Michael Franti on yoga, environmentalism and the Harvest Ball

Singer-songwriter and social activist Michael Franti will headline tomorrow's Harvest Ball at the 1stBank Center, which will feature a morning yoga workshop, an early afternoon (and sold-out) matinee concert, and an evening concert to help celebrate the end of the harvest season -- plus, he'll be appearing today from 4 to 6 p.m. at Independent Records, 937 East Colfax Avenue, to sign autographs and play an acoustic set. (VIP tickets to that show are available when you purchase The Sound of Sunshine at any Indy Records location.) We caught up with Franti to talk about his relationship with yoga (he'll be opening a yoga retreat in Bali in December) and what to expect at the Harvest Ball.

This is the second of two parts of our interview with Franti; read the beginning of the interview on the Backbeat blog.

Westword: Where do you see your music going over the next ten years? Michael Franti: Well, I'm in love with pop form, you know. Three minute pop song. Verse, chorus, verse, bridge, another chorus and an outro, you know, and I love storytelling, so I'm constantly writing about things that have happened in my life, experiences I've had, and my music has always drawn from a lot of different influences stylistically, so I'll continue to keep making music, traveling to different countries, learning more about life and about music. But I'm also a yogi. And that's a big part of my life, and the person that I am today. I started off practicing yoga just to deal with stress, trying to figure out is there a way I can calm my mind down and become more at peace with myself and the world. I had tried meditation but had such a hard time just sitting, and someone said, yogis practice yoga so that they can get their bodies open and sit more comfortably.

WW: How long have you been practicing yoga? MF: I started in the fall of 2001, so nine years now.

WW: Are there particular styles or disciplines that you prefer? MF: I like flowy Vinyasa yoga classes. I practiced Ashtanga yoga for a couple of years exclusively, but I prefer something that's not a set pattern, so I can listen to my body. Sometimes there are some parts of my body that need more attention than others. I'm opening a yoga retreat center in Bali in December.

WW: What do you feel yoga brings to your life? MF: The first thing that it brings is the ability to cope with discomforts. And what I mean by that is, when I practice, we put ourselves in very difficult and, I guess, maybe not difficult but challenging positions that give your body a lot of sensation, and we learn to breathe through that and come out the other side. And so that's the main thing. The ability in my life when things get rough to be able to breathe, slow down, quiet the judgmental voice in my mind and move on to what's next.

WW: Have you been involved with the Harvest Ball since its beginning? MF: Yes. It's a ball, a harvest festival that we started in San Francisco probably about eight years ago. Which is kind of an event that we would do to commemorate the end of the harvest season. And we always had fans who were like, "Man, it would be great if we could bring our kids to a show, but we can't, and not only can we not bring our kids, but we can't go because we don't have a babysitter." So we decided that we wanted to do an event that would also have a family matinee added so people could bring their kids. Because it's a harvest thing, it's a time that we are in appreciation of nature, and so we always have a sort of environmental theme to it, puppet shows that teach kids about recycling and all kinds of environmental games and stuff that we play, and a recycled costumes that are made out of recycled things, a costume contest. And at night, we have a great adult show. And that's basically what it is. And this year we're incorporating yoga into it, too.

WW: What can people expect from the yoga portion of the day? MF: I'm going to be playing music, we'll be playing acoustically, and several different teachers from CorePower in the Denver/Boulder area are going to be leading the asanas.

Tickets to the yoga workshop and the evening concert start at $75; visit

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