This Saturday, Aug. 8, head to Snowshed Base Lodge at Killington Resort to listen to the cool jammin’ sounds of Donavon Frankenreiter, part of the Cooler in the Mountains concert series. He is really excited to be coming back to the mountains of Killington. I told him about the new adventure center and he said, “That’s freaking sick and unreal.”
Frankenreiter hails from California but moved to Hawaii eight years ago where he loves to surf. Besides playing music, he’s a pro surfer and has been on the tour. We did the phone interview while he was in Hawaii which makes it the farthest interview I’ve done thus far. He’s heading to Bali, Indonesia for a show and then back to Hawaii to pick up his family and then they all head to Killington. Frankenreiter will be bringing his trio to perform here and play acoustic and electric music.
Frankenreiter started playing guitar when he was 16 years old, in a high school cover band. He didn’t start playing professionally until he was 30, which gives hope to musicians who think they have to start young. Frankenreiter says, “Anybody can make it and anybody can be introduced to the music world at any age. It is so wide open now that there’s really not a formula to go by. Anyone can start at any time as long as you’re passionate and you love it.”
Frankenreiter is good friends with Jack Johnson and they grew up surfing together. He went back to the spot where he met Johnson in Hawaii 25 years later and recorded an album on Johnson’s label, Brushfire Records, in 2004. He’s been playing solid ever since.
Frankenreiter has many musical influences, but is really a big fan of the old stuff like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Tom Petty. For newer music, he likes The Black Keys and Wilco. “There’s so many great songs and so many great musicians. Whether people love or hate Pandora, it has really introduced me to a lot of great musicians. I’ll listen to some channels of people I know and then go to something different. It’s pretty neat. I get inspired by all kinds of music from Sade to Metallica. Rarely do I say ‘that sucks.’ There is always some beauty in there somewhere.”
Frankenreiter says there are some really great musicians in Oahu and he loves playing there, but also really loves the diversity wherever he goes. “I like playing anywhere really. I’m playing a gig in Indonesia on Friday and that is going to be surreal. It’s fun everywhere. I’m looking forward to playing in Killington again. The mountains are cool, so are the families that come out. I’ll play a club in New York and then go play a beach bar. You kind of get it all in a month. You got the mountains, a beach and an inside club and an outside club. That’s the one thing that keeps me excited. Every night is something and somewhere different.”
Despite being a big surfer, Frankenreiter does not snowboard. He’s afraid he’ll hurt himself on the snow. “I stick to things I love: music and surfing. I got a wife and two kids so I don’t see myself going on snowboard trips. I’ve been around snowboarding a lot and people try and get me to go but I don’t want to fall and break my wrist. I can’t afford to have that happen.” He’s had his fair share of surfing accidents. “I’ve broken my collar bone, cracked my nose a million times and have had stitches all over my face and legs. Nothing too crazy, no big broken bones or major injuries.” He also has been fortunate to not come across a shark like Mick Fanning did last month. “Thank God none of that. Try to avoid those at all costs [laughing].”
Frankenreiter’s two boys, Hendrix and Ozzy, both play music and surf. “They play drums, ukelele and guitar. My [one] son’s in a band and he sings and plays guitar in it. He just played a graduation party and they played a Depeche Mode song and a Black Keys song. That was really cool. They do everything; they fish, surf. I’m like holy crap, where do they get all this energy?” Frankenreiter loves that he shares all these things with his boys. “It’s definitely the best scenario I could of ever imagined. But it’s really hard for me when I have to leave for three weeks. It’s really hard being away from your wife and kids. Sometimes a few weeks turns into months on the road. It’s difficult, but the payoff is worth it. When I’m home I’m with them 24/7.”
We talked about what he loves best about doing what he does. Frankenreiter said, “I love that every night is different. I also love the element of sharing the music with the people but also the guys in my band. I love the element of it being live and you never know what’s going to happen. I could forget the words, break a string and every night it sounds different. There’s nights where everything is perfect and then there are those nights where it sounds bad and you’re struggling and you’re trying to find that spot where you’re stoked again. I love that feeling of not knowing. Then at the end of the night it’s so exciting and it keeps me going. I love sharing that with people.”
He continues, “I grew up surfing my whole life and I’ve done that professionally and I still do that. Surfing is one of those things that I get that same feeling that I do when I play music except I surf by myself. I don’t catch a wave with a thousand other people. I hope to only have one or two other people. You catch this moment when magical things happen and there’s nobody there to see it. It’s like a freeze-frame in your brain, it’s like one of those incredible things. When something magical happens when you’re playing music, it’s a quick moment but it’s not forever. I love that element of sharing the music in a concert and getting those feelings with those moments. I love getting that feeling when I go watch other musicians.”
Frankenreiter doesn’t have a set routine that he goes through each night. Sometimes he’ll have butterflies in his stomach, but he never ever thinks that he doesn’t want to go on stage— he gets antsy and wants to get right out there and play. “There’s that feeling that you get in your stomach and you think, ‘What’s it going to be like?’ That also keeps me going. I’ve had nights where I can’t remember the next line in a song. Those moments are exciting, too.” While he writes all the songs, it does happen from time to time. It’s a lot of music to remember!That’s one thing I’m impressed with, musicians that can remember all those songs. For Frankenreiter, he’s impressed with Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule. Those guys play hundreds of songs and remember them all. “I do best when I’m not thinking about it. The night flies by. I never thought twice what I was going to say or play and those are the best moments ever. I don’t even look at the guitar or the fret board. If I start over-thinking stuff, I hate that. I try and slow down and just play it and feel it.”