by Jason McCobb

Jeramy Pritchett (Founder and photographer for Blindfold) and I are at Tortuga Festival, a Rock the Ocean concert event that raises money to save our oceans. We roll in just in time to meet with Michael Franti except we are on the complete opposite side of where we need to be and there are crowds of people and thick sand to walk through. Trying to avoid making Franti wait, we told the staff our situation and they accommodated us by summonsing a golf cart and driver. This was no ordinary cart though; it had gigantic wheels fit for beach riding. We set off and the driver says, “Hold on I got stuck earlier!” 

The ride was fast and bumpy with a few close calls, but we made it. We roll up to the trailer where Franti is waiting and as we walk in we are greeted with big smiles and handshakes. They all look so happy to be here, and so are we. Franti immediately take us back into a separate room set up like a yoga studio – it’s super peaceful.

My nervous energy is quickly extinguished as I sit down next to him. Michael is big time into yoga and practices daily back in his hometown of San Francisco. Yoga grounds him and helps with his creative process as well as keeps him fit.

Michael’s music is some of the most inspirational music I have ever heard and it reflects the epitome of peace and love. Michael grew up in Oakland, California and attended the University of San Francisco where he developed his ability to write and express himself through poetry. Prior to meeting with Franti, many friends told me that I was going to love him due to his demeanor and overall vibe – and they were right.

Beautiful things come from diversity and Michael’s life is a perfect example. He was adopted by a Finnish family, which had three biological children and two adopted sons. Michael says, “The funny thing is, everyone was a musician but me.” His mom played piano, sang and led the choir at church while the others played instruments and sang as well. Michael is the only one that went on with music professionally, though. In high school he played basketball, ran track and cross country, as well as played volleyball, but he was also into the creative arts. He mixed with different crowds – from stoners to jocks -, he was also friends with people in band and performed in plays. All of these groups he mingled with well, but at the same time he said he felt like an outsider within.

The diversity of his family and of his experiences in school helps him with his music. He writes about this in his new album, “All People,” which explores the beauty and power of diversity. Through high school Franti listened to different varieties of music: Run DMC, Beastie Boys, The Clash, The Police, Depeche Mode and electronic music from the ‘80s. He loved the crossover of genres from this era. Today he is back to listening to the roots of music: Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, John Lennon and Johnny Cash. He loves a good storyteller in a song and an album with meaning.

I wish people could begin to accept the diversity that is around us and not put limits on other people, because they are different…

Franti is a conscious eater, loves to cook and strives to eat local and organic. Michael was strictly vegan for a period of time, which was inspired by his son. At home they love juicing and making smoothies daily. These healthy drinks take up a good portion of their diet. Michael is aware of Monsanto an GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and is dead set against them. He tells me nobody should own or be able to trademark food or anything else from our creator. Franti feels that people have the right to know what’s in their food. He lives in San Francisco in an apartment and does not have much growing\ space for a garden, but he and his girlfriend shop at local farmers markets and eat clean and healthy. He loves to cook and eats mostly vegan when home but enjoys eating culturally while traveling. When I asked Michael what makes him happy he said, “My family, I love spending time with my lady and my kids.”He tells me he loves working on projects with them and they all rely on each other for help. The Tortuga Festival is a huge concert with twelve different bands performing throughout two days. The genres are diverse: country, folk, rock, reggae, jam bands, bluegrass, blues, and even classic rock will be heard at this event. Michael loves the diversity and loves the fact he is playing in the same venue as Kenny Chesney. He says, “Once the rhythm happens, once the melody goes, once the band kicks in, you look out into the audience and all you see are eyes. You don’t see color of skin, sexual orientation; you don’t see age; you see people with their hearts open.”

They will often work with Michael and help him with songs. I also asked what pisses him off about people and wishes he could change, he said, “I wish people could begin to accept the diversity that is around us and not put limits on other people, because they are different. It is hard to get by in this world and we all need someone to love, it doesn’t matter what age, skin color, religion, or whatever else; when you find that person, you’re lucky.”