Frank Turner is about to release his new album “England Keep My Bones” but not before making another trip down to play a handful of gigs. Having been turned onto Frank’s music 18 months ago, I grew quite obsessed with his songs. There’s a honesty in his music that everyone could relate to. Speaking to him on the phone, you get that same honesty. He’s a man that takes his role as a musician and entertainer seriously and knows that he only survives because of the fans and works tirelessly to continue to satisfy them and his own creative needs. It’s this dedication that has seen him grow his fan base over the last five years on the back of great albums such as ‘Sleep Is For The Weak’, ‘Love, Ire & Song’ and ‘Poetry Of The Deed’. He tours relentlessly and has shared the stage with some modern music’s underground heroes. Frank gave me an insight into the new record, how he writes on the road and his future plans.
Music Feeds: I caught you last year as apart of the Revival Tour and it’s a gig that stood out for me and was so much fun. How fun was that tour?
Frank Turner: It was so much fun playing with those guys. It always is and coming to Australia for the first time made it special. I got to learn some new songs and make some new friends and I hope that came through in the shows how much fun we had. Those guys (Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry & Ben Nichols) made it fun and it was such a privilege and honor to share the stage with three of my favourite singers.
MF: The new album comes out in a few months, “England Keep My Bones”. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
FT: We finished the final mixing and mastering on Saturday, so I’m feeling relieved now that it’s done. It’s a record, as with most things I do, it was written on the road as I’m on tour a lot. I wanted to push myself a little more this time. Not take any stylistic left hand turns or anything like that, but work a little bit longer on making the best record I could. I wanted to make it a slightly more folk record than the last record which I think was a little bit more of a rock record. I wanted to bring things back to the more acoustic end of the spectrum. It’s kind of hard to describe further than that without actually playing the damn thing, but I feel I’ve achieved the things I wanted to do out of this one.
MF: You mentioned a bulk of the album was written on the road, How difficult is it being able to write songs while out on the road?
FT: Well for me there’s a two stage process to songwriting. On the one hand, there’s the inspiration part where you get hit with an idea and you frantically scrabble around for a notebook and you write it down. and then there’s the perspiration part, where you hammer it out into actual songs where it will have 2 verses instead of one or whatever it might be.
The inspiration part comes along, for me at the moment I’m lucky, quite a bit regardless of where I am on tour or not. The other side of it, turning little ideas into songs, you have to have a certain degree of self discipline to make time on tour to sit down and actually hammer it out. It’s really easy to waste time on tour like watching DVD’s or getting drunk. [laughs] So, I have to push myself to do that.
MF: With songwriting, do you work on a song until you get a desired result or do you go “this isn’t working” and throw it away?
FT: Both and there’s halfway houses as well. some stuff you have to work on it for a little while and you’re up against the wall and the best experience is to just leave it alone for a little while. There’s some songs on the new record where the beginnings of it started four years ago. I had to keep pushing on it because I knew it would arrive at some point and it finally did a few months ago. In the past I’ve written songs in the shower and have come running out of the shower and written stuff down as fast as I can!
MF: I read that someone worked out you’re about to play your 1000th gig, does it amaze you that you’ve that milestone?
FT: Yeah, it’s almost slightly scary in a way to think about that. I just kind of knuckle down, keep my head down and keep doing the shows I’m doing. The fact that milestone is coming up is an opportunity to stop and take stock for 5 seconds and look back over the past few years. In doing that it is a case of “Holy shit, how did I do that!!”
MF: Do you still remember the first show?
FT: Yeah I remember the first one where it was just me. I don’t remember the first one with the hardcore band I was in (Million Dead) I remember I was very nervous at the time. It’s funny, I’ve got a terrible memory for most things but I do recall most things about that gig.
MF: You’ve described yourself once as a “Blue Collar Musician”, which congers up the image of working hard 40 hours a week for minimum wage. Is that what it’s kind of like as a solo performer?
