Fans of Michael Franti & Spearhead come from many genres: hip hop, jazz, reggae — and yoga.
“If we are not the No. 1 artist played in yoga studios, we’re definitely top five,” said Franti, who brings the unique Soulshine Tour to the Usana Amphitheatre in West Valley City on Thursday, July 3.
Before the 7 p.m. show, which includes performances by reggae band SOJA and folk singer Brett Dennen, there will be a 90-minute group yoga class at the amphitheater. It will be led by national expert Baron Baptiste, of Park City, and set to acoustic music performed live by Franti and friends. (You can bring your own yoga mat or one will be provided.)
“If you’ve never practiced yoga, it’s a great way to get started,” Franti said during a recent telephone interview. “But it’s also for those who have no interest at all in yoga and just want to hear great acoustic music.”
The 48-year-old singer-songwriter-guitarist — who prefers to go barefoot — answered a few questions about the tour, his music and how he got started in yoga.
How did this yoga-music-lifestyle tour come to be?
As I’ve traveled the world, I go to different yoga classes and get to know people. I started practicing with five or six people before every show. Then we moved to parks and 30 or 40 people came out. Then, last year, we played Red Rocks [in Colorado]. Before the show, we did an acoustic set, and we thought a couple hundred people would show, and thousands came. That’s when we decided to do this at every show this summer.
When did you start practicing yoga?
About 13 years ago. It was a way for me to really take care of myself better, I had been getting in and out of buses and airplanes, doing shows and staying up late and drinking too much. I was a full-on wreck. My body ached all the time, my mind was taxed. On Sept. 12, 2001, the day after the Sept. 11 attacks, I needed a way to de-stress, as everyone in the country did. And I fell in love with it. Now I have a really intense physical practice with lots of movement and stretching. I’m taking my body to places I never imagined. I can do handstands and headstands, all these things I couldn’t do even when I was 38 or 28. I’m a father, I have this incredible partner, Sara, an emergency-room nurse, and I’m a musician, so I switch gears often. Yoga has helped me be present for each of these situations. It’s the greatest gift.
How would you describe your music? Is it reggae, funk, folk or something else?
I can’t put an identity to it. I borrow from every sound that I hear that I love. But there is one unifying theme: I love storytelling songs. I love to write songs that have a beginning, middle and end; and I love when people can sing along.
Have you ever been to Utah?
Yes. In the ’80s I was in a couple bands [The Beatnigs and Disposable Heros] and we’d stop in Salt Lake on our way to and from San Francisco and the West Coast. Utah has this conservative reputation, but I’ve found it to be opposite. People at my concerts are more ready to party and let go, to celebrate life and the diversity of life. I think I remember playing a summer show in Salt Lake and we sold 160 kegs of beer. The most we had ever sold before that was 80. I took that as a sign people had a good time.
How do you find your opening acts?
When I go play at festivals, I go as a fan first. I always go out and wander and say, “I wonder what’s in this tent.” I found some of my favorite artists that way. And three of these acts I saw at festivals, which is really cool. They are all bands that I’ve admired and I’m a fan of their music. That’s what I get the most excited about, the different collaborations we have.
P Michael Franti & Spearhead are the headliners. Special guests include reggae band SOJA, folk singer Brett Dennen, Trevor Hall and Sonna Rele. National yoga expert Baron Baptiste, from Park City, will lead a 90-minute yoga practice before the show.
When • Thursday: yoga at 4 p.m., concert at 7
Where • Usana Amphitheatre, 5125 S. 6400 West, West Valley City
Tickets • $26-$51; yoga only, $20