He'd waited around 20 years for one of his singles to finally gain that elusive Top 20 status, but when it finally did -- a 2008 ditty titled "Say Hey [I Love You]" -- he was in a hospital, lying on a gurney, waiting to be wheeled in to have his ruptured appendix removed.
"I thought I was going to die," Franti recalled. "I get this text, 'Your song's in the Top 20.' I looked at the doctor and said, 'You better fix me because I want to hear my song in the Top 20 for the first time.'"
Franti, the creator and lead vocalist of Michael Franti & Spearhead, leads a band that blends a little hip hop with funk, reggae, jazz, folk and rock. He also is a native of the Bay Area and a big-time San Francisco Giants fan, which helped lead him into the booth for a round of Express Written Consent, sponsored by Klondike.
Franti, a graduate of the University of San Francisco, is as much a lightning bolt of energy in this setting as he is in his lively, dance-laden videos. He's also refreshingly self-deprecating, offering humorous insight as to what it was like to be him for the first 20 years of his musical career. He categorized his best record before that glorious Top 20 nod "double linoleum."
On the eve of the release of "All People," Franti tried out his broadcasting chops in the EWC booth with MLB.com's Jeremy Brisiel. Franti began by justifying the Giants' deficit with a marketing spin, even if it didn't necessarily apply to this particular game, which was being played at Dodger Stadium.
"We try to get down two runs so we can keep the fans in the seats," he said. "The Giants are not just about winning games and winning the World Series. They're about selling popcorn and peanuts. If you keep them in the seats until the ninth inning, you sell more stuff."
Back for a second season, EWC is an exercise in broadcasting where nontraditional announcers -- i.e., celebrities -- try their hand at calling a Major League game. Franti has a lot of qualities that would fit well into the baseball landscape. He's outgoing, interesting and funny, and what's more, he's shoeless (except for the occasional foray through airport security and restaurants). Though "Shoeless Michael Franti" doesn't have quite the same ring as it does when used as a reference to Joe Jackson, it does add a certain baseball flavor to the conversation.
In the regular EWC feature "Start, Bench, Cut," J.B. used Franti's three biggest musical influences (according to his ever-reliable Wikipedia page): John Lennon, Bob Marley and The Clash.
Franti immediately picked Marley to start. He opted to bench The Clash. That left just one to cut. Lennon? Really?
The "Three up, three down" exercise was a little more pedestrian. Given several baseball phrases to choose from, Franti went with "walk-off" to describe the 2010 World Series champion Giants and "Hit the Showers" for the 2002 club that lost to the Angels in Game 7 of the Fall Classic.
Franti's son, Ade, joined him for this segment and didn't seem quite as up on the baseball terminology as dear old dad.
"Your balance of family life and musical career," Brisiel prompted Franti.
"Five-tool player," Franti said, proudly, looking at his son.
Ade, laughing: "What do these mean?"
MLB.com will be unveiling more original broadcasts over the next several weeks. Among the new crop: John C. McGinley, the Madden Brothers (Benji and Joel), Kevin Pollak and Robert Horry.
So bookmark EWC to see which storyteller's story is the most fun and whose future in the booth is brightest.