The key for a professional surfer, much as with any athlete, is mastering the art of being relaxed and intensely focused at the same time.
Something similar plays out in the music of Donavon Frankenreiter, a professional surfer from Laguna Beach, Calif., who released his third album, "Pass It Around" (Lost Highway) in August. Frankenreiter plays a gig at the Soapbox in Wilmington on Sunday; opening is the fiddle player and singer Sara Watkins of the band Nickel Creek.
The songs on "Pass It Around," many of which Frankenreiter wrote and performed with such musician friends as Thad Cockrell, Grant Lee Phillips, Ben Harper and G Love (of Special Sauce fame), are nothing if not laid-back and deeply groovy. At the same time, the tunes also convey a certain intensity of feeling, like on the horn-infused "Your Heart," or the bouncy, chant-happy "Life, Love and Laughter," which pretty much sums up Frankenreiter's live-in-the-moment philosophy.
I talked on the phone recently with a fast-talking but friendly Frankenreiter, who sounded like he couldn't wait to get off the phone and back into the water.
You've played Wilmington a couple of times now. Do you ever surf when you're here?
I'm gonna surf when I go there this time. I've got plans with a guy who's going to take me out on a boat, and we're going to go to some different little spots. I can't wait. I'm actually going to go surf again right now. I'm down in Jacksonville, (Fla.), we're just rehearsing, hanging out, and the waves look great, man.
You've said that you try to avoid talking about surfing in your music because you're afraid it will sound corny, but does the fact that you're a pro surfer and you surf a lot, does that influence your sound in any way?
Definitely, I think it does. Whenever I go surfing, it makes the music better, I would think. It's just one of those things, like the sounds and vibes that you hear when you're out on the road or surfing or out in the water, just those surroundings, it definitely influences the music in a lot of ways, for sure.
Do you have to find a balance between surfing and music, or do they kind of blend together?
They blend together really well, man. They're both my passions, so it's like when I'm playing music I'm surfing and when I'm not surfing I'm playing music.
Do you ever feel like you don't have enough time for one or the other?
No, I really enjoy putting down the guitar and getting in the water and vice versa, puttin' down the board and getting into music. I'm glad I have a couple of passions and you can kind of put one down and escape away from it and do something else that you really love. And then I feel like when I get back, everything's a lot fresher.
You did a lot of collaborating with different songwriters on this album. Was there ever a time when someone wanted to take things in a direction you weren't comfortable with?
No, you've just got to be super-open to everybody's ideas, and I feel like in a lot of ways things got better because I involved them, you know? I never had a moment where I was like, "Oh no, this is weird." I feel like I shared a lot of great moments with a lot of great people, and I feel lucky to be able to do that.
So, your kids are named Hendrix and Ozzy?
Yeah, Hendrix is 5 and a half and Ozzy's one and a half. They're huge inspirations in my life, with my wife, and definitely the muse of my music.
Did you name them after your rock heroes?
Well, I really love Hendrix's guitar playing, but I didn't really name my kids after these guys. I just felt like with the last name Frankenreiter I needed something pretty strong in front of it. I couldn't name 'em, like, Joe Frankenreiter or something. Hendrix was the first one and obviously I'm a huge fan. I mean, Jimi Hendrix is like my favorite ever. But Ozzy is just a strong, cool name: Ozzy Von Frankenreiter. My wife loved it and I'm a fan of Ozzy Osbourne as well, so it's all good, man.
Are they already up on the board?
Yeah, they're both surfin'. I got Ozzy out on a board, I go tandem with him, and Hendrix paddles into his own waves and kinds of makes it happen himself, so it's awesome.