Frankenreiter riding a wave of success

American musician and surfer Donavon Frankenreiter, Byron Bay, March 2013.
American musician and surfer Donavon Frankenreiter, Byron Bay, March 2013. Patrick Gorbunovs

PLAYING guitar and surfing is a lot harder than you might think.

Donavon Frankenreiter, who is in Australia for a seven-week stint, has tried.

"That was funny," he says. "Paddling out was the trickiest part."

In an interview, the Californian native is asked how he manages to combine his two careers - surfing and music - before a clip of him surfing with a guitar comes up.

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The two paths, he says, are entwined.

"I have really incredible people around me who understand what I do," Frankenreiter says.

"Everything I've done has somehow enhanced the two.

"While I'm here I'll play shows for Billabong in their outlet up here; I'll play for their employees and a private gig at a barbecue.

"It's a great way to connect with people. And, it's not like they're saying to me, 'I know you want to go surfing this morning but you've got a concert to play'.

"You can surf all day and then play at night, so they never get in the way of each other. Surfing is the reason why I started playing music. It's a great thing that I'm able to do both these things and make a living off it."

During his seven weeks in Australia, Frankenreiter's family - his wife and two sons Ozzy and Hendrix - are based at Coolangatta.

They'll surf as much as they can, go to kinder, get tutored and maybe head along to Currumbin Sanctuary, all while Frankenreiter heads around the country to play 34 shows.

It's a life it would be hard not to love.

But it's not always easy, and his family can't always be with him on the road.

Start Livin', Frankenreiter's fifth studio album, released last year, was influenced by his time away from family and the sudden death of a close friend.

"I don't ever really think consciously about what I'm going to write about on the next record," he says.

"I lost a friend - Andy Irons - which was a shocking thing and the last two years I've been travelling more than ever.

"I surf and play music and make a living from it, but there are trips that I can't have my family with me."

"I don't want to be negative, but I haven't been around for a birthday or an anniversary or something magical happened at school.

"My wife, she never signed up to be a single mum. Getting on the tour bus and heading along to another show gets a little boring for them after a while. That weighed heavy on a lot of my writing."

While the subject matter hits a more personal note, the chilled out vibes are still present on Frankenreiter's latest release.

The approach he and Matt Grundy took to recording was different to how he'd recorded in the past.

"The first day we went into the studio Matt picked up the banjo and a lot of other instruments he just had lying around," Frankenreiter says.

"We recorded the whole thing live in the room."

In the past the instrumentation would be complete before Frankenreiter would sing over the top, the whole thing feeling unnatural to him.

"I loved the new formula," he says.

"We had the album done within seven days and it all went by really fast.

"It's about capturing the vibe of the song."

Donavon Frankenreiter: Playing March 10, at Brunswick Hotel, Brunswick Heads, 3pm and at the Beach Hotel, Byron Bay, 7.30pm.

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