The Recording Academy Memphis Chapter played host for GRAMMYs On The Road At The Beale Street Music Festival, held May 4–6 as part of the Memphis in May International Festival. The Chapter conducted exclusive backstage interviews with artists performing at the festival, including GRAMMY-nominated pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and eclectic artist Michael Franti.
Randolph discussed songwriting, performing live, creative influences, and his most recent release, Robert Randolph & The Family Band Live, among other topics.
"All music influences me," said Randolph. "I listen to everything. … I've been getting a lot of licks from Frank Sinatra these days."
Combining elements of soul and funk, Randolph's unique guitar style is an anomaly for an instrument associated with country music. His band Robert Randolph & The Family Band released a live album, Live At The Wetlands, in 2002 and followed with their studio debut, Unclassified, in 2003, which garnered a nomination for Best Rock Gospel Album. Randolph's work has been lauded by fellow guitarists such as Eric Clapton, who was a special guest on their third album, Colorblind, in 2006. We Walk This Road was released in 2010 featuring 17 tracks, all of which feature a "message of hope and ability to uplift," according to Randolph. Released in 2011, Robert Randolph & The Family Band Live is their first live collection since 2002. Randolph is currently on tour throughout the United States with select dates scheduled through August.
Franti discussed performing live, music education and memorable moments in his career, among others.
"I have moments all the time when I play," said Franti. "[Seeing] someone in the crowd that you really touched [is] why I've always done music, [because] I've had records that moved me when I was at my lowest of lows."
Raised in Oakland, Calif., Franti got his musical start as a member of several hip-hop collectives, including the Beatnigs, Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy and Spearhead, the latter with whom he recorded the 1995 album Home, which featured songs exploring social issues such as homelessness and AIDS. Continuing in a socially conscious direction, in 1997 Franti released Chocolate Supa Highway, which explored themes of kidnapping and police brutality, followed by 2001's Stay Human, which expressed Franti's advocacy of love and believe in freedom through individuality. Franti's debut solo album, Songs From The Front Porch, was released in 2003. He reconvened with Spearhead for 2006's Yell Fire! In 2008 Franti released All Rebel Rockers, which peaked at No. 39 on the Billboard 200. Franti's most recent release, 2010's The Sound Of Sunshine, climbed to No. 17 on the Billboard 200, his highest-charting album to date.
Come back to GRAMMY.com tomorrow for more exclusive backstage interviews from GRAMMYs On The Road At The Beale Street Music Festival.