Frank Turner - The Way He Tends To Be!
It is a rare occasion that you get to speak directly to an accomplished musician who has really made it on the world stage. I once had the good fortune of meeting Frank Turner, who is just that, on a train. A recognisable character by his tattoos and distinguished goatee, he was a true gentleman and gave me some great advice. Despite being a man of few words he gave me this tip, as a young traveller heading off to Canada: “Go to Calgary, it’s a horsey town”. These words that he spoke were the truth; it is a horsey town.
Frank began his career with the metal bands ‘Kneejerk’ and ‘Million Dead’ before going it solo. The following 4 years were a roller coaster of shows, gigging all over the UK and increasing awareness of his name and his message, including appearances at the Cambridge Folk Festival, Glastonbury and the Reading & Leeds Festival.
Turner’s first real commercial success came with the release of his album ‘England Keep My Bones’ featuring such singles as ‘Peggy Sang the Blues’, ‘I Am Disappeared’ and ‘Rivers’. The record came in at number 12 on the UK chart during it’s week of release. Whilst touring the album, Turner headlined Wembley Arena, playing to a packed-out crowd of 12,000 screaming fans.
His music was broadcast to the entire world when he appeared at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on 27th July 2012, with his backing band ‘The Sleeping Souls’.
Recent years have seen the release of ‘Tape Deck Heart’ (2013) and ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’ (2015), further cementing his popularity and leading to appearances at Glastonbury, the main stage at Reading & Leeds Festival, and London’s O2 Arena.
Turner, a well-educated man, includes some strong political protest in his lyrics. He also released a book titled ‘The Road’ in 2014, which went straight to the list of bestsellers.
I recently caught up again with Frank to discuss his artistic life, profession and opinions, and below I’m sharing his sage advice with you. So here we go, over to you Frank!
What is your current setup on stage? (E.g. Guitar, Pedals, Headsets)
I play acoustic guitars for the most part - Gibson Hummingbirds - so my setup is pretty simple. Guitar into a Fishman Aura Spectrum DI. On occasion I play an electric - a Fender Tele - which runs through a Kemper amp modeller.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
I grew up with punk rock and then got into folk, country, Dylan and Springsteen.
How did you start playing gigs?
I started out playing on the DIY hardcore scene in London in the 90s. It was a very hands-on environment, so I was playing and putting on shows pretty much straight away.
How did you transition from playing small venues to eventually breaking out?
Over a long period of time. Just playing more, winning people over until more people wanted to come to the shows.
You played at the Olympics! How was that?
It was very surreal. It was an honour of sorts - being asked by Danny Boyle was a big deal for me. The actual show was very strange. My mum was proud.
Looking back at your career up until now with the wisdom you have amassed, would you have done anything differently during your journey?
There are a fair few bad decisions here and there, but I'm not really one for looking backwards, I think I learned things along the way, and I'm not exactly dissatisfied with where I am now.
What do you think are the three most important tools in the songwriters' arsenal?
An ear, and eye and a voice.
What is your favourite song to perform and why?
I couldn't pick just the one. I like playing songs that get the crowd involved in the show.
Can you offer any advice to as amateur musicians trying to get our feet in the door?
Be pro-active. There are a thousand and one things you can do every day to promote what you do. And be your own harshest critic. Your next song should always be your best.
On behalf of Bbop, we would like to say a huge thank you to Frank Turner for giving us his time and for bringing us great music!
For more details on Frank Turner and any up and coming shows check out his website: www.frank-turner.com
(Photo credits to www.frank-turner.com)