Browse by Title
V W X Y Z #  

Michael Franti
Yoga is the Sanskrit word for Union, often interpreted as "Union with God." It's about getting closer to your creator as much as it is about loosening your hamstrings.

For Michael Franti, it dovetails with his music, which deals with spirituality and personal expression. Incorporating the practice into his Soulshine tour makes sense, as his music is best enjoyed in the moment, with both heart and mind receptive to the sounds.

Franti came up through two short-lived bands that merged industrial and hip-hop with thought-provoking, politically-minded lyrics: the Beatnigs and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (both of which saw Franti collaborate with multi-instrumentalist Rono Tse). Both acts playing shows with a variety of renowned bands (the former with Fugazi, the latter with U2), but neither succeeded in introducing Franti to the masses. That changed when Franti formed Spearhead in 1994 and scored with the 2009 hit single, "Say Hey (I Love You)."

In this chat with Franti, the singer/guitarist discusses the benefits of yoga (both in his personal and musical life), the art of expression, and the stories behind some of his biggest songs.
Michael Franti
Greg Prato (Songfacts): Let's talk about the Soulshine tour. What can we expect from it?

Michael Franti: Well, it's the first tour that we know of that combines music as well as yoga. I've been practicing yoga for the past 13 years. I started on tour going to different yoga studios in every town and I would get to know teachers over the years. We would invite them to come and practice backstage before the shows, so this sort of grew, and then last year when we played at Red Rocks we decided to do an acoustic concert before our show and invited people to come practice yoga with a teacher who was teaching there.

We thought we'd get maybe a couple hundred people to show up, but we had 2,000 people show up with their yoga mats. So we decided to do this concept everywhere we go.

It's pretty much a normal rock & roll tour. You don't have to be a yogi to come, but if you've ever wanted to try it, it's a great place to give it a shot. So the beginning of every show in the afternoon there'll be a mass yoga class with myself and some of the other musicians from the tour playing acoustically in the afternoon. Then it will turn into a proper rock & roll concert in the night.

If people just want to come and listen to the music and hang out and listen to cool acoustic vibes, they're welcome to do that, too.

Songfacts: Would you say that there's any correlation between yoga and music? Does yoga ever help influence your songwriting?
Yoga has been around for perhaps 5000 years, but it was The Beatles who brought it to the forefront of rock when they retreated to India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. George Harrison made it a lifelong spiritual pursuit (something he alludes to in "My Sweet Lord"), while Carlos Santana, Sting, Leonard Cohen, Russell Simmons and Roger Hodgson have all gone down a divine path that incorporates the practice. Much of it has to do with coping with the demands that come with being a rock star - shutting out the noise so you can hear your own heartbeat. It's also a handy tool for harnessing the unruly creative energy within so many of these songwriters. Dave Wakeling of The English Beat told us that he uses yoga to "quiet my jackhammer mind."

Michael: Well, what yoga does for me is it brings me into a place of being centered. So whatever I'm working on, whether it's songwriting or film editing or business or just hanging out with my kids, whatever it is, I feel more in the moment. I'm not so concerned about what's going to happen in the future, I'm not worried about what's happening in the past, and it brings me into the moment.

That's really what I started practicing, because being on tour gets very stressful at times - getting in and out of airports and buses and getting to shows and promo on time. Your body gets worn out, and yoga's been my way to get my body and my mind and my heart focused.

Songfacts: When did you start practicing yoga?

Michael: Started the day after 9/11. I started September 12th, 2001. A friend of mine offered to teach a class. It was a very stressful time for everyone in the country, and I was like, "Hey, I'm down for some de-stressing right now." So I went there.

But what I didn't realize was how physically demanding yoga is. I always thought it was just sitting with your legs crossed and humming, and I didn't realize it was this really physical exercise form. It helped me, because I came from playing sports in high school and college. I played basketball, and I've always been a hiker, rock climber, all those things. So to do something that was physical, but that was really helping my body to be more limber and to be more strong, it really made a lot of sense to me. So after that first class I just stayed with it.

Songfacts: As far as songwriting, how would you say that you write your best songs? Is it that you would sit down at the guitar and just play something, or is it maybe lyrics that come up first or the music?

