As he shared his connection and passion for Orange County, surfer and musician Donavon Frankenreiter bargained with the antique shop worker about this "insane portable eight-track player."
"Are you gonna buy it," I asked.
"Yeah, I think I'll buy it," Frankenreiter laughed. "I'm a sucker for that old stuff."
He's colorful, sun-kissed and passionate about love and life. For over 25 years, the long-haired Californian free-spirit has been spreading the love around the world through his heart-filled music – and he's back in Orange County tonight to kick off the OC Parks Summer Concert Series.
Frankenreiter's smooth vocals, and syrupy, in-the-pocket grooves on songs like "It Don't Matter" and "Free" always garner comments from people comparing him to Jack Johnson—they're not exactly wrong. In fact, the two actually pretty close. After years of friendship and mutual influence, Frankenreiter signed to Johnson's label, Brushfire Records and released his self-titled album of feel-good tracks in 2004.
"For me to even be in the same conversation with Jack is great. He's an amazing songwriter and a good friend," Frankenreiter said. "People will put me in his category – and I admire to be there. It's good company to be in."
But Frankenreiter has evolved a lot in the last 15 years. His years of surf, style, and music have all contributed to his current look and sound. He explains the common experience of people who have only heard his earlier content. When those folks see him live, they are surprised to see the variety he presents on stage, filled with content of nine studio albums and over a decade of life lived.
It's been two years since his latest album, The Heart was released, with it's Texas-recorded roots emanating through 11 lyric-driven folksy tracks. Frankenreiter is currently working on a Monterrey-pop project called Jamtown with fellow musicians G.Love and Cisco Adler.
Growing up in Mission Viejo, Frankenreiter first started his artistic journey through surfing. From communities in Newport all the way down to San Clemente, he described how special it was to be surrounded by the different scenes, different waves, and cutting edge activities and brands.
"The surf scene was amazing – growing up and being apart of that. In San Clemente there was a plethora of amazing, incredible surfers that I got to grow up watching," Frankenreiter said. "After the surf sessions, they would come together and it would turn into a musical jam fest. It was an incredible time to be apart of that – and that was kind of how I learned how to play music."
Now in his forties, he has traveled, surfed, and played music around the world. He's built a following everywhere from Japan to Brazil, taking home a little piece of every place as he visits. He and his wife and two-music loving sons currently call Hawaii home-base, but Frankenreiter makes sure to come back to Orange County each summer and connect with his roots. While in town he'll visit his mom, hang and jam with surf buddies and explore the ever-changing scene of Orange County.
"It's kinda cool to watch [Orange County] evolve," Frankenreiter said. "It's the epicenter of fun."
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Along with tonight's free concert in Orange County, Frankenreiter will be apart of Bro-Am, a large benefit surf and music festival hosted by the Encinitas-based band Switchfoot to raise money for the San Diego community.
"They're good friends and good people," Frankenreiter said. "And they are giving back to the community which is incredible."
Frankenreiter is looking forward to opening the OC Parks Summer Concert Series, which hosts free concerts throughout the summer featuring various artists in different parks in Orange County. So if you like the mellow, sit-back beach vibes of Jack Johnson and the like, Frankenreiter is the real-deal. His lifestyle and copious output reflect a genuine love of music.