As featured in our August 2013 issue:

Michael Franti, of Michael Franti & Spearhead, has always tried to enact an identity that includes timeless social action and infectious positivity. His motives emanate through uplifting harmonies that have spanned almost 26 years and serve as a blueprint to future progressive generations.

Both of Franti’s biological parents were themselves products of multiracial relationships, but were unable to care for him in the then controversial connection. Put up for adoption in his infant years, Franti would spend his youth with a Finnish-American couple. The family also included three biological children and another adopted African-American boy, Matthew. His mother’s sentiments of equality would serve as the universal foundation of Franti’s character.

“My mother would say, ‘All you kids are to be treated exactly the same. I expect that when you go out into our community and school. It doesn’t matter what baseball team or nationality or language or anything that other kids play on or speak at home, we’re supposed to treat everybody the way that we want to be treated,’” says Franti.

He says that his unconventional rearing was pivotal in the desire to look deeper past what color people identified with, and to harness the interior energy of individuality. This deeper understanding acted as the chariot that would guide him through ten studio albums, the last of which was released in late July.

“All People” is a continuing effort in Franti’s desire to raise awareness through music, he says. Though the creative process stayed relatively consistent with earlier works, the desire for the end product was to be something completely different and new for fans. Stylistically, the album is driven by his familiar acoustic guitar hits and easy to follow choruses, but leans more to an electronic-fueled vibe than it has in albums past.

“I’ve always been a fan of electronic music,” says Franti. “Since I got my first Kraftwerk record back in 1979. I’ve just always loved it, but never really delved into it myself. It was a fun experience collaborating with people outside of my band.”

Though he’s been making records since 1987, this was the first time he sought out collaboration in his writing and production sphere. Sam Hollander, who has worked with artists like Katy Perry and Gym Class Heroes, and Adrian Newman, a multi-platinum producer, made the list.

“(All People) is a celebration of the beauty of our diversity,” Franti says. “I feel like one of the things that make our country and planet so amazing is the differences that we see. Different walks of life, different cultures, ethnicities, shapes of people… sexual identities – that’s what makes our country special.”

The first single “I’m Alive (Life Sounds Like)” is a recurring radio anthem and is the band’s first new product since 2011. The accompanying video showcases a whimsical selection of dancers bouncing to the “I’m Alive” decree and even presents Franti in a harrowing eight-angle yoga pose, the Astavakrasana.

“Yoga is super important in my life, especially my touring life,” he says. “We are in planes, trains and automobiles all day long for weeks on end and it’s one way I can get back into my body and stay physically in shape and mentally. It really forms everything I do in my life and in my music.”

This past July, attendees of the popular “Yoga On The Rocks” were awarded a special thrill when Franti announced that he would play an acoustic set before his show to accompany the workout. The two events coincidentally fell on the same day.

“Being there at the rocks, with two-thousand people, is like going to one of those Olympic shows where they have a thousand dancers, all doing the same movement at once,” he says. “The teacher is like, ‘Everybody put your right leg up in the air,’ and then a sea of right legs go WHOOOSH! It was really cool to see.”

Soon after the event, Arise Music Festival announced that Franti and crew would revisit Colorado, this time headlining the music, activation and co-creative camping festival. The connection between Franti and the Arise Music Festival runs far deeper than the obvious inclusion into an event drenched in positivity. In the late 1990s, he spent an interesting afternoon with scheduled speaker Julia “Butterfly” Hill, some 180 feet above the ground on a makeshift platform situated in the branches of a tree.

Hill is most known for her 738-day stay atop a California Redwood Tree in protest of the deforestation taking place in the surrounding area. Her efforts led to the resolution to protect the tree and even inspired The Simpsons episode number 252, “Lisa The Tree Hugger.”

“I went up in the tree with Julia for a day,” he says. “(I) spent the afternoon with her and just being around her and her commitment to the environment was really amazing. She’s a super inspiring speaker and she’s really amazing to just be around and to hear her talk about her experience.”

As a traveling artist, Michael Franti has seen and experienced humanity’s many facets. He’s observed war-torn neighborhoods shooting images for his documentary “I Know I’m Not Alone.” He claims that ability to observe puts him in a unique situation to explore the human condition.

“So many times around the world we see differences being used as a tool to divide,” he says. “So really when it comes back to it, it’s our heart that keeps us going. It’s our desire to achieve our dreams. The heart is the similarity between us.”