Michael: Right now I'm actually sitting in front of my laptop and I'm recording vocals for a new song. In the past I'd always done songwriting through just sitting down and making a beat on a drum machine and humming some melodies and recording them. But it's only been really in the last couple of years when I'll just sit down with the guitar alone and write the whole song before I ever try to make any production around it.

Most of the time when I'm recording the other way - when I'm making a beat first - those demos become what is on the record. When I'm writing with a guitar, I'll sit down and I'll write a song all the way through with the guitar, all the words and all the melodies. Then I think to myself, "Oh, what do I want this to sound like? What's going to be the most accurate expression of the emotion that takes place in the song?" So it's been a challenging way for me lately to work frontwards and then work backwards.

Michael FrantiAnd I've also been collaborating recently with other songwriters, which is something that I always thought would make my songs be less personal and less coming from me directly. But what I've found is the opposite, that it helps me to get unstuck.

I think that's the hardest part for any songwriter: you get this great idea and then you reach a point where you're like, "Oh, man, I don't even know where to take it from here. It was a good start, but I'll just let it lie."

I'm sure every songwriter has a box somewhere either in their mind or in their laptop or an actual box filled with songs that are great starts that aren't finished. And when I work with other songwriters, it's enabled me to move past those places where I get stuck. Where I'm stuck, it inspires the next person's idea, and then we go back and forth. I'm always going back to that initial emotion when I'm writing with somebody and saying, "That's really great, but it doesn't come back to that initial emotion that I was feeling when I decided to write this song."

It's been a journey. I'm here at this venue in Holland and looked up on the wall and there's a poster from my first band, the Beatnigs. We played here back in the day with Fugazi when I was writing punk rock. And then there was another of my second band, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, which was this mix of industrial music and Hip-Hop with very political lyrics. And then another poster with Spearhead, which is combining melody and chords and emotions beyond just angry politics. It was kind of cool. I took a picture of each of the three bands that I'd been in and played at this venue. I was just sort of recalling where I've grown as a songwriter.

Songfacts: Who are some of the songwriters that you're currently working with?

I wrote it in Woody Harrelson's bathroom.

Michael: Well, Sam Hollander's one that I really dig. He's somebody who's come through a lot of African music. He was part of the whole Antibalas scene in New York and African pop music. Lately he's been writing songs with everyone from really super pop artists - like girl bands from the UK - all the way to people like myself or Brett Dennen or this great Italian artist, Joe Venoti, who he's working with at the moment.

He's one of those people who believes that the song is only as good as it is when you're playing it just with the acoustic guitar, and it doesn't matter if it's a song for a pop diva or somebody who's like me, who writes from a more social and more personal place.

Songfacts: Tell me about writing the song "Say Hey (I Love You)."

Michael: "Say Hey, (I Love You)" I wrote as the very last song to the album All Rebel Rockers. It was a very political and very intense album, and I thought, "I just need a song that's simple and fun and easy to sing. Something to lighten up this record."

I wrote it in Woody Harrelson's bathroom. I wrote it on the steam in the glass in his shower. When I was done, I jumped out and the words were evaporating off the glass, so I quickly took a picture of it with my iPhone. Woody called me and he said, "How's the songwriting going?" And I said, "I think it's going great. I think I might have written a hit song in your bathroom." And Woody said, "Is it a Number 1 or a Number 2?" [Laughing]

Songfacts: What about the song "I'm Alive"?

Michael: I've had a number of experiences over the last couple of years where I've lost people that were close to me, and I've had my appendix rupture on tour. This is the song that was really just an expression of gratitude for being alive and wanting to live every minute to the fullest. I guess I wanted to get the sound of what it means to be alive rather than the ideas of what it means to be alive. That's why right before the chorus it sounds like, "Whooaaa," and then just turns into a melody after that.

Songfacts: And lastly, what about the song "The Sound of Sunshine"?

Michael: "Sound of Sunshine" was one that I actually wrote in the hospital after my appendix ruptured. Every day I'd go to the window to see if the sun was shining, and if it was, I'd lean in the window. I thought to myself, "If I could bottle this feeling of how good the sun feels when you're trying to heal your body, it would be amazing." So I thought, "Why not try to put it into a song so that I could share that experience with other people?"

