Passing It Around
Few have segued sports careers into lucrative recording contracts like Donavon Frankenreiter. His music - like his surfing - is smooth, loose, and upbeat, hitting the peaks with perfect timing. His lyrics: simple but meaningful, positive and groovy. He is a charismatic funny man with a wandering spirit and a righteous soul.
Surfline caught up with the pro surfer-turned-musician on the verge of his third full-length album release, Pass It Around. Here's what 'Diamond Donnie' had to say prior to hitting the road for another tour around the world.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED OR CHANGED SINCE YOUR LAST RECORD?
I really tried to work with as many musicians as possible, bringing different people into the studio and adding their flavors to the record. Eight of the ten songs on the record feature guests, from Ben Harper , who plays guitar on the title track, "Pass It Around," to G.Love, who plays on "Sing a Song," Grant Lee Phillips, a mariachi band, and more.
HOW WAS RECORDING AT SUNSET SOUND IN HOLLYWOOD? PRETTY LEGENDARY, YEAH?
Insane. So much history there. From Jim Morrison to Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Prince, The Doobie Bros, Van Halen - all the greatest records from like, '65 to around '95 were done there. The recording engineer had some amazing stories, and they haven't touched anything in the studio over the years. The microphone was the same one Jim Morrison sang into.
IF THOSE WALLS COULD TALK... WHAT A TRIP. STOKED YOU GOT TO EXPERIENCE THAT.
For sure. Especially 'cause nowadays so many people need to record on a tight budget and make an album on their buddy's computer. I mean, a lot of great records are made that way, plus the music industry and the labels are under increasing pressure these days to stretch their budgets. So yeah, I feel really fortunate.
WHAT IS THE TITLE TRACK, "PASS IT AROUND," ALL ABOUT?
It's about promoting good vibes, good energy, having a good time and embracing the moment. Just whatever makes you feel good, whether you're at a concert, in the water, or just in daily life.
I DIG THE TRACK "YOUR HEART," WITH ITS COOL ORGAN SOUNDS AND DRIVING BEAT. WHAT INSTRUMENT DID YOU USE ON THAT ONE?
It's cool how that song came together. I gave a demo of the melody - just a harmonica track - to Joe Chiccarelli, our producer. His idea was to really try something new with the addition of a mariachi band, and the sound of the piccicato really comes through. I've been going to Mexico and South America so much, and I like that type of musicianship.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO PLAY AND SING THESE DAYS?
Everyday life. My family, my wife, my kids, traveling. But mostly because I just enjoy doing it so much. If things aren't going so great, or I'm having a bad day, I surf or play music, and that makes me smile, makes me feel alive. These things are therapeutic for me. Some people do yoga to escape or feel better; that's how music is for me. I can break out the guitar in my living room or be at a big show - it doesn't matter. As long as there's music, I'm happy.
THE CLOSING TRACK, "COME TOGETHER," IS ALSO REALLY SONIC, WITH COOL SMOKEY GUITARS. WHAT IS THE MESSAGE THERE?
I wanted to do something that was not really political, but about the wars that are going on - the religious wars, wars over oil, and racism - and just ask, "why we can't all just get along and be together." I love the musicianship on that one too. The way it evolved. Some people do yoga to escape or feel better; that's how music is for me. I can break out the guitar in my living room or be at a big show - it doesn't matter. As long as there's music, I'm happy.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN PROS AND CONS FOR YOU AS A TRAVELING MUSICIAN?
I love traveling, being on the road. And I'm getting ready to leave on tour for the next six or seven weeks during the release of the record, so that will be fun. But being away from my family will be really, really heartbreaking. They travel with me a lot, but my oldest son is starting school soon, so not this time around. My son Hendrix is five and a half now, and Ozzy is one and a half. I'll be missing them so much, but the upsides definitely make it all worth it.
YOU'VE BEEN PLAYING A LOT OF GIGS AT BILLABONG'S WCT EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD, AND HAVE SOME OTHER COOL PROJECTS GOING ON WITH THEM TOO, YEAH?
Those guys have been insane; they've really supported me. They brought my whole family and whole band to Tahiti recently. They're also embracing me with a signature clothing line soon too. You'll be the first to receive my new stick-on moustache and a pair of bell-bottoms.
I'LL ROCK THAT SHIT. BRING IT ON, MAN.
[Laughs]. But playing at those events with the Top 44 is definitely great. I love hanging out with Andy and Bruce, and I love seeing Slater. Occy always seems to be floating around, and Curren, and they'll all get up on stage and jam with us. Those are some of my best friends, man. I really only see some of them at those events, and I have so much fun when I do.
Pass It Around hits store shelves on August 19th with 10 fresh tracks, including some legendary guest appearances. For more, check out Donavon on iTunes, or at myspace.com/donavonfrankenreiter.