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INTERVIEW: Donavon Frankenreiter On How Jack Johnson Jumpstarted His Career, His East End Return And More

Ali Friedlander

Professional singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter is returning to the East End this summer. He will be playing at The Surf Lodge in Montauk on Sunday, July 31st, and the Stephen Talkhouse on Monday, August 1st. Hamptons.com caught up with Frankenreiter to speak about his career, his inspiration, and how he got his start.

In addition to performing, you're also a professional surfer. Which came first, surfing or the music?

DF: I started surfing at the age of 10, and then turned professional at the age of 16, which was right around the same time I took up the guitar. So, the surfing came first. From the age of 16 on, I brought my guitar everywhere. I just fell in love with learning the guitar, and I wanted to learn songs and chords, and that led to wanting to start a band, and to wanting to do our first show. And, through my surfing, I met all my friends that helped me out in the music world, and so that's kind of how it all began. So, it was the surfing and then the music.

How did you get into surfing?

DF: Nobody in my family ever surfed, but they would always bring me to the beach. I grew up in Orange County, California, all over the beaches of San Clemente and that area. Before I actually got a hard surfboard at the age of 10, like a real board, I was always just trying to stand up on boogie boards or rafts or whatever I had, trying to emulate the people that I saw surfing the waves out there. So one Christmas, I just begged my parents like "I want to try to surf on a real board instead of these boogie boards and rafts" and they got me one. And as soon as I stood up on that hard surfboard, I went so fast and it was such an incredible feeling that I was obsessed, and I fell in love with it, so I never stopped. So, that's how it all started, being around people at the beach and other surfers and then finally getting an actual surf board, and falling in love with that feeling.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

DF: Definitely my wife and my kid, being a husband and a dad. That's how it all started, when I met my wife. My music career, even though I started when I was 16, it never really started till I was like 30, when I started singing and writing my own songs, and that's when it really took off. But prior to that, I was just doing a bunch of covers. But my wife really pushed me in that direction, to write my own songs and start singing, so I think having the whole family thing is such a huge thing.

Traveling is also a big inspiration for me. I travel a lot, and being in different countries and a part of cultures, that's just such a huge inspiration for music, and one way or another, you get influenced.

Are you excited to perform at The Surf Lodge?

DF: This is sort of like an annual thing. It's got to be seven or eight years I've been playing there, every summer. It's definitely one of the most fun gigs of our whole East Coast tour. The beautiful atmosphere, amazing stage overlooking that beautiful lagoon - it's just a really hip, cool spot to play. We always look forward to it, every year.

What's the coolest thing your careers have led to?

DF: I just think it's amazing that I'm able to do both singing and surfing. I fell in love with these two passions that I made into careers, and I've never had to give one up. I just think that's the most amazing thing to be able to go to places like Japan and surf all day and then that night, play music. It's never been one of those things that's disrupted the flow of one and other, they've just enhanced one and other. It's incredible. It's beautiful that I found these two things that help each other out. Like when I'm out in the water surfing, it clears my mind and it makes me want to play music and write music, and then when I'm playing a lot of music and touring, I can't wait to get in the water again and surf. So, I'm striving to find that perfect balance, and it's all good.

I know you've worked with Jack Johnson. Do you have any cool or funny stories about him you want to share? Do you guys surf together?

DF: Well, so, I grew up knowing [Jack Johnson], surfing with him. And he gave me my whole start in music, which was the coolest thing ever. He became a superstar and started his own record label, and then he made and produced my first record, he co-wrote the songs on there, and then he let me open up for him for two years all around the world. And that was like the best start I could've had, the best way I could've started in the music scene. I owe him a lot for the beginning of my career and setting me off on the right path, and that's the coolest thing that ever could've happened. He really helped me make the record, put it out, and then let me tour with him for two years. He really helped me out.

What's next for you?

DF: Right now I'm just in Hawaii, relaxing and getting ready to hit the road and do some nonstop gigs for 29 days straight. We have 31 shows in 29 days coming up.

What are some long-term goals you hope to accomplish, if any?

DF: I don't really try to set any long-term goals, I just try to enjoy the moment and enjoy what's happening. I mean, I want to be conscious of what's going on around me, and be aware of if I can make a change and make things better, which I think is very important. So, the things I try to do with Surfrider Foundation, SurfAid, Love Hope Strength, which is a cancer foundation, I try to do as many benefits and fundraising things as I possibly can. It's so important, if you have any kind of a voice, or any way to make a difference, to do that. So, I'm trying to do that, and have fun in the moment, and live life, and hope it all comes together.

For more information about Donavon Frankenreiter's upcoming shows, visit www.donavonf.com.

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