Songs from the Heart - Donavon Frankenreiter

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Teenage pro surfer turned singer songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter is a favoured performer on the Northern Beaches and is playing at Narrabeen RSL next month. He told Tara Wesson from COVERED. about life on the road and why he loves his trips to the area.

You live streamed the recording of your new album, ‘The Heart’. What was that like?

I was a little nervous when we first started off because you know, if the first song that you go to record doesn’t come out right, you could create sort of a disaster and it’s like, we do one song in ten days. But after a while the cameras all became invisible. I didn’t really care that people had their eyes and ears in the process of making a record... it was kind of fun to let people in. We did ten days in a row for twelve hours a day and we recorded one song a day. With technology, you have the ability to do that.

You’re on the road pretty much all the time — do you enjoy touring?

I love it. I mean, the best part of touring is being on stage and playing. But it’s not easy, you know, travelling, getting on planes every other day. It’s not like we’re flying private jets and staying in these nice hotels. I mean, I feel very lucky that I was actually able to get my foot in this musical door when I did, fifteen years ago, right before the collapse of the music industry, when I signed to Jack Johnson’s label. It takes a lot to get your music out there, but it all kind of came together.

So, you’ve mentioned Jack Johnson - who are your main influences?

He was a big influence when I started, he produced the record, he co-wrote songs and then he took me on the road for a couple of years. But you know, I’m influenced by all different types of music. I really love the Blues, I love rock n’ roll, but I could listen to Sade. I’ll listen to Metallica, then put on BB King and then listen to Dr Dre. I get inspired from all different types, Wilco, Tom Petty, Jack White, I mean, I could listen to anything.

What do you like about coming to the Northern Beaches and Australia?

It’s sort of like a condensed, fun little zone, you can go from Narrabeen to Whale Beach, to Avalon, Dee Why and, I don’t know, there’s a lot of little beaches and little towns and different waves and great little hangs everywhere. It’s beautiful, it’s cool and it’s always a great vibe. It’s a very special kind of music/surfing area and so we’re excited to come back down here.

Are you travelling with your family?

Yeah, it’s one place that they really love to tour with me because they love surfing and going to the beaches.

Writing with your son Hendrix - was that the first time you’d done that?

He was just jamming that song in his room and I heard it and I’m like ‘Woah, what is that? Like, teach me that, what is that?’ and he’s like, ‘Oh, it’s a song I’m working on’, so I went in there and he taught it to me. I’d put some words to it and I basically just stole his song! It was something so simple and cool. I was like, ‘Come on, you got any more of those, I need ten more!’.

How did you balance the personal element with needing to produce popular, appealing music?

You’ve got to just write how you feel and write what you want to say and when you go to record it, you’ve got to record it the way you want to record it because you’ve got to play it and sing it for the rest of your life. You hope that people, you know, maybe like it. I think that if you go down the other path of, ‘I want to write songs of what I think my fans might like’, then that could destroy your whole life, you know? There’s a lot of loss in this record, like my dad died of cancer right in the middle of making it. I wrote that song California Lights for him and, I’d never gone through anything like that, losing a parent. And the whole time I made the record I kept seeing hearts everywhere, I don’t know why, it was like, ‘What’s going on here?’. That’s why I called it The Heart, like the songs all came from the heart.

Donavon is playing at the Narrabeen RSL Club on November 25.