Michael Franti & Spearhead Headline Bohemian Nights at NewWestFest 2012
As the band continued to churn out records, Franti’s songwriting continued to connect his music and lyrics into meaningful messages. He sang of the death penalty, corporate globalization, and peace. The sincerity and honesty in his words allowed him to navigate through tough subject matter with grace.
Franti’s commitment to peace led him to make his own film about the costs of war. In I Know I’m Not Alone, he explored not only the political and economic price of the war in the Middle East, but also the human cost. He traveled to Iraq, Israel, and the Palestinian territories with no government groups and armed only with his guitar. In 2001 Franti was awarded the Domestic Human Rights Award for his work to end the war.
Michael Franti and Spearhead had developed an international fan base but commercial success continued to avoid them. It wasn’t until 2009 that Say Hey (I Love You) landed in the Billboard Top 20, but Franti almost didn’t get to experience his success. While on tour he suffered a ruptured appendix and was rushed to the hospital. He explains in interviews, “The funny thing is that ‘Say Hey’ went into the Top 20 right as I was being wheeled into surgery. I got the text, and I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve finally got a hit record, and I’m not even going to live to enjoy it.’ That put everything in perspective too.”
It was during his hospital stay that he wrote the songs for what critics call his best material to date. The Sound of Sunshine is an intimate look into Franti’s life. He puts it best, “With time, you get a better sense who you are and how to put together all your musical passions into your own sound. I feel like for a long time, I dabbled in other sounds, like ‘let’s do something with a reggae vibe here’ or ‘let’s really rock here.’ But now, I write everything from the acoustic guitar up — which keeps you honest.”