festival we played, where we got to see lots
of different things that are happening in the
Yoga community, such as new clothing designs and different kinds of workshops, like
I also did a class with Seane Corn, where
I played music and Seane led the asana as
a benefit for Off the Mat’s Haiti program.
Seane is really inspiring to me, as she is to
everyone she comes across. I admire the
way the she has taken her Yoga, her seva
(selfless service) and combined the two into
this great model for activism that is accessible to everyone.
It’s the same thing I try to do with my music, which is to turn people on to ways that
we can make a difference in the world and
our own lives.
FMT: In addition to your music, how do you
incorporate service into your work?
MF: I’m an ambassador for CARE, a relief
organization that concentrates specifically
on advocating for girls. They have found
through studies and relief work, that providing education for girls through the sixth
grade gives them skills and opportunities
and makes a real difference for eradicating
poverty. Through teaching kids to read and
write, and through microfinancing, which
helps people buy things like a sewing machine that supports making a living, it keeps
money in the family and helps a family
become stronger. The villages and communities are able to elevate their standard of
living through education and skills training
– essentials people need for home building
and to start small businesses.
FMT: You’re on the road a lot. How do
you keep up with your own practice when
MF: I go to classes at the Yoga schools in
the towns where I’m traveling. It’s a great
way to practice. With a different teacher
I have the opportunity to meet yogis who
are trying new stuff, so I can learn different
things and be challenged in different ways.
One of my most interesting recent experiences in class was in a studio called
Downward Dog Centre in Toronto. I attended a class with just one drummer playing the same drum beat the entire class. We
breathed four counts in and four counts out
to the rhythm of this drum. Man, halfway
through, I was sucking air; it was an intense
and beautiful way to practice. I loved it.
Some days I’m drawn to a hot, intense vinyasa class, other days I’m feeling an inward
and emotional Iyengar or Yin class. I find
that whatever class appears on my schedule
is exactly what I need that day. In addition,
I’m a runner and I run every day. I spend a
lot of time in the tour bus and in and out of
airports, and both running and Yoga shake
the rumble of the bus from my bones.
FMT: What’s inspiring you the most musically right now?
MF: I’m enjoying artists who combine electronic and acoustic. When I write a song, I
write it from the point of view of the acoustic guitar and then I add things later. And I
learn from observing and playing with other
artists, everything from how they set up
their equipment to how they move on stage,
how the audience responds, to how they
put songs and chords together. We recently
played a couple shows with a great artist –
Grace Potter. I’m a student of music and different forms, so this is a Yoga practice, in
and of itself.
FMT: Is there anything you want to close
MF: I had a meaningful experience at the
first Wanderlust in Lake Tahoe. The day before I was supposed to go on stage, my appendix ruptured and I entered the hospital
where I was told that my appendix had been
ruptured for seven days and my body was
Someone sent me a photo of an enormous poster-sized thank you card that was
put up for people to sign at Wanderlust.
I started crying because of how much it
moved me that people missed me. It was a
reminder to me of how great I feel the Yoga
People who practice Yoga put their hearts
into everything they do. And I am grateful.
FMT: Speaking of Yoga clothing, aren’t you
involved with a line of Yoga clothing as well
as a retreat center in Bali?
MF: About five years ago we started Stay
Human. The clothes I came across when I
would go to a Yoga studio would be very
flowery and Om-y. I’m a little more rugged,
so the idea was that we wanted to make
more urban Yoga clothes.
We started building the retreat center,
Soulshine Bali, three years ago. The boutique
hotel in the middle of the jungle opened in
January, 2011. Teachers can bring up to 25
students and practice Yoga for a week. Or
people can stay on their own. There’s a full
schedule of classes that takes place seven
days a week.
FMT: Speaking of running, I’ve heard that
you don’t wear shoes.
MF: I general, I don’t wear shoes, but it
depends on where I’m running and where
I am. If it’s raining, I wear shoes, since the
feet soften up in rain and sharp things get in
there. Or if there are gravely areas, I’ll wear
shoes, but minimally. I prefer the barefoot
style running shoes, which are now being
made by a lot of companies.
FMT: What was it that inspired you to take
your shoes off?
MF: I started going to countries where
people were playing on the street, people
who couldn’t afford much and were in
bare feet. I decided to try being barefoot
myself, just to see what it was like. First it
was three days, then it became a week, and
then a year, and then April 11 marked eleven years of my being mostly barefoot. In
some ways, it’s a means of being in solidarity with people who cannot afford to wear
shoes, as well as a meditation for the self.
On another note, I wear a size 14 shoe, so
that means I never get the cool styles of
shoes. I get the leftovers.
Michael Franti is currently touring with
his band Spearhead. They’re playing
a number of dates around the world
at stand-alone venues, at festivals, and
even opening for legendary artist
Santana. Catch his upbeat vibe at
Wanderlust in Squaw Valley at the end
of July: Michaelfranti.com