There’s another annual event to look out for at this Wednesday’s Flower Festival in Lompoc, and that’s the return of Ian Franklin. This Bay Area musician with the Central Coast connections appeared last year at the Festival and returns for the second time for a rock and folk infusion of his songwriting skills.
“Lompoc is my second home,” says Franklin, who spent many a summer there with his father, a local chiropractor. The Flower Festival was always a main attraction during those visits, and it took some encouraging from dear ol’ dad to finally submit his CD to the festival organizers. “He kept egging me on to perform there,” he says.
Franklin has been making music since 1994. The child of “hippie parents,” as he calls them, he grew up with a Beatles-heavy record collection, soaking up the North California vibe, and making the guitar his main instrument. He’s played solo and he’s been through numerous bands. One of those is Wish, the progressive rock trio formed in 2002, born out of an art installation commission. Another is the jazz-funk and groove-rock collaborative known as Infinite Frequency, formed during his stint at the Berklee College of Music in Boston in 2006. And then there is just singer-songwriter Ian Franklin, playing solo or as a trio — as he will Wednesday.
“I follow my heart,” Franklin says, explaining his genre jumping. “I write what feels good in the moment. But I don’t attribute it to myself. I feel I channel a creative cosmic purpose.”
But don’t let the quote fool you into thinking Franklin’s a rare petal — his group songs rock, led by guitar riffs that show the influence of both the Police and Tool. And his high voice can be reminiscent of Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze.
The band features Don Lazarus on drums, and Almir Crnovic (aka “A.C.”) on bass. Both musicians Franklin found on the Bay Area Craigslist, but when A.C. turned up for his first meeting, Franklin immediately recognized him.
“He had been at Berklee the same time as me,” Franklin says. “We had this ‘oh, it’s you!’ moment. We had seen each other at rehearsal spaces.”
Berklee was an eye-opener for Franklin. He went in wanting to be a rock star and found himself surrounded by “every shredder in the world. Ninety percent of Berklee is guitar players.” He was also there at the time the “music industry was taking a dump,” and so the business side of things soon grew tiresome. Instead, he got caught up in music therapy, and made that his joint major, along with songwriting.
In high school, he says, he used to volunteer for special ed classes and enjoyed bringing music to children in need. The program he found in Boston “seemed like a good fit, suited my personality well, and seemed like a good day job.” Since returning to Santa Rosa, Calif., he’s employed himself as a music therapist.
“It takes music to a whole new level,” he says. “I like it because it’s selfless. Usually music is all about your art, but in music therapy, it’s all to do with the client. All my expectations go out the window.”
Working as a therapist has paid off in terms of his gigs.
“Ever since, I have tried to build a stronger relationship with the audience,” he says. “I really appreciate playing in cafés, looking the audience in the eyes, getting them involved.”