It is a lucky man indeed that gets to support his life by doing the things he loves, but it is even rarer when a person can combine the two most important things in their life and make a living from both of them.
Such is the case with Donovan Frankenreiter who is not only an accomplished musician, but is also an internationally renowned surfer.
After starting surfing as a teenager and being signed to a sponsorship deal with Australian based clothing company Billabong, Donovan started touring the globe as a surfing ambassador for the company. It was on these travels that Donovan would rent a room in North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii, from the parents of famous Australian musician Jack Johnson, and it was through this connection that he discovered music.
This friendship would ignite another flame within Donovan and by 2004 when he released his debut self titled album, featuring Johnson as a guest artist, Donovan had arleady made a name for himself in Australia doing support slots for Johnson.
Thus started a love affair with Australia that continues to this day.
“I first started coming to Australia for surfing and I think it’s every surfers dream to somehow, someday get to Australia which has some of the greatest waves ever,” he enthused.
“Then I got into music and playing concerts there which is also one of the best things ever so now I get there as much as possible. It’s the best of both worlds really. Playing music, being part of amazing festivals and then on my days off I get to go to the beach and surf so it’s an all round complete package!”
With a vocation schedule that could work hand in hand with a social outing, Donovan finds that being able to both surf and tour musically enables him to have complete job satisfaction.
“For me they both definately enhance one another,” he agreed.
“It’s incredible, there’s alot of similarities in the two. They never get in the way of one another. I usually have gigs in the evening so I have all day to go to the beach and surf and do whatever I wanna do. I’ve taken my guitar on almost every surf trip I’ve ever done. It’s like my companion. I could play it at hotels and at airports, wherever, so music also became a big part of my surfing life.”
When asked which one he thought he was better at Donovan was quick to reply.
“Probably surfing,” he laughed, “but I’m starting to learn my guitar a little bit more here and there.”
2006 saw Donovan score probably his biggest musical beak when he was approached by the director of a movie called Snakes On A Plane starring Samuel L Jackson to write a tune for the soundtrack.
“The director actually called me and said ‘hey, I wanna send you the first two and a half minutes of this movie I’m doing and I want you to write a song for it,’” he said.
“And that’s all he sent me, I didn’t see anything else. He said he wanted the song to be a fun song, an uplifting song about everyone having a great day so I watched it and I came up with ‘Lovely Day’. It was kinda funny coz when I watched the movie it was there literally right after that piece with a guy getting hung and shot so it turned into the craziest thing ever. It was really fun to do because it was the first time I got to score a piece of movie stuff and it was really, really fun to have a piece of imagery in front of me with some ideas the director wanted and then for me to create a song which they loved and made part of the movie.”
In 2010, somewhat disillusioned by the recording industry, Donovan decided to start his own label, Liquid Tambourine Records, and says it was the best decision he has made in regards to his music career.
“For me it’s great because I can put my records out when I want and in my own time,” he said.
“I can put them out under my own budget and then I can sign distribution deals around the world. It’s killer. The reality of it is that every record label that I’ve ever been part of is either non – existent or everyone I know that used to work there is not working there any more so it was something that I needed to do and something that I wanted to do. When I first started recording the budget was so crazy and out of control. There was this publicist and this PR person and this person and that person and by the time you put out the record it’s like you have spent $500,000 and you’re like ‘how did I do that?’ So I wanted to be on top of it more. I realised I spent a whole bunch of money before I realised I’d never get it back and never make a dime from the music but now I get to own the masters and sign the distribution deal and it just makes sense. A lot of people are doing it so it’s no big thing to start your own label and record your own music and upload it all around the world digitally wherever you can. It’s basically the same as what the record companies are doing.”
Donavon Frankenreither plays the Tanks this Friday night 17th of April. Tickets available via Ticketlink