Michael Franti is trying some new things on his upcoming album ''All People,'' from working with multiple songwriting collaborators to wearing a suit on the cover.
The singer, songwriter and activist has collaborated with his guitar player J Bowman on the last few Michael Franti & Spearhead releases, but ''All People'' has him working with Australian producer / songwriter Adrian Newman, seven-time Grammy-nominated production team The Matrix and songwriter Sam Hollander, who's worked with Train, Katy Perry and One Direction.
''I thought it would be less of what was in my heart if I collaborated with someone else,'' Franti said during a telephone interview from his home in San Francisco. ''I found it's the opposite.''
Capitol Records / Lauren Dukoff
‘‘All People,’’ a new album by Michael Franti & Spearhead, will be released July 30.
Working with someone new forced him to find just the right word, the perfect turn of a phrase in order to express his ideas.
''I found collaborating to be a really energizing experience.''
Franti first worked with Newman, and three songs from their sessions made the album, including the lead single ''I'm Alive (Life Sounds Like).'' Since that initial collaboration was successful, Franti sought out others, and he eventually had about three dozen songs from which to choose - 11 are featured on the regular release and 16 tracks are included on the deluxe edition.
WHO: Michael Franti & Spearhead and Saints of Valory
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., Cleveland
Working with The Matrix helped him finish ''11:59,'' which is reminiscent of some of the more overtly political work on his earlier albums.
''I'd written the song many years ago, but I hadn't done a great recorded version of it,'' Franti said. ''I actually liked it better as a spoken word piece. When I started working on this record, I hooked up with The Matrix, and they came up with this really cool piano line. What it did with the song was make it about the real emotion of caring about someone you love.''
The overall impression from listening to ''All People'' is that Franti is a happy, contented man, and several of those songs are inspired by his long-term relationship with Sara Agah. ''Life Is Better with You'' is a breezy acoustic tune (and likely future single), but Franti said it was inspired by an argument. After a wonderful Valentine's Day, the couple had a not-so-great day after.
''We talked through it, and I felt we'd created a stronger bond. That's really what the whole record is about, going through difficult times and being stronger at the end of it.''
Franti's music always has had an eclectic feel, blending elements of rock, reggae, hip hop, folk and other genres. ''All People'' continues the experimentation, opening with the electronic dance music-inspired title track that layers the organic with the synthetic as electronic beats pulse over an acoustic guitar. And the track isn't one his wrote with any of the outside producers; it's the one track credited to all the members of Spearhead.
Singing with Franti on the track is Gina Rene, who he called a great singer.
''She came in at the very end of the recording,'' he said. ''If she came in earlier, she would have been on a lot more songs.''
Rene is joining the band on its current tour, which includes a show Wednesday at House of Blues. ''All People'' won't be in stores until July 30, but the band is playing several songs from it now.
''We've been playing a lot, 7-8 songs,'' he said. ''We've also been digging back to the first couple records playing some stuff we haven't played for awhile. Every day we change up the set.''