A former member of punk rock band Million Dead, Frank Turner is now turning his attention to folkier country style music, though he can’t seem to get the punk rock out of his system. During a tour stop in Stockholm, we met with the British singer songwriter to talk about his punk rock past, poetry, and the future.
Meeting Frank Turner in the afternoon, in a rock club in Stockholm, you can’t tell that he’s been touring for some months. With his country singer songwriter style, he is known to give his audience a genuine and powerful show. He speaks passionately about his musical influences, and there is no doubt that this British musician is exactly where he is meant to be in life. We also chat about songwriting, having the guts to try something new, and going on tour as an escape of having to sleep on the floor…
How would you describe your style?
– I would prefer not to, and just get a speaker and play somebody the music. It’s much easier than to talk about it. I grew up with punk rock and now I’m trying to play something that’s kind of like country music. Unfortunately, or well not unfortunately, I can’t seem to get the punk rock out of my system. So something in between those two.
Can you name one song that you’re especially proud of?
– The last song on the most recent record we did, called Broken Piano. I’m kind of a traditional songwriter, but that song is a little bit more left field and I would almost say progressive. It took me a really long time to get the guts to even write a song like that. I think it worked really well and I like the lyrics too, so I would say that one.
Do you have a new record in the making now?
– Yeah, we’re working on new material at the moment. Basically I’ll be touring through the end of the summer and then I’m gonna make a new album. It’s exciting, this is going to be my sixth studio album and not that many bands or artists get to make that many records, so it’s nice on that level. At the same time, I’m as excited as I was making the first album. I can’t wait to get in to the studio. I think it’s going to be better than the other albums.
Poetry I’m terrified of.
It scares the shit out of me
Do you ever get tired of touring?
– Not seriously. Everybody has bad days at their jobs. Touring is pretty tiring, but you have a bad day and then you just have a good night’s sleep and then it’s fine. Last year, 2013, was the hardest touring year I’ve had, and since I’ve been touring for a very long time that was kind of interesting. I thought I was working as hard as I could and then they made me work twice as hard. There was definitely a moment at the end of last year were I just wanted to go home, but then I went home for four weeks and now I’m back on the road and it’s all good.
How do you live back home?
– Now I have a place where I live, but I didn’t have my own place for about ten years. So I used to sleep on the floor at people’s houses and maybe that’s why I wanted to be on tour, because I didn’t want to sleep on the floor, he says laughing.
Do you write anything except for music?
– Somebody actually asked me to write a book of tour diaries recently, so I’m working on that now. I’m really into travel writers, like Paul Theroux and Parick Lee Fermor, and I guess I have a sort of small, quiet ambition to write stuff like that. But I don’t think that I’m good enough unfortunately. I read Paul Theroux and cry because I’ll never write that well.
You don’t know that.
– Well, thank you for the vote of confidence but… Poetry I’m terrified of. It scares the shit out of me.
Isn’t it kind of like writing lyrics?
– Yes and no, because the thing about writing lyrics is that you have a pre-ordained structure. The idea of just having a blank piece of paper… You could write Beowulf or just a four-line poem. I find it kind of… scary.
Are your lyrics autobiographical?
– Yes. I have tried writing fictional lyrics. Tom Waits for example, he is essentially an actor, almost before he’s a musician; he plays characters in his songs. I’ve tried to do that, but I can’t do it in a meaningful way.
What are you inspired by musically?
– Townes van Zandt, I have his initials tattooed on my wrist as a reminder that I’m not good enough! He had a certain kind of perfection. His songs are very simple, but particularly lyrically there’s a perfection and simplicity that I find fascinating and can’t quite get my head around. I’ve spent years trying to figure out what the secret is, but I don’t think there is one. I try really hard to keep my ear out for new bands.
– On this tour we have Andrew Jackson, they’re friends of us from Arizona, and I watch their show every day and think ‘Okay I need to do some more work!’.
But that’s a good thing, right?
– Yep! I always pick the bands that we tour with, partly because I think it’s cool that the people who buy tickets get a good evening of music, I want it to be three good bands with really nice music.
Listen to Frank Turner here.
Photography by Victoria Stillwell.