May 23, 2014. For more Michael, visit


No Comments yet! Be the first to leave a comment!

Where are you from?
Your Comment
 security code

Benny MardonesBenny Mardones
His song "Into The Night" is one of the most-played of all time. For Benny, it took him to hell and back.
Jonathan Edwards - "Sunshine"Jonathan Edwards - "Sunshine"
"How much does it cost? I'll buy it?" Another songwriter told Jonathan to change these lyrics. Good thing he ignored this advice.
Artis the SpoonmanArtis the Spoonman
Even before Soundgarden wrote a song about him, Artis was the most famous spoon player of all time. So why has he always been broke?
Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper/Lou Reed)Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper/Lou Reed)
The co-writer/guitarist on many Alice Cooper hits, Dick was also Lou Reed's axeman on the Rock n' Roll Animal album.

Search in Songwriter Interviews
Songwriter Interviews titles
Aaron Beam of Red Fang
Aaron Gillespie
Aaron Lewis
Adam Duritz of Counting Crows
Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne
Adam Young of Owl City
Al Anderson of NRBQ
Al Jourgensen of Ministry
Al Kooper
Alan Merrill of The Arrows
Alex Call (867-5309)
Allee Willis: Boogie Wonderland, Friends theme
Amanda Palmer
Amy Grant
Andy McClusky of OMD
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash
Angelo Moore of Fishbone
Ann Hampton Callaway
Anna Canoni about Woody Guthrie
Annie Haslam of Renaissance
Anthony Raneri of Bayside
Antigone Rising
Art Alexakis of Everclear
Asher Roth
Badi Assad
Bart Millard of MercyMe
Becca Stevens
Ben Watt of Everything But The Girl
Benny Mardones
Biff Byford of Saxon
Bill Medley of The Righteous Brothers
Bill Withers
Billy Gould of Faith No More
Billy Joe Shaver
Billy Montana ("More Than A Memory" - Garth Brooks)
Billy Steinberg
Bo Bice
Bob Daisley
Bobby Liebling of Pentagram
Bobby Whitlock
Boz Scaggs
Brad Arnold from 3 Doors Down
Brad Smith of Blind Melon
Brandi Carlile
Brandon Heath
Brenda Russell
Brian "Head" Welch of Korn, Love and Death
Bronze Radio Return
Bruce Robison
Bryan Adams
Butch Vig
Buzz Osborne of the Melvins
Carol Kaye
Chad Channing (Nirvana, Before Cars)
Chad Urmston of Dispatch
Chan Kinchla of Blues Traveler
Charles Fox
Charlie Benante of Anthrax
Charlie Daniels
Charlotte Caffey of The Go-Go's
Chris August
Chris Fehn of Slipknot
Chris Isaak
Chris Knight
Chris Robinson of The Black Crowes
Chris Squire of Yes
Chris Tomlin
Chris Willis
Chris Wilson of The Flamin' Groovies
Christopher Cross
Chuck Billy of Testament
Cody Hanson of Hinder
Colbie Caillat
Corey Hart
Craig Goldy of Dio
Curt Kirkwood of Meat Puppets
Cy Curnin of The Fixx
Dan Haseltine of Jars of Clay
Dan Reed
Daniel Moore ("Shambala," "My Maria")
Danko Jones
Danny Kortchmar
Dar Williams
Darren King of MUTEMATH
Darryl Worley
Dave Clark
Dave Innis of Restless Heart
Dave Mason
Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum
Dave Stewart of Eurythmics
Dave Wakeling of The English Beat
Dean Pitchford
Denny Randell
Desmond Child
Devin Townsend
Dexys (Kevin Rowland and Jim Paterson)
Dez Fafara of DevilDriver and Coal Chamber
Dick Wagner (Alice Cooper/Lou Reed)
Dino Cazares of Fear Factory
Don Brewer of Grand Funk
Don Felder
Donald Fagen
Donnie Iris (Ah! Leah!, The Rapper)
Dr. John
Dropkick Murphys
dUg Pinnick of King's X
Duncan Phillips of Newsboys
Dwight Twilley
Eddie Carswell of NewSong
Eddie Reeves
Edwin McCain
El Sloan of Crossfade
Elvin Bishop
Emilio Castillo from Tower of Power
Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls
Emmylou Harris
Eric Burdon
Eric Kretz of Stone Temple Pilots
Francesca Battistelli
Francis Rossi of Status Quo
Gary Brooker of Procol Harum
Gary Lewis
Gary Louris of The Jayhawks
Gary Numan
Gentle Giant
Georgia Middleman of Blue Sky Riders
Gilby Clarke
Glen Burtnik
Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket
Gordon Bahary
Graham Bonnet (Alcatrazz, Rainbow)
Graham Parker
Graham Russell of Air Supply
Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Greg Puciato of Killer Be Killed and Dillinger Escape Plan
Gretchen Peters (Independence Day)
Guy Clark
Gym Class Heroes
Hal Ketchum
Harold Brown of War
Harry Shearer
Hayes Carll
Henry McCullough
Henry Paul of The Outlaws, Blackhawk
Holly Knight
Holly Williams
Howard Bellamy
Howard Jones
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull
Ian Anderson: "The delight in making music is that you don't have a formula"
Ian Astbury of The Cult
Ian Thornley of Big Wreck
Ingrid Croce
J.D. Souther
Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Damn Yankees
Jake Owen
James Williamson of Iggy & the Stooges
Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed
Jamie O'Neal
Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Go`s
Janis Ian
Jann Klose
Jaret Reddick of Bowling for Soup
Jason Michael Carroll
Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica)
Jason Reeves
Jason Roy of Building 429
Jay Graydon
Jeff Walker of Carcass
Jello Biafra
Jeph Howard of The Used
Jeremy DePoyster of The Devil Wears Prada
Jess Origliasso of The Veronicas
Jesse Valenzuela of Gin Blossoms
Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds
Jimbeau Hinson
Jimmy Jam
Jimmy Webb
JJ Burnel of The Stranglers
Jo Dee Messina
Joe Elliott of Def Leppard
Joe Ely
Joe Grushecky
Joe Jackson
Joe King Carrasco
Joe Rickard of Red
Joel Crouse
Joey + Rory
Joey Burns of Calexico
John Doe of X
John Gallagher of Raven
John Garcia (ex-Kyuss)
John Lee Hooker
John Oates
John Rzeznik of Goo Goo Dolls
John Waite
John Wheeler of Hayseed Dixie
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde
Johnny Winter
Jon Anderson of Yes
Jon Foreman of Switchfoot
Jon Oliva of Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Jon Tiven
Josh Kelley
Josh Shilling
Josh Thompson
Judas Priest
Julian Lennon
Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues
Kasim Sulton (Utopia, Meat Loaf)
Keith Morris of Black Flag and OFF!
Keith Reid of Procol Harum
Kelvin Swaby of The Heavy
Ken Block of Sister Hazel
Kenneth Nixon of Framing Hanley
Kenny Vance
Kerry Livgren of Kansas
Kim Thayil of Soundgarden
Kip Winger
Kirk Franklin
Kristian Bush of Sugarland
Kristine W
Kyle Nicolaides of Beware of Darkness
Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust
Larry Burnett of Firefall
Larry Wiegand of Crow
Laura Bell Bundy
Lee Ranaldo
Les Claypool
Leslie West of Mountain
Lindi Ortega
Lisa Loeb
Lita Ford
Little Big Town
Lori McKenna
Loudon Wainwright III
Louie Perez of Los Lobos
Lukas Nelson
Mac Powell of Third Day
Marc Roberge of O.A.R. (Of A Revolution)
Marcy Playground
Maria Muldaur
Maria Neckam
Mark Arm of Mudhoney
Marshall Crenshaw
Martin Gordon
Martin Page
Martin Smith of Delirous?
Martyn Ware of Heaven 17
Marvin Etzioni of Lone Justice
Mary Gauthier
Mat Kearney
Matt Pike of High On Fire
Matt Pryor of Get Up Kids
Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizon
Matt Sorum
Matt Thiessen of Relient K
Matthew West
Max Cavalera of Soulfly (ex-Sepultura)
