Donavon Frankenreiter

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Donavon Frankenreiter


Every surfer knows that no two waves are the same. The weather, the tide and the wind all drastically impact the ride, which is why surfing is so enjoyable.

Every surfer knows that no two waves are the same. The weather, the tide and the wind all drastically impact the ride, which is why surfing is so enjoyable. This philosophy guides pro surfer Donavon Frankenreiter both in the ocean and when he’s writing and recording music. He never knows when he’s going to write a song, it "just kind of happens". But, as he’s living a life that most of us can only dream of – getting paid to travel the world surfing while establishing a successful music career – it’s a philosophy that obviously works.

The thirty-eight-year-old father of two released his first solo album in 2004 through good mate Jack Johnson’s record label. Since then, says Frankenreiter, he has grown immensely as a songwriter. "I’ve put out four records over the last eight years or however long it’s been… but it’s been a sort of evolution of my music," he nods.

But it’s Glow, released late last year, is the pinnacle of his career so far.

Written over a year Glow is, like most of Frankenreiter’s music, inspired by his surfing lifestyle. "I’m just living life and traveling to different countries and different cultures," he says simply. Since picking up his first surfboard as a ten-year-old, he’s quick to point out that he’s a surfer who plays music; not the other way around. "My whole life I live around the lifestyle of surfing, so that definitely shows up in my music," he says. However, he admits that his family, friends and listening to other music also play large, inspirational roles.

Maybe it’s the general chilled-out vibe or maybe it’s the awesomeness of Frankenreiter’s seemingly charmed life seeping into the music, but Glow is definitely uplifting, hopeful and positive, something which Frankenreiter admits that he’s trying to achieve. Many tracks, he says, he writes as an antidote to feeling blue. "When I’m sad I pick up a guitar and try to sing about something fun and positive and remember how lucky we are to just be alive and playing music and surfing and travelling and having this lifestyle that I have," he explains.

"There are hard times in everybody’s life and I think music is a special thing that can help people get through tragic times."

A current challenge for Frankenreiter, and indeed the entire music industry, is the much-publicised and debated decline of record sales. Like many musicians, Frankenreiter is passionate about the topic. "Every couple of years I put out a product that I want to sell, that I want people to buy and enjoy," he says. But with increasing numbers of illegal downloads and no clear antidote, musicians are "facing life changing financial differences… I love making music and making albums but at a certain point you have to understand that financially, it has to make sense."


Luckily for the talented Frankenreiter, he has his surfing career to pay the bills. "It would be very, very hard I think, if I didn’t have any surfing career and I was just now starting out in music," he affirms.

It’s perhaps because of this security that his music oozes honesty and personality, despite the occasional bad review. Frankenreiter admits that he lays it all out on the table in his songs. He’s firm when he says that he’s the same person on stage as he is in real life and that his songs are raw expression. "It’s just me, it’s my life, it’s everything that I do," he shrugs. However, he admits, "if I ever get a review and it’s like ‘that album sucks’ or ‘your music is lame’, it’s like, ‘wow, that’s hard to take’. I’m just singing a song about my kids or my family or travel or life," he says. "I just think all music is beautiful."

One track on Glow, The Ones In Your Dreams, is even inspired by Frankenreiter’s family home in Southern California. The clincher is: it’s haunted. But, he says, not in a spooky, evil way: his were nice ghosts that his family enjoyed having a laugh about. "There was definitely some sort of higher power in that house," he says. "There were three different ‘beings’ in that house and they would really do a lot of things to let us know that they were there and it was something I grew up with and I thought it was second nature."

The song talks about his love of the house and the spirits who kept him from being alone. When it came time to move out as an eighteen-year-old, Frankenreiter missed the voices but they were always there when he returned. "Wherever I walked the entire house above me would make noise like there was somebody walking above me on the roof… The house would always kind of speak and say things," he explains. "I always wanted to write a song about that talking house." Perhaps a little kooky, but that’s the charm of Frankenreiter’s down-to-earth music.


Despite taking a year to write, Glow was recorded within three days. Working with producer Mark Weinberg for the first time, there are noticeable production differences to Frankenreiter’s earlier albums. Frankenreiter himself only plays acoustic guitar on the album but the plentiful use of echo and delay on the record’s electric guitars was a pleasant surprise. He also says he thoroughly enjoyed working with Weinberg. "He definitely knew what he wanted to get out of it so that was a really great experience," he says. "He definitely knew the sounds he wanted to hear and how the songs needed to be structured."

Touring for Glow now, Frankenreiter is excited about the travelling he gets to do. But, as eternalised in Three, the final track on Glow, Frankenreiter sings about wanting to put his arms around the three members of his family after returning from the road. But, he’ll be touring until the end of the year and keeping busy for the duration. "I’m going to write a new record throughout the year and put it out hopefully at the beginning of next year," he says. "And try to find more haunted houses."

DONAVO N FRANKENREITER plays The Prince Bandroom this Friday March 4 – tickets from 132 849,, or 95361168. Glow is out now on Liquid Tambourine Records.