FT: Well its not quite the same as working in a factory! I guess the point of that comment, and I preface this with it’s not my intention to insult anyone, but there are some musicians who only play a handful of shows a year and make a record every few years and that’s their way of doing things. For me, I don’t feel like I’m being a musician unless I’m doing something relating to it, whether it’s putting shows on or making a record. My heroes are people like BB King and Bob Dylan, people who have been on tour for a lifetime. I like that feeling of being a musician playing everyday.
I feel inspired by looking at old musical musicians, vaudeville people and stuff like that. people who’ve spent a lifetime entertaining the crowd. There’s a nobility to the profession in that kind of way.
MF: Do you feel like you’ve inspired this wave of punk singers performing solo acoustic shows and records?
FT: I don’t know, it’s not really for me to say. There’s certainly been a fair amount of that going on in the last few years. I wouldn’t want to lay claim to anything like that though.
MF: Who have you been listening to lately?
FT: There’s an English guy called Ben Martin who I’ve got a little bit of an obsession with recently. Actually I’ve got to tell you we’ve got two Australian musicians who will be sharing the stage with me on this tour. One’s called Isaac Graham who’s from Sydney and I did a split 7” with him a while back and he’s a phenomenal songwriter. I haven’t actually met him yet but I’ve heard a lot of his material and spoken via email and seems like a nice guy. And there’s a friend of mine from Newcastle Jen Buxton who writes like sad country songs and she’s going to be playing with me at the Sydney and Brisbane shows.
MF: Fantastic, Jen is awesome. What can audiences expect from these shows in April?
FT: I’m going to be playing a fair bit of new stuff on this tour in April. From the point of view of my record label (Epitaph) it’ll be a chance to try these songs out. Having said that, I hate it when you go to a show to see a band you like and they play all new stuff and like one or two old songs. I don’t prescribe to that school of thought. I consider myself an entertainer so I’ll have some old songs, some singalongs, have some covers and have some new songs in there as well.
MF: How have the new songs being going over live?
FT: Yeah it’s been good actually. It’s been encouraging shall we say! [laughs] It’s nice to see people in this modern age of ours with camera phones putting them up on youtube and people checking them out and say nice things about them. It’s good when people don’t walk away saying “Gees the new songs sucked!”. I’ve even seen people who have got lyrics from the new songs tattooed on them already, which seems quite keen to me but it’s a compliment.
MF: I read in an interview that you have a plan to take 2013 off for other projects, is that still on the cards?
FT: Possibly. I’m not sure if it’s going to be quite as specific as that. The thing is I’ve been quite manic hammering away the way I do without really taking a break. By the time I’m done with the touring cycle with this record, it’s going to be four albums of stuff in a row and I think at that point, hopefully, it’ll make sense to take a step back for a little while. I have aspirations to do a heavy, noisy, hardcore band again. It’s not going to be my main thing that I do, but it’ll be fun to do as a side project. As much as the music I make now is my favourite kind of music, it’s not the only music I enjoy. I think it’ll be fun to step to some other avenues.
MF: Final question for you Frank, if you were to make a mix tape what would be the first song you’d put on it?
FT: That’s a tough question! There’s an old hardcore band from Florida called As Things Rust and they had a song called ‘The First Song On The Tape You Make Her’ and I have to say I’ve put that as the first song on tapes that I’ve made for people in the past. [laughs] Oh and I always feel like ‘Thunder Road’ by Bruce Springsteen is a great way to start any collection of music so I might have to choose that.
“England Keep My Bones” comes out June 3rd.
Shows are selling out for the tour-the dates again are:
Wednesday 13th April – The Arthouse, Melbourne [18+]
With Isaac Graham
Tickets SOLD OUT
Thursday 14th April – Enigma Bar, Adelaide [18+]
With Isaac Graham
Friday 15th April – Annandale Hotel, Sydney [18+]
With Jen Buxton
Saturday 16th April – Rosies Live, Brisbane [18+]
With Isaac Graham & Jen Buxton
Sunday 17th April – Amplifier Bar, Perth [18+]
With Isaac Graham & Dan Crook
Tickets through the venue and around the $20!!!