"We came to the little hotel we own for a yoga retreat and while we were there, the entire world changed," the musician tells PEOPLE

By Tricia Despres
April 22, 2020 06:30 PM
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It’s 85 degrees at 10 p.m. on yet another uneventful Friday night, and Michael Franti finds himself exactly 8,327 miles from his San Francisco home.

And, in his words, it’s nothing short of surreal.

“We came to the little hotel we own for a yoga retreat and while we were there, the entire world changed,” Franti, 53, tells PEOPLE from Bali, where he, his wife Sara and their 19-month old son Taj continue to self-isolate since the travel lockdown stranded them on the Indonesian island. “I’m still not sure what the heck has happened.”

The globally recognized musician, humanitarian and award-winning filmmaker has long been known for his optimistic attitude, his high-energy shows, his philanthropic efforts and his inspiring music. But even for Franti, the days since coronavirus unexpectedly landed on our collective doorsteps has been somewhat challenging.

“This thing is affecting every single person on the planet,” says Franti, who has topped the Billboard charts with hopeful hits such as “Sound of Sunshine” and “Say Hey (I Love You).” “I know two people who have died of COVID-19 and I know others dealing with some really serious complications. Honestly, I have battled anxiety and depression in my adult life, and I was concerned that this would really push me in that black hole that I couldn’t pull myself out of.”

But according to Franti, the exact opposite has happened.

“It’s awakened myself to really … feeling, you know?” he says. “It’s about crying on the couch with my wife and being okay. It’s about floating in this ocean of unknown right now and knowing that we are okay. No one has the answers, but I can experience that and still be okay.”

Michael Franti & Spearhead
Michael Finn

And it’s this message that Franti has now made it his mission to share with his throngs of fans through songs such as “How We Living” & “I’m On Your Side,” both which serve as his first new music from his forthcoming studio album Work Hard and Be Nice.

“My musical message has always been the same … it’s always been optimism,” says Franti, who will release his new album on June 19. “What we are being asked to do right now is to wake up and try to be your best. Serve the greater good. Stay home. Put positivity out in the world. And above all, rock out. Never lose the fun that comes with living.”

Michael Franti
Anthony Njuguna & Betsy Baird

Certainly, it’s this message that Franti also hopes he will be able to deliver to hundreds of thousands of people when he returns to the stage alongside Kenny Chesney as part of his Chillaxification Tour later this year.

“I love Marvin Gaye and Willie Nelson and of course Kenny Chesney for the fact that through their music, they tell you what’s in their heart and your heart,” says Franti, whose Stay at Home World Tour performances on Instagram have been wildly popular as people continue to ride out this pandemic. “You feel it in an authentic way and because of this, I think this tour is going to be all about gratitude for all those first responders and for all of us who did our part staying at home and all the scientists looking for a cure.”

And while Franti does not know when those special nights will take place, he does know where he can find the sunshine each and every day going forward.

“My son has been this beautiful ray of light and the sign of the promise of what’s to come,” he says quietly. “To watch him play in the mud and look at the frogs and play with a stick and be engaged for an hour…”

He laughs.

“It’s just about the best thing ever.”