Surfer-musician living for moment

WHEN I grow up I want to be Donavon Frankenreiter. The quintessential California surfer boy lives a life most people can only dream of.

When he is not being paid by surf giant Billabong to rip the best waves around the planet as a ‘freesurfer’ he is designing their latest clothing line.

If the surf’s not pumping, Frankenreiter gets to drop-in on music festivals around the world to play his mellow, upbeat surfer songs that have secured a cult-like following. His latest safari will include a stop off at Byron Bay this April to perform at Bluesfest.

When Pulse caught up with Frankenreiter down the line from the USA recently, he retraced his humble musical beginnings playing top 10 hits in dingy LA bars to having his records produced by Jack Johnson, his zeal for ‘being here now’ and his excitement to be a part of the Bluesfest 2010 line-up.

“Every year I go (to Bluesfest) there are so many great bands. I’ve never been to one and thought last year was better,” Frankenreiter says.

“It will be my fourth time at Bluesfest, maybe more. Every year is very surprising. Every year is incredible to be part of. I’m excited we are going back. I’m excited Jack is playing...and that a lot of friends are playing. When a bunch of people get together, you never know what is going to happen. It will be neat to see everybody; it will be neat to see Jack.”

His enthusiasm for Johnson stems from his part in helping Frankenreiter evolve out of playing three sets a day of covers in bars and clubs around Los Angeles to releasing his first record.

“I learned how to play music during that time. It was a really great time (playing around LA),” he says. “Eventually I felt like I was spinning my wheels and I wanted to write my own music....”

Frankenreiter had met Johnson on one of his surfing trips to Hawaii. He had rented a room from Johnson’s parents and the surfer-musicians developed a strong friendship.

When Frankenreiter had enough material to record, Johnson co-produced his first record, 2004’s Donavon Frankenreiter, which happened to spawn the mega-hit, Free.

In 2006, he signed with Lost Highway Records, home of such notable artists as Elvis Costello, Ryan Adams and Willie Nelson and began to find more of his own musical voice in his second release, Move By Yourself.

His latest album, Pass It Around, delivers more of a snapshot of Frankenreiter’s organic and non-contrived lifestyle. If there is one song on Pass It Around that is a snapshot of Frankenreiter’s free-wheeling philosophy, it is the opening track, Life, Love and Laughter.

“I just want to enjoy the moment,” he says. “I don’t know what is going to happen six months from now or six years from now. Some people set goals. I like to enjoy the moment. The days go by so quick. That’s about as far into the future as I look.”

But when it comes to surfing the breaks around Byron Bay at Easter time, Frankenreiter is happy to make plans.

“There are a couple of secret spots up there that I like to surf but I might have to keep them under wraps,” he says. “I don’t want to tell anybody, I might upset the locals.”

Bluesfest 2010 will be held from Thursday, April 1. Tickets are on sale now. Call 6685 8310 or visit the Bluesfest website:

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