“Sleep is the key. Wherever and whenever. I’ll throw my backpack down in the airport and catch a catnap,” laughs Michael Franti of his hectic tour schedule. Franti and his band, Spearhead, are currently in the midst of a worldwide trek across the globe on their Love Out Loud Tour, which began in June and will finish in early October. The band is spreading their message of peace, love, and community to millions of fans this summer, a cause which Franti has made his life’s work.
“Our job is to tell stories through music, create community, and bring people together,” he explains. “I feel like now, more than ever, people are wanting that. There’s so much isolation felt when people live their lives through social media. It’s easy to feel like you aren’t as cool as everyone else or that you don’t have friends to identify with in a personal way. There’s so much division when it comes to politics, sexuality, the environment, and music is one thing that can bring people together to envision a new way of being,” he continues. “I speak from my heart about what I believe, and the direction I want the world to go in. To ‘Love Out Loud’ means to love the people close to me with focus, passion, and connection. It also means to have an open ear to people who are from different political perspectives, different walks of life, or people who have different ways of living,” he adds. “It’s a tricky balance to speak from the heart and keep your heart open to others, but I believe it’s the roadmap to the future—whether it’s how we relate to each other on the street or politicians work together to create solutions.”
These empathetic values were instilled in Franti at an early age; with an Irish, German, and Belgian birth mother and an African-American and Nottaway Indian birth father, he was adopted at birth by the Franti family, second generation Finnish immigrants with biological and adopted children. “I grew up in a melting pot of a family in a unique household,” he says. “My mom insisted we all be treated the same; that didn’t mean we were treated E-X-A-C-T-L-Y the same, it meant we were given the same opportunities to succeed. If one kid liked the violin, or ceramics, or soccer, my mom would do her best to make those things happen for us,” he adds. “I was taught to find ways to serve the greater good and be good to other people.”
Franti believes that empathy alone, however, is not enough. “Two summers ago, I met the Dalai Lama and played for his 80th birthday. He told me that being a person with empathy is great, but it just makes you a nice person, and that’s not enough. We need compassionate people who use their empathy to reach out to others,” he recalls. “We as a world need to become more compassionate. We have so much advantage and leisure time and accessibility in the States, it gives a responsibility to give back.” Franti puts his empathy into action in new and inventive ways—not only through music, film, and business, but through the nonprofit realm as well. In its four years of existence, Franti’s organization, Do It For The Love, has served 1,000 families by providing children, adults, and veterans with serious medical conditions or special needs a way to see any live concert by any artist in any city in North America.
The band brings much-needed positive vibes to every place they visit, and creates a rallying point for social justice, inclusion, and connection. “It’s a person who lives from their heart with compassion for all, who possess a tenacious enthusiasm for music, people, and the planet,” he explains of the term “SoulRocker” which beautifully describes his loyal and massive fanbase, and also the name of his most recently released album. “There are so many people who come to our shows who have those things; on the inside of my wife’s and my wedding rings is inscribed, ‘Do your best, serve the greater good, and rock out wherever you are.’ That’s our mantra, to go to our growing edge all the time,” he continues. “Never lose enthusiasm for life.”