Flush with the success of the Top 20 single "Say Hey (I Love You)," Michael Franti & Spearhead aren't wasting any time in following it up with a new label deal, a new album and a pair of fresh singles as the group continues touring in North America.
Signed now to EMI -- Franti and company's first major label stop since 1997 -- the group will release "The Sound of Sunshine" later in the summer on Capitol/Boo Boo Wax. Meanwhile, the single "Shake It," with Jamaican dancehall icon Lady Saw guesting, is just out and available at digital retailers, while the album's title track comes on June 8.
"There's a lot of acoustic guitar on this record," Franti tells Billboard.com. "There's also a lot of songs that are about connection to other people -- to family, to friends and to that appreciation that those things are the most important things in our lives." And, he adds, "you can dance to every song, but they're not all four-on-the-floor club bangers like you're used to hearing in a nightclub. They're more...traditional sounding, in the old school sense of, like, dance music from around the world."
Franti says the album's positive vibration was inspired by going through surgery for a ruptured appendix in August of 2009. "I came really close to dying," he explains, "and I just had this new appreciation for life. Every day I'd go to the window and I'd open the curtain and see if the sun was shining. If it was I'd feel this sense of optimism, and if it was cloudy I'd go back into my bed and I'd find the sunshine in my mind or in my guitar or something. I thought, 'If I could make a record that does that, what would it sound like?' So this is my best interpretation of what the sun sounds like."
Franti and Spearhead recorded some of "The Sound of Sunshine" in Jamaica with Sly & Robbie, who co-produced 2008's "All Rebel Rockers." But most of it was done on the road earlier this year while the group was opening for John Mayer. "We took our little portable rig on tour with us," Franti reports, "and every day we'd play the songs and then we'd go back into the dressing room and go, 'Y'know, the chorus needs a different chord change' or 'The audience wasn't dancing to it as much as when we played this one slower the other day, so we should slow down the recording.' And we would record the drums and guitars right there and I'd take the rig into my hotel room at night and I'd record the vocals all night long. So it was made in hotels and the locker rooms of NBA and hockey franchises all around the country."
Franti and Spearhead have shows booked in North America into September, including a slot at the Bonnaroo Music Festival on June 11 and a stint on the Zac Brown Band's Sailing Southern Ground Cruise Sept. 2-6. "We're just gonna keep touring all through the summer and into the fall and probably close to Christmas," says Franti, adding that fans can expect pre-show sidewalk performances, mass yoga sessions and even free family days so children can see the band in the afternoon.
"Every day we try to do something like that, that reaches out to the community," he says. "It's really fun."