10 Questions with ... Frank Turner
July 6, 2015
1. This summer, you will be releasing your 6th studio album, Positive Songs for Negative People. How is the music on it different or similar to your previous releases?
Every record is different, it depends on time and place, so it's hard to compare across records, other than to say that I like to think I've got better with practice! I was really keen to try hard to capture the spirit and the feeling of my live show, with my band The Sleeping Souls. Working with Butch Walker as producer was fantastic, as he understood what I was going for -- an album that feels raw and energetic but also full and lush. I think we nailed it, personally."
2. How did you come up with that title?
This time around I had the title before I had any songs. In the aftermath of Tape Deck Heart and the events it was about -- a nasty breakup, which was largely my fault -- I wanted to try and reassess who I am and what I do. A late-night drunken conversation with an old friend resulted in me stuttering out the phrase, and immediately it felt like the right direction to head in, philosophically. So the record is about picking up the pieces, about surviving a fall.
3. You recorded this new rather quickly once you chose Butch Walker to produce it. Why did it all come together so fast?
This was an album that took a long time to make quickly! I wanted to make it like a debut album -- when bands usually just set up and tear through their live set in the studio. The Souls and I rehearsed these songs and road-tested them for a long time. It also took a while to find a producer who I felt fully understood what I was trying to do with the songs and with the overall feel. After some false starts and a fair bit of frustration, I met Butch and instantly felt like he was the man for the job. So we finally cut the record pretty much live in Nashville with him; but there was a lot of preparation before we were ready to do that.
4. You are known for smart and thoughtful lyrics. Generally, what has been your songwriting process?
I don't really have a set process as such, things (music and lyrics) arrive in dribs and drabs, and I do my best to collate them into songs when I can. There's an awful lot of drafting and tinkering, particularly with the lyrics and with the arrangement, which I work out in tandem with the band. The whole thing remains slightly mysterious to me, which is fine, as long as it's still working!
5. You tour a lot! How would you say your fans in the U.S. compare to your fans at home in England?
They drive further for shows, have better manners, but pronounce the word "vitamin" wrong.
6. Earlier this year, you put out your first book, "The Road Beneath My Feet." Tell us about that.
Writing the book was interesting for me, looking back through everything, and also quite a bit harder than I had anticipated. It took a lot of effort, not just writing the individual entries, but also constructing a book-length narrative arc that would sustain a reader over 300 pages or so. I came away from it with a much higher regard for proper writers (which was already high). It was fun though; I think it gave me some insight into my career that I didn't have before. Everything that needed to be included was.
7. Growing up, was music always a big part of your life?
I fell in love with rock 'n' roll aged about 10 -- before that, there had been music around; my parents listened to classical music and my mum taught primary school kids how to play the recorder. But then I heard Iron Maiden and the world turned upside down. Since then I haven't really wanted to do anything else with my life. Of course, it's been a long road since then learning how to actually do what I do, getting better at it, and convincing other people that what I do is worthwhile.
8. What artists have consistently inspired you?
Consistent inspiration, for me, comes from people with long and varied careers -- Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Neil Young. I'm interested in how you sustain yourself in music over a long period of time. And the tunes kick ass, of course.
9. Living or dead, who would you love to work with?
Robbie Robertson fascinates me as an arranger as well as a songwriter. Nick Cave is remarkable in every way as a musician. There are too many to list, in a way.
10. Where do you see yourself in 10 or even 20 years?
That's hard to say. I'd like to think I will still be a professional musician and entertainer, because I enjoy what I do. That said, if you'd told me 10 years ago where I'd be now I would have found it hard to believe, to say the least. The finding out is the fun part.