Donavon Frankenreiter still smiling; set to play Aspen | AspenTimes.com
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Donavon Frankenreiter still smiling; set to play Aspen

Stewart OksenhornThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Stewart Oksenhorn/The Aspen TimesSinger-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter performs Wednesday at Belly Up Aspen.
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ASPEN For almost any musician, the big breakthrough is an upbeat experience, but Donavon Frankenreiters seems even happier than most. The California singer-songwriters moment came in 2004: The song was the breezy, happy Free: Frankenreiters guest on the tune was the immensely successful Jack Johnson. If Free was as popular elsewhere as it was in Aspen, then radio listeners across the land had the line, Well be free-ee-ee on constant rotation through their skulls in the summer of 2004.Frankenreiter remained in an upbeat mode through 2006s Move By Yourself. The album featured the same mix of soft rock and gentle funk as his solo debut, and it was just as catchy on the motivational title track and the album-closing Beautiful Day. Frankenreiters most recent album, Pass It Around, might even top the previous two in rosy spirits. The single, getting extensive local radio play, is Life, Live & Laughter, which offers the view that what you get out of life is exactly what you put into it.And now that the recording industry is collapsing even more than the economy as a whole can we expect Frankenreiter to join the gloomy chorus? Not likely. The 36-year-old intends to keep on the sunny side.I believe in that idea what you say, what words and vibrations and sounds you put in the universe that makes a difference, he said, speaking from a tour stop in Montana. I have bad days. Im on the road and I have two kids and a wife thats a strain right there. But I gotta twist it. If I stood onstage and sang two hours of depressing songs Id lose my mind. The twist is, when I get on stage and grab a guitar, that puts a smile on my face.It is not only the time onstage that gives him reason to smile. After getting his start on Jack Johnsons label, Brushfire Records, Frankenreiter moved to Lost Highway, where his labelmates include Van Morrison, Lucinda Williams, Ryan Adams and Willie Nelson. The label affiliation has been creatively advantageous; through Lost Highway he has met various collaborators, including several of the songwriters who share credits on Pass It Around.Still, being signed to a notable label hasnt changed the facts of the faltering business. To be honest, its a scary time in the music industry, said Frankenreiter, Nobody can sell a CD. CDs are basically business cards at this point. The actual product you make isnt selling. Its not like when I grew up and a new album coming out was a big event.But Frankenreiter sees silver linings. Theres opportunity around every corner, he said, pointing to the fact that he owns the publishing rights to all his music, that he scored the film Snakes on a Plane, and that his songs have appeared on TV shows. Touring has also taken on enhanced prominence for many acts, Frankenreiter among them. He is currently on a tour that has him playing 30 shows in 32 days. (The tour, with Frankenreiter backed by a four-piece band, stops at Belly Up Aspen on Wednesday. Opening the show, and also expected to join Frankenreiter for a portion of his set, is singer-songwriter Gary Jules.) Frankenreiter says touring is not a huge money-maker; the costs of being on the road can be enormous. But he says it is a necessity to establish oneself.Thats the one thing no one can duplicate or take away from you standing in front of people and playing the music live, he said. You can watch it on Youtube, but thats not the same thing.Frankenreiter also has a big non-musical reason to laugh and feel free. He has a second job, and its not waiting tables. For longer than he has been making music for money, he, like Jack Johnson, has been a professional surfer. He appears regularly on a TV show, and does surf trips for his sponsors. His schedule alternates between surfing tours and musical tours.Literally, Im still a professional surfer, he puts it.stewart@aspentimes.com


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