In the Middle with Frank Turner
I’ve been a fan of Frank Turner since I saw him perform live in 2014, and his energy on stage really grabbed my attention. Despite his success, he is arguably one of the most down to earth musicians out there. Turner goes the extra mile to make his fans feel included; for instance, crowdsourcing stories and pictures from fans for his 2015 book The Road Beneath My Feet. Right now, he’s busy performing his latest album Positive Songs for Negative People around the world. He consistently draws huge crowds at gigs and festivals with his witty brand of emotional ‘folk-punk’.
Inthemiddle caught up with Frank Turner to talk perceptions, personal experience and playing his 2000th show…
I managed to see you at Leeds Fest this year. You play there every year, why is Leeds so special to you?
Leeds and Reading both are special events to me. I’ve been playing there for years, mainly because they keep asking (that’s how festivals get booked). It’s always served as a kind of benchmark for my career. It has a lot of precious memories for me.
Which songs from Positive Songs for Negative People did you enjoy writing the most? What aspect of a song do you usually write first?
It’s difficult to say really. The writing process is pretty obscure to me; it just kind of happens. Writing ‘Get Better’ was fun because it came very quickly (not always the case!). ‘Song For Josh’ was an immensely therapeutic thing for me. I don’t have a set process for song writing, things come in the manner of their own choosing.
Do you ever worry about including personal experiences in songs?
Yes, all the time, but I think you should do challenging and scary things in art. Otherwise, it’s boring.
What inspired you to write the book The Road Beneath My Feet?
I got asked to write a book by a publisher. I wasn’t keen on an autobiography; I think people in their 20s or 30s writing something like that is gauche. We talked through books that meant a lot to me growing up; Get In The Van by Henry Rollins in particular had a big impact on me. So I tried to do something in that vein.
Your music videos are all really creative. Do you enjoy making them or do they feel like a burden?
I enjoy them being done, haha. I think it’s a really interesting creative trench to work in. That said, they are almost always a total pain in the arse to make.
You are approaching your 2000th show. How do you keep your intensity up?
Playing music, particularly in front of a crowd, is the only thing I remotely care about. Everything else is grey by comparison. It’s not hard to be intense about that.
What is the best part of touring for you?
Traveling the world and playing music. It’s a huge privilege.
Have your perceptions of touring changed since you started?
Yes; my experience of it has changed a lot, partly as the industry has changed and partly as my career has reached different places. The logistics are pretty different now than in the early days. I still love it though.
After this tour, what do you have planned next?
I’m touring through til May next year. After that, I’ll be working on another record.
You can catch Frank Turner at Leeds Refectory on the 1st of December!
Interview by Lucy Ingram