The Coast News Group
Surfer-turned singer, songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter releases his newest album, “The Heart.” He’s performing at Kaaboo in Del Mar at 1 p.m. Sept. 20. Photo by Rodney Bursiel
ArtsArtsDel MarFeatured

Frankenreiter shows heart after a decade making music

If Donavon Frankenreiter were to start his music career now, he wouldn’t have any idea how to start off. That’s because there’s been so much upheaval in the music industry over the past decade or more.

But Frankenreiter, the surfer-turned singer, songwriter with the laid-back sound, doesn’t have to worry at all about that. Especially following the release of his latest album, “The Heart,” which also signals more than a decade that he’s been making music.

Summing up those previous 10 years since the debut of his first album, he said simply, “crazy.”

“There’s been a lot of things that have happened in the 10 years in my life and in the music industry, so it’s definitely been a crazy ride,” he said.

The hardest thing he’s encountered — the collapse of the music industry, including the different formats in how people collect and listen to their music and how that’s changed so much.

The radio stations have changed, there are no more record stores really, he explained, and gone are the times when musicians could make a living just off of selling an album.

“It’s been pretty difficult on a lot of levels for, I think, everybody in the music industry,” he said.

Now, he said, making a living as a musician means more touring, which is something he doesn’t mind doing, but added that the aspect of taking time to make a record was really wonderful.

Though he’s not falling into that trap of worrying about whether he ever has enough time to do the things he wants and needs to do.

“Life goes by real quick,” he said.

A lot of stuff has happened to Frankenreiter over the last 10 years, including the passing of his father, just two weeks after finishing recording “The Heart.”

“Whatever you do while you’re here, you do,” said Frankenreiter. “I don’t worry about, ‘I wish had more time to finish this or that,’ if there’s something I want to do, I go after it and do it,” he said.

For Frankenreiter, 42, it’s about enjoying as much as he can.

While “The Heart” doesn’t stray too far away from where he started with his music, keeping it simple with acoustic-based songs with some bass and drums, the album serves almost as an answer to his previous decade’s-worth of music.

“I really wanted to go in and make a record that was pretty basic, like the first one, in a sense. More simple,” he said.

There were no toy pianos or other quirky and different instruments like he had used on his 2012  album, “Start Living.”

Working with Grant Lee Phillips, who co-wrote half the songs on the new album, Frankenreiter said that this was the first time he’s had people write and co-write songs for him that he felt as if they were ones he’d written himself.

Whether this signals a change to come over the next 10 years of making music, Frankenreiter doesn’t know.

“I think forever, being a musician, you’re always searching, looking for the next thing,” he said. “It’s just one of those things. I don’t know what will come next.”

Though he’s certain the cycle of touring, writing songs, recording and doing it all over again, will continue.

As a musician, Frankenreiter knows there are some perfect tunes out there. He couldn’t say any of his stuff was perfect, and he said he wouldn’t want it to be.

And just as a surfer, he knows there are perfect waves out there, too.

“But it’s very hard to get,” he said. “That’s what’s so interesting and, I think, fascinating for me about surfing, and I think for everybody. It’s not one of those things that’s super tangible.

“You can be like, ‘Oh, I’m going to go to the beach and get the best wave of my life,’ you just never know,” he said.

That changing element and the unknowingness is what keeps him so enthralled in surfing and in music.

“It’s fun to have that sort of unknown element to the things that you’re doing,” he said.