Meshell Ndegeocello
Mia Doi Todd
Michael Bolton
Michael Franti
Michael Gilbert of Flotsam and Jetsam
Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root
Michael Schenker
Michael Sweet of Stryper
Michael W. Smith
Mick Jones of Foreigner
Mike Campbell
Mike Donehey of Tenth Avenue North
Mike Love of The Beach Boys
Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies
Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater
Miles Doughty of Slightly Stoopid
Millie Jackson
Mitch Myers about Shel Silverstein
Mitts of Madball
Mountain Heart
Neil Fallon of Clutch
Neil Giraldo
Nick Van Eede from Cutting Crew
Nick Waterhouse
Nick Wheeler of The All-American Rejects
Nina Persson of The Cardigans
Nona Hendryx
Oliver Leiber
Our Lady Peace
Pam Tillis
Pat Alger ("The Thunder Rolls", "Unanswered Prayers")
Paul Dean of Loverboy
Paul Evans
Paul Williams
Pegi Young
Penny Ford of Snap!
Pete Anderson
Peter Lord
Petula Clark
Phil Hurtt ("I'll Be Around")
Philip Cody
Queensr├┐che founder Geoff Tate
Radney Foster
Ralph Casale - Session Pro
Randy Goodrum (Oh Sherrie)
Randy Houser
Randy Montana
Randy Newman
Randy Sharp (From Glen Campbell to Edgar Winter)
Randy Stonehill
Rebecca St. James
Reverend Horton Heat
Rhonda Vincent
Richard Hell
Richard Marx
Richard Patrick of Filter
Richie McDonald of Lonestar
Richie Wise (Kiss producer, Dust)
Rick Finch
Rick Springfield
Rick Wartell of Trouble
Rik Emmett of Triumph
Robert Ellis
Roger Clyne
Rosanne Cash
Rupert Hine
Ryan Star
Sam Phillips
Sandy Chapin
Sarah Brightman
Scorpions Rudolf Schenker
Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders
Scott Jason of Thriving Ivory
Scott Stapp
Scotty Emerick (Beer For My Horses)
Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities
Serena Ryder
Seth Swirsky
Shane Volk of One Bad Son
Shaun Morgan of Seether
Shawn Smith of Brad
Shelby Lynne
Skip Ewing ("Love, Me," "The Gospel According To Luke")
Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D.
Speech of Arrested Development
Spooner Oldham
Squeeze: Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford
Stan Ridgway
Steel Magnolia
Stephen Christian of Anberlin
Steve "Zetro" Souza of Exodus and Hatriot
Steve Azar
Steve Hindalong of The Choir
Steven Tyler of Aerosmith
Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai
Sum 41
Sunny Sweeney
Supertramp founder Roger Hodgson
Tanita Tikaram
Taylor Dayne
Terry Cashman
Terry Jacks ("Seasons in the Sun")
Terry Taylor of Daniel Amos and Lost Dogs
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour
The Dandy Warhols
The Fratellis
The Limousines
They Might Be Giants
Thomas Dolby
Tim Butler of The Psychedelic Furs
Timothy B. Schmit of the Eagles
Tina Shafer
Tobin Esperance of Papa Roach
Toby Lightman
Todd Harrell of 3 Doors Down and 7dayBinge
Tom Gabel of Against Me!
Tom Johnston from The Doobie Brothers
Tom Keifer of Cinderella
Tommy James
Tommy Lee James ("She's My Kind Of Rain")
Toni Wine
Tonio K
Tony Hiller and Brotherhood of Man
Tony Joe White
Travis Stever of Coheed and Cambria
Trent Wagler of The Steel Wheels
Udo Dirkschneider (UDO, ex-Accept)
Van Dyke Parks
Vanessa Carlton
Ville Valo of HIM
Vince Clarke
Vince Gill
Vinny May of Kodaline
Vonda Shepard
Wayne Hussey of The Mission
Wayne Swinny of Saliva
Wednesday 13
Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit and Black Light Burns
Will Jennings
Yael Naim
Yoko Ono
Zac Hanson
Zakk Wylde
Other Songfacts Blogs
Songwriter Interviews
Song Writing
Music Quiz
Fact or Fiction
They're Playing My Song