Singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter gets tied to surf-bum troubadour Jack Johnson a little too often. This is, frankly, a bit of a drag, as Frankenreiter’s style comes across as more personal and considerate. It’s autobiographical and easy to chill along with, yes, but also more sincere. He proves this in particular with 2015’s The Heart, an introspective set of songs recorded in Texas that was accompanied by a 10-day live-stream of the recording process.
Frankenreiter visits Santa Fe this Tuesday as part of his recent tour, one that reportedly finds the musician and his family (he brings 'em on the road when he can) spending actual time in the cities they visit. Woah.
You always hear about musicians who are like, "I've been to Japan, like, 10 times, but I've never been to Japan." What made you want to visit these towns on a more intimate level?
You know, I've been touring like this for 15 years, and it sometimes happens where if you get on the night schedule, you play till three in the morning; you wake up, and load into a show, do it again, do it again. You can fall into that routine where you only see venues. I'm bringing my family. I've got a wife and two kids, and I wanna show them everywhere we're going, too. We're gonna go skiing when we can, surfing when we can. It's fun for me to bring the family.
Is it hard to balance your work and family?
It's the hardest thing I deal with, but it's one of those things where if I go out for a long period of time, I just bring them. Since I've been doing this before my kids were even born, they'll ask where I'm going and maybe say, 'Eh, we've already been there.' What's cool is, my older son is 14, and he's been playing a lot of guitar and singing, so every night when we're out on the road, he gets up and does a song with us.
I hear he wrote the music to one of the songs on your last album.
He wrote a song called "Little Shack." He was in his room one night jamming, and it was one of the first times I ever heard him on the guitar and I thought that sounded kind of neat. So I learned it and stole if from him and said, 'Hey dude, I'm putting this thing on the new album.' I love the story behind that.
You had a livestream going during recording. Did that change how you worked, or was it more like a performance than recording an album?
It was really strange. The first day we were in there it was really nerve-wracking because we felt like we had to do something for the people who logged on—but after awhile, the cameras seemed invisible. It was a great process, a great experience. Next time, I don't know what we're gonna do, but I think it would be so cool if somebody logged on and for a dollar or two dollars we could record and mix and master a song and then send it to them immediately.
I've read you say that your last album has some "bummer tunes." Was it hard to dig into some of those emotions?
What's cool about this record, it was written in, like, a three-month period. It isn't something I was emotionally working on for two years. I knew I was going in to make a record, and I had a bunch of these songs, some where I had the chorus and not the verse, or some with the verse or not the chorus. So I called up Grant [Lee Phillips]. … I worked with Grant on my second album, and I sent him this song. Literally by the next morning it was done. And he sent it to me with him singing on it, and if I was going to think of something to write, this would be it. So I sent him another song, and sure enough, it was like, 'Holy shit! He did it again!' I've never really collaborated with someone where it happened that easily. Grant will be opening the shows just him and an acoustic guitar, and then we play together with the band. … He's such a great guitar player.
Are you working on anything new or exciting you can talk about?
I just started a new band with Cisco Adler and G Love, the three of us. That was a crazy thing that happened. G Love and I were talking about making a BBQ album; all acoustic. Our whole thing was like, 'Let's go in and re-record some of our original songs!' It turned into all brand-new originals. All three of us singing, and it's some of the most fun I've ever had. It's called Jamtown. We weren't even planning on doing it. … It felt like a modern-day Traveling Wilburys. It's coming out in a month or so, and we're gonna go out and tour and do all these festivals this summer.
Donavon Frankenreiter and Grant Lee Phillips
7 pm Tuesday March 7. $20-$32.
139 W San Francisco St.,