feel good songs and globally conscious lyrics. You will most probably know and be able to sing along to his 2x platinum hit single, ‘Say Hey (I Love You)’. Michael is one of the surfer musicians who will performing at this year’s Splashy Fen. Check out his interview below!
Where do you surf?
I built a boutique yoga hotel in Bali after the first time I went there ten years ago – Soulshine Bali. Bali is where I surf. I came to surfing late in life. I grew up 50 miles from the ocean so It wasn’t part of my childhood so surfing humbled me, teaches me and makes me feel like a kid again. Like most things in life, I’m a terrible surfer, but I have tenacious enthusiasm for having a great time and any time in the water is a great time.
What do you ride?
I own a home shaped long board from my friend Ian Cohen in Australia he’s a Green MP and GreenPeace activist. He made me a long board with some of my lyrics on it “power to the peaceful”. But normally I go to the beach in Canggu and rent any piece of shit board there and go have fun.
Are you goofy or natural?
On a surf board I’m natural. In everything else in life I’m totally goofy.
What do you play?
I play guitar, I sing, I play a drum machine, I play yoga, backgammon and 1-4-24 dice on our tour bus, I share funny stories with my kids and I play music with my band mates, I work hard and dance even harder.
What inspired you to start playing music?
I make music for the same reason I always have I love people and the planet and I believe every single person on this planet deserves to be happy, healthy and equal. I owe music, it’s given me more than I could possibly repay. It’s saved my life over and over again. Times when I felt like taking my life in my own hands or when my dad was being abusive to my mom. Music got me through it and helped me find courage and optimism. My son has a chronic kidney disease and will need a new kidney soon. Music is the thing that binds us and gets us through it. Meeting my wife at a concert was also a huge fringe benefit. My wife and I started a non-profit called Do It For The Love to bring sick and dying people and their families to concerts. I feel like I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to pay back music.
Who are your musical and surf influences?
I love artists who are great storytellers who can make you dance. Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Clash, Run Dmc, Lunlic Enemy, Rage against the machine, Johnny Cash, John Lennon. I met Laird Hamilton at a screening of his bio-pic at Sundance film festival. Laird lived a tough life and surfing saved him. The film shows his evolution in the water, his failures and growth as a man, husband and father. I’ll never surf like him but I see how the water has guided his journey. Music has done that for me. There is learning there.
Does surfing compliment the musical creative process? How so?
Surfing for me is like yoga. I get on the mat put myself in uncomfortable positions and learn to breathe through it. It makes me a better person to be both humbled and elated when it feels like it’s coming together. My surf skills are limited but what I learn from it is infinite. Music, yoga, surfing, friendships, family, marriage, it’s all challenging stuff and all of it makes my music more fertile.
Best surf session you’ve ever had?
I remember the first time I surfed Canggu and as the saying goes it’s always bigger than it looks from the beach. I paddled out with some Balinese locals and was scared shitless. One of them said “follow me” and it was everything I could do to keep up with them. One of them yelled, “Paddle! Paddle! Paddle!” I thought I was going to get crushed so I popped up and found myself on a proper wave for the first time ever. I was hooked!
Biggest surf sin you have ever committed?
If you’ve ever seen KookSlams on Instagram that’s pretty much the story of my life on a surf board. Shore slams, reef slams, board to the face, my board hitting someone else’s face, skim board to a back plant in concrete sand, etc. But truthfully my biggest surfing sin was spending most of my life unaware of where the plastic I’ve used was ending up. In the ocean. Now I know and it’s the only sin I want to ask forgiveness for and make amends for.
Any spots in SA you’ve been wanting to surf?
I don’t no of any famous spots but to me surfing is not about the place it’s about hanging out on a board with someone else and getting to know them and myself better through being humbled by nature. That’s the good shit. It could be any wave any where.
How would you describe your genre of music?
I’m a Soulrocker. Someone who lives from the heart, tries to have compassion for all. With a tenacious enthusiasm for music life and the planet. My music is reggae, rap, funk, electronic, folk and rock. But it all has soul.
Any pearls of wisdom about surfing, music, barrels or beats?
In all, be your authentic self, serve the greater good, walk humbly and rock out wherever you are.
How did you hear about Splashy Fen and what are you most looking forward to about playing there this year?
I only heard about the fest when we got invited. I am so excited just to be in Africa for the first time. My mother is Irish, German and Belgian and my father is African American. To be the descendant of slaves and return to Africa for the first time is emotional for me. I’m grateful, excited, humbled and proud to be here. Although I’ve come to play music I’m actually here just to be a listener of the experiences of this great evolving nation, share songs and connect with others through the magic of music!