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Michael Franti believes that the great battle taking place in the world today is between cynicism and optimism because he feels it in himself. So he made an album to remind himself, and anyone else who’s listening, that there is still good in the world and that it is worth fighting for. The album Stay Human Vol. II, which is an accompaniment to the film Stay Human, is all about how we hold on to our humanity in the challenging times we are living in today, and features 14 uplifting, life-affirming songs that, at their core, are about being your authentic self and standing up for the greater good.
“It’s a constant battle for me to stay on the side that believes your goodness will always win, and that there’s goodness within each person,” Franti says. “Sometimes it’s hard to really hold onto that as my moral compass, but I really do believe in that.”
The songs on Stay Human Vol. II were inspired by Franti’s new self-directed documentary Stay Human, which won the RWJ Barnabas Health Award at the 2018 Asbury Park Music & Film Festival, audience awards at the 2018 Nashville Film Festival and the 2018 ILLUMINATE Film Festival, the Voice for Humanity Award at the 2018 ILLUMINATE Film Festival, the Inspiration Award at the 2018 Tahoe Film Fest and the Soul in Cinema Award at the 2018 Maui Film Festival. Stay Human features “heroic everyday people” whose stories have inspired the singer, activist and yoga practitioner during his travels around the world.
Stay Human Vol. II is the 10th LP from Michael Franti & Spearhead, featuring the group’s signature sound. It follows three consecutive albums that climbed into the top 5 on the Billboard Rock Albums Chart. He’s also charted five singles in the top 30 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart and had eight songs reach the top 25 on the Triple-A Chart. His hit, “Say Hey” has accumulated more than 2 million downloads worldwide. Franti also had a No. 1 hit single with his 2010 song, “The Sound of Sunshine.”
Co-produced by Franti with Niko Moon (Zac Brown Band), Ben Simonetti (Zac Brown Band, Shemekia Copeland, Blake Shelton), Kevin Bard (Fitz & the Tantrums), Don Corleone (Rihanna, Migos) and more, Stay Human Vol. II shows the breadth of Franti’s musical talents while working with a group of acclaimed writers including Johan Carlsson (Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor, Flo Rida) and Ross Golan (Lady Antebellum, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj). The album’s cornerstone song, “The Flower,” combines the pain of gun violence and inequality with the positive message that “we can be the healing” and that change is possible. Franti shares, “‘The Flower’ is a song that is really important to me. It’s a song about healing, standing up for what you believe in and helping others to do the same. It’s about unity, being your authentic self in the face of bullying, fighting for female empowerment and bringing an end to violence, in particular the crisis of gun violence that we see touching every community in America today. I wrote the song with Victoria Canal, Niko Moon and Ben Simonetti with the belief that no matter what our walk of life or political viewpoint may be, all of us have an opportunity to play a role in the healing that is needed in our world today.” Franti muses over what really makes the world go ‘round on the opener, “Little Things,” alternately rapping and singing over an Eastern-sounding riff. He is living in the moment over a reggaeton beat and baritone sax on “Every Second,” with an assist from AGoddess. And he turns in an achingly soulful performance over piano and a deep rhythmic groove on “Nobody Cries Alone,” which Franti wrote in the studio after receiving bad news. “My mom had just had a stroke and my son’s kidney disease had worsened to the point where he was going to need a new kidney. And I walk in the studio, and I’m like, ‘OK, guys, let’s get started,’ and then I just burst into tears,” Franti says.
The album and film are both part of a multi-pronged effort to spread positivity through Franti’s music, Soulshine Bali hotel that he built as a home for yoga destination retreats, and Do It For The Love, a non-profit he and his wife, Sara Agah Franti, founded in 2013 to bring people living with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges and wounded veterans to live concerts. To date, Do It For The Love has granted more than 2,000 wishes with the support of more than 100 artists.
Prior to forming the band in 1994, Franti was a member of the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, a politically-minded group that blended hip-hop and industrial sounds and toured with U2 on their Zoo TV World Tour. He got started in music as part of the San Francisco industrial-punk quintet, The Beatnigs, in the mid-’80s.