I entered the Marqueen Hotel and became immediately enamored with the 1920’s interior, reminiscent of flappersque society. The Marqueen Hotel has been around since 1918 and opened as the Seattle Engineering School for Ford Motors. For over 50 years, the building remained a school with housing for numerous engineers during the rise of automotive vehicles. Now it is a hotel that retains the decor and history of the Seattle past.
Michael Franti greeted me in the Marqueen lobby. He came down the stairs barefoot and decked in Rasta hued garb. His 6’6″ frame towered over me. He leaned over and gave me a warm hug and invited me into his hotel where I would get to learn more about this man who has been generating love and acceptance for the world through music.
Alex Tran (AT): How are you feeling?
Michael Franti (MF): Well, I’m felling really great. Just had a really great show. My son arrived to Seattle from San Francisco. He’s 17. We’re glad to be at Bumbershoot because it’s music we both like.
AT: Is that usually how your day goes?
MF: Part from my son showing up, most of the time I am on tour. While I am away from him, I Facetime, call and text him. But most of the time that’s how it is. So it’s good that he is here
AT: Let’s get started on understanding your wellbeing! How do you relax after a tour?
MF: Usually I am so tired I just fall asleep. There’s not much winding down because the days are really filled. By the time I’m done with the day, it’s usually 2 in the morning.
I just crash or take naps through out the day. Sometimes for only half an hour, I fall asleep then wake up. The main thing is being able to have some quiet time, whether it’s alone or with my wife. Usually at night at the end of a show, there’s so much stimuli that comes from performing such as when I’m trying to think of the song and lyrics. After the show, I meet with people and take hundreds of photos and meet and shake hands with hundreds of people. By the time I’m done, there’s a huge exhalation. I use to do meditation after a show, but don’t really do it anymore. I do it now in the morning and that is my time to wake up, practice yoga, and do some cardio such as running or HIIT workouts.
AT: Do you go to a certain gym? How do find a yoga studio?
MF: I just go to the internet and look up a yoga studio in the area. However today I practiced in my room.
AT: About your newest album that dropped June 2016 titled “Soul Rocker.” What is the inspiration or message you are trying to send in that album?
MF: A soul rocker is a person who lives from their heart with compassion for all. The record calls out a lot of things that area happening in the world with an eye towards positivity. They have a tenacious enthusiasm for music, life and the planet. Right now is a super challenging time for all of us. There’s so much that needs to be done to get by and make a living. Add to that the stresses of our life and our families. We’re just trying to keep it all together. As a nation, we’re in a super turbulent time. Nothing that i’ve seen before. As a world family we are as going through incredible challenges. This record is dedicated to people who feel that stress and who want or need to plug in. At the same time, they also want to be difference makers in the world and need music to become inspired to get through it.
AT: Are there ever times where you feel there’s just no hope? how did you build that resiliency?
MF: You mean like every day? You watch the news and it’s such a [expletive] show. How is this going to turn around and change? Throughout my life I’ve been inspired by ordinary people who do extraordinary things just to survive or just to help others survive. I believe that positivity – like yoga, or shooting free throws – is something that you practice. The more you practice positivity, it will become your default. There have been times in my life before I was much more negative (default). When you practice positive thoughts and words and actions, being positive becomes easier and more natural. Your mind goes to something positive in the situation. That’s one of the things about yoga, you learn that everything is not that like people say or think it is. Non-practicing people would ask, “Is yoga painful?” or “Does it hurt?” There’s a lot of sensation and you can choose what you want to label it. It’s a feeling that comes up in your body and triggers current or past emotions. It gives you a chance to look at them and let them go to quiet the mind. For example, instead of thinking, “I can’ stay in this position.” instead think, “Well I can curl my lips up a little bit and plow through.” Now, the sensation is different that it was a few moments ago. The big challenge in life is to be able to take that learning and apply it to everything else in your world.
AT: I read that you were adopted wen you were younger. Did you feel like you belonged? I would like to share this with anyone who doesn’t feel like they belong. What Advice do you have about belonging and finding your identity?
MF: My birth mother is Irish, German and Belgian. My birth father is African american and American Indian. The Franti family adopted me and they are Finnish-American, second generation from Finland. They have three kids of their own and they adopted myself and another African American son. Ao w’ere in this mixed house with one sister who is a lesbian and one brother who’s a police officer. I grew up in this very mixed house. Most of my childhood I felt I didn’t fit in with my family and schools. Part of that led to me really want to just be my own person because I didn’t fit in. There was a certain point where I was like [expletive] it, “I’m don’t fit in at all with my family, so I’m not gonna try to fit in in with the rest of the world!” I have this one song called Stay Human and in the song there’s one phrase: “all the freaky people make the beauty of the world.” All of us feel at one point we’re freaks or outsiders. Even the people you feel appear that they should fit in, with perfect teeth and body and everyone likes them, even those people have that same feeling of “I’m not enough.”
All of us go through those feelings and maybe people who are adopted feel it a little bit more. I am speaking from personal experience. I felt that my birth parents abandoned me. As I grew into an adult and had a chance to look for my parents and process that experience, I came to grips with everyone – including with my adopted family. I let go of a lot of the things that I didn’t want to carry on from that experience. At that point, I really became my own person. I’m 50 years old now and I still feel most of the time that I’m a teenager (laughs). But it does get easier. That would be my main message for others going through this experience.
You think i remember when I was 14 and thought these 20 year olds got it so good. Now that I look at people who are in their 20s now and think what a [expletive] show. And people who are older than me look back when they were my age. All of us have this opportunity to better learn who we are and how we relate with others. That’s the opportunity, not sure if it’s the meaning of life, but definitely an opportunity.
AT: What is the legacy you want to leave this world with?
MF: I want to inspire people to be difference makers. I make music for one reason, which is to make others feel happy, healthy and equal. I want to inspire difference makers to share that belief. All people should he happy healthy and equal.
My experience in practicing yoga is, there’s a paradigm of health and wellness.
There’s another piece to it: health and WHOLENESS. Wholeness is feeling that you are significant and making a contribution to the community, adding to the greater good. And my yoga practice has helped me with that component. What am I giving back. What am I really taking from that experience, being on the mat every day, trying to eat well, and taking care of my body, mind and heart. And once I have all that together, what do I do with it? If I’m not giving back somewhere, then I’m not really doing anything.
To take what you learn off the mat and into the world would be my legacy to inspire others to work towards their health, happiness and wholeness.
AT: What is something that not all people know about you?
MF: [Pauses] I’m pretty transparent. I guess I can say I’m an avid sports fan. I love watching the Olympics and watching people fencing, swimming, doing gymnastics, playing volleyball, and every sport. I love to see people excel. I still play sports all the time. Its a part of my life. When I was a kid, I thought that professional athletes stopped playing by the time they were 30 years old. But that social mindset is like a stumbling block for people. People think you have to stop, but don’t! You can play and be physical your whole life.
AT: One of our readers wanted to know, is your son still tagging as an art form?
MF: He probably does some but right now he’s more into music. He still does some tagging. He started in hip hop and just rhyming and free styling. About a year and a half ago started playing guitar. Now he’s been writing songs. His music has hip hop elements and he raps in most of his songs. There’s also parts where he sings. He’s finding his voice and it’s really exciting for me to watch him go through this process.
AT: Thanks for sharing your story with us Michael. I look forward to when our paths meet again.
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