The Sound of Sunshine: Michael Franti of Spearhead on Peace, Justice, and Zeppelins (Interview)
TH: Practicing yoga, giving up plastic bags, eating vegan, going without shoes—you are clearly very committed to an ethical lifestyle in terms of personal action. How can we make sure our personal actions have an impact on the broader, political level?
MF: In the case of plastic bags, I really just feel the world would be a better place without them. If I can't wean myself off of them, then how can I expect 6 billion other people to do it? I have to walk the talk first. But it is important to strike a balance between what I do as an artist, for example, and what I do in my personal life. It is important to be able to practice what you preach.
It really does happen one person at a time. We've been going through it on our own tour bus—eliminating plastic bottles. For a while we were bottle free, and then they slowly started filtering their way back onto the bus and the backstage area. And now we're trying to do it all over again and get people back into reusable bottles.
TH: So besides bottles, what else is going on in terms of greening the latest tour?
MF: We're using biofuels wherever possible on the bus, and we are about to go completely paperless with all of our tour books and documentation. That's our next challenge.
TH: Obviously touring involves a lot of travel, and your music often speaks of the joys of knowing, and loving, people all around the world. But there is a flip side to that in terms of environmental impact. How do we exist in this globalized world, and still strive toward some semblance of sustainability?
MF: That's one of the hardest things for us. Because we use so much fuel. I was at a science hall in San Francisco that allowed you to explore your carbon footprint. It went through how many lights you burn in your house, how much you drive, what do you eat etc. And my carbon footprint was looking pretty low. And then it got to air travel, and it said that if you fly more than 4 times a year, then you're way off the meter. Last year I flew over 100,000 miles!
My booking agent paid for carbon offsets to account for my travel last year, but I always feel like I am still putting that fuel into the air. I can pay to do carbon sequestering or whatever, but I don't know if it's really doing any good.
TH: I guess you too are waiting for them to reinvent the airship too.
MF: Yes! We need a Spearhead Zeppelin. I'm sure we can generate enough hot air from the members of my band to keep it running
Visit page 3 to read about Michael's thoughts on why political music can't just be about "them" and "us" anymore, and why talking about the environment without addressing social issues is a futile cause.