Stay Human, Vol. 2
For the past 25 years, singer-songwriter Michael Franti has been wrapping his arms around the world with his band Spearhead, stockpiling an arsenal of uplifting hits like “The Sound of Sunshine” and “Say Hey (I Love You).” In 2019, Franti will release two Stay Human projects: an album and documentary. The latter follows the artist meeting people doing extraordinary things (a midwife in Bali, a Georgia couple living with ALS, a tribe in Indonesia practicing sustainable forestry), as well as experiencing personal epiphanies like coming to terms with his father's alcoholism, examining the roots of his depression, even learning of his mother's stroke and son's kidney ailment. The album Stay Human, Vol. 2 is an extension of the film, inspired by and created during these moments, all the while searching for what it means to be human in inhumane times. Much like Franti, the music is a shot of positivity, rippling with regenerative acoustic pop, reggae, hip-hop, even country. Apple Music chatted with him about the themes behind some of the songs, as well as his own challenge to stay optimistic.
On “This World Is so F*cked Up (But I Ain’t Ever Giving Up on It)”: “There are so many days when I wake up and go, ‘Man, this world is so fucked up, it makes me want to check out.’ And then when I get out, there’s a billion different people doing a billion different things to make a billion places better today, and I honestly see that. How many times does that go on every day, where there’s somebody there to nurture a baby or a friend, or a teenager who’s going through a rough time, or to sit with somebody and just listen to their story who’s nearing the end of their life, cook food, and build a home or just all these things every day that go unnoticed? Those are the things that really matter to someone in their lives, and so that’s who that song is about.”
On “The Flower”: “That was a song that I wrote with Victoria Canal, who I came across on Instagram. I was just flipping through random musicians and I saw a video of her, and she was born without most of her right arm, and she’s playing the guitar and singing. Then, I heard her voice and it had deep, soulful resonance, like Norah Jones or Alicia Keys. I invited her to Nashville for recording. I told her about my life—I was bullied a lot as a kid growing up in a mostly white school. She said, ‘I really identify with that because I was always the only one-armed kid in my school, and I’d get bullied too.’ So we started writing the song about bullying. As we were talking, the extension of that is physical violence, and the extension of that becomes gun violence.”
On “Little Things”: “I started writing ‘Little Things’ right after the Vegas shooting. Now I’m worried at my concerts. Have all the safeguards been taken? Have we really gotten to that point in the world today that we have to be like this? So that song, ‘Little Things,’ is about appreciating the little things that we have—a smile on the street, the love that you give.”
On seeing the humanity in everyone (yes, everyone): “Trump has brought this meanness out and it’s frightening. At the same time, he’s taken the power out of truth. There used to be a time that if someone in office lied, they would be called out for it. Yet if we see him as inhuman, then all the people who voted for him are also inhuman, and that’s not the case. How do we hold our hearts open and our minds open and ears open so that we can understand where they came to that place where they voted for that? I have fans from all different political perspectives. One of the things that I learned from making the film was that there’s no one in the world that you wouldn’t love if you knew their story.”
On the ultimate goal of Stay Human, Vol. 2: “I feel like the great battle taking place in the world today isn’t between left or right, rich or poor, or any religious affiliation or nation. It’s between cynicism and optimism. I’m not saying I have the answer and that I’m optimistic all the time, because I’m not. But I know optimism is what gets the man on the moon. It’s what gets us through our days when we feel like the world is in a state of complete chaos. It’s what grounds us when we need that time to grieve, that it’s OK to let our vulnerability breathe, because we know that it’s going to be better. So that’s what I want people to feel from the record—to hold onto that light of optimism.”