Donavon Frankenreiter

by Carl Wiser

You won't get a didactic analysis of surf music from Donavon Frankenreiter, one of the top musician/surfers in all the land, but he certainly has some wisdom on the subject.

"To me, it's all surf music."

Kinda makes sense. You're not going to stay on the board if your head is cluttered with thoughts about the wave, and you're not going to write a great song if you're obsessing over genre. And as he points out, the only reason we think of the Beach Boys as surf music is because they sang about surfing.

The music Donavon makes celebrates life and liberty, at times mellow, and often funky. His musical mentor is Jack Johnson, who produced Donavon's 2004 debut album and appears on his most popular song, "Free."
Carl Wiser (Songfacts): Singing, songwriting, surfing. Which came easiest for you, and which was the most difficult?

Donavon Frankenreiter: Surfing came easiest - I have been doing that since I was 10. When I turned 16 I picked up the guitar for the first time, which has been a lot of fun learning over the last 18 years.

Songwriting is something that will always be exciting and forever new... you never know when you're going to write that song you just love. All three have become something that I am addicted to and just love so much.

Songfacts: Please tell us how your song "Free" came together, and if there was a particular place and time that inspired it.

Donavon: I wrote that on a boat in Indo when I was around 28-29 years old. It was reworked when I had a chance to record it and re-write it with Jack Johnson - together we came up with the final version of the song. It's one of my favorites for sure.

Songfacts: What's your take on the evolution of surf music? The Beach Boys, who popularized it, didn't surf.

Donavon: The Beach Boys are amazing. They did so many incredible things. I think what they were singing about is why people called it surf music, but I think all music goes good to surfing. So to me, it's all surf music.

Songfacts: What is "The Ones In Your Dreams" about?

Donavon: It's about spirits and/or ghosts, or things you may see only in the dark. My grandma always told me to look away from the things you cannot see. It's all about this house I grew up in and what she said. It was definitely haunted.

Donavon turned pro as a surfer when he was 16, but was closer to 30 before pursuing music in earnest. He started writing his own songs after tiring of cover songs. "I didn't want to feel like a jukebox," he said.
Songfacts: In "Move By Yourself" you sing, "When they said I couldn't make it, I told them I couldn't just do what they wanted and fake it." What was going on?

Donavon: I had a principal in high school tell my parents that if they let me surf and try to become professional, I would end up being a loser. I believed in what I was doing, so I couldn't listen to him.

He made me and my parents make a decision: What was it going to be, surfing or academics and sports at school? Thank God I had supportive parents. We walked out of that meeting and never looked back. My parents said, "Go chase your dream and do what you believe in."

Songfacts: How do you go about writing a song?

Donavon: I have no way of describing that situation. It just happens and when it does you just go with it. I write when it comes to me. I am never chasing that down.

Songfacts: What inspired the song "Your Heart"?

Donavon: I don't really remember but I really love Sol de Mexico on that track. I think they took that to an amazing place.

Songfacts: Please tell us about one of the songs we haven't mentioned that is very important to you.

Donavon: "California Lights." It's a special song to me that I wrote about my dad when we all found out that he had leukemia. It was horrible and I had to write it all down what I was feeling.

I wrote the song in five minutes. I recorded that song two weeks before he died. I think I went through the song three full times when we recorded it and I have never played it again. It's too heavy of a song for me to play live but I really do love the song.

May 15, 2017.
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