Tue, 14/12/2010 - 12:24
Originally submitted by Ben Skipper.
Minutes earlier Turner had taught us the words, and they stuck like good lyrics always do. He had the audience in the palm of his hands.
New fans, old fans, people who were there by accident - the music-lovers of Reading Festival gravitated towards him and none left disappointed.
Frank Turner is a singer-songwriter with three albums under his belt and a fiercely loyal, ever-expanding fan-base.
“I grew up with punk-rock and hardcore, and then got interested in folk and country music. People like Bob Dylan and Neil Young,” he says.
His folky punk-rock is loved just as much by metal-heads as it is by indie kids. It’s a struggle to find anyone who doesn’t like him.
Turner started out as the lead singer of hardcore punk band Million Dead before deciding to go solo following the band’s split in 2005. Hardly the life you’d expect a former Eton schoolboy to lead.
But with such a passion for music and songwriting, how could he do anything else?
“My songwriting is driven solely and only by my desire to one day come within 100 miles of writing something as good as, say, Bruce Springsteen or any of my other songwriting heroes.”
Smart, talented and vocal, Turner is the unsung hero of a generation.
His rousing songs have struck a chord with young adults who appreciate his passionate, honest lyrics.
Despite this young audience Turner thinks it’s imperative that he attracts fans of all ages.
“It’s important to me that the demographic at my shows is wide - students and grandparents and kids all side by side, people who wouldn’t otherwise meet in a live music context,” he says. “Folk music, in the most literal sense of the term.”
Turner has ties to the Kingston area - he was the headline act at the first New Slang - and is fond of the town.
“Kingston has always been important to my little corner of rock & roll, from the Million Dead days and before, right through to now. There’s always a great vibe and the people there are dear to my heart.”
As with many song-writers his lyrics are born out of his own experiences, the honesty of these lyrics bringing him closer to his fans than most other musicians.
I asked him what he considers to be his best work.
“There are certainly lines that I think are better, and there are lines that I think cut deeper for me personally. Often, the people on the listening end have pretty different opinions about what constitutes my highlights and lowlights, which is weird."
“For example, on my first album there’s a song called My Kingdom for a Horse which isn’t exactly a crowd favourite, but I think it’s one of my best.”
Despite being a critical success and festival-favourite, Turner hasn’t enjoyed much mainstream success. I had to ask what he thinks about the manufactured pop of the X-Factor phenomena.
“I really think that it’s a waste of energy and anger getting riled up about it. Yes it’s bollocks, but no one with more than a couple of brain cells to rub together seriously thinks otherwise."
“Get angry about national debt, get angry about civil liberties, but X Factor? Whatever.”
His latest EP, Rock & Roll, is out now and it precedes a fourth album coming out early next year. I asked him about the album and what we should expect from it:
“In the past I’ve had specific sounds and songs by other artists in my mind for the direction of each album I’ve done,” he told me.
“This time round, I just feel like I’m making songs for me, that sound like me. This either means that I’ve come close to settling into my own sound, or it means I’ve disappeared up my own arse. Or both possibly! Only time will tell.”
Since he first started his solo journey Frank Turner has been proud to say he’s always on tour.
A song on his third album, The Road, is about the freedom and restraints that travelling the world brings with it.
One line in particular sums up this feeling. “And I’ve driven across deserts driven by the irony, that only being shackled to the road could ever I be free.”
When asked what the greatest aspect of his musical career was, the answer was clear. “Freedom. I am the master of my own fate to the largest degree possible, and that is something very important to me.”
Five years into his career, Frank Turner still has plenty to say and his well of talent isn’t close to drying up. His latest single, I Still Believe is about the power of music and how, in an uncertain world of cuts, protests and anger, there will always be music.
He says: “The song was inspired by a lot of things, but a large part of it was doing some shows in China earlier this year, where the whole underground music scene is very nascent and still largely illegal."
“The sheer, unbridled enthusiasm of the people there for a popular art form that we take for granted over here made me think again about the music I enjoy and the music I make."
“It made me feel like it’s worth reminding myself that we’re lucky as hell that Elvis, The Clash and whoever else gave us this music, because as simple as it may be, it still has a redemptive power that I enjoy every day and can overlook. Music brings people together in fantastic and interesting ways, and if there was a better way of explaining that, we wouldn’t need music in the first place. It’s transcendent.”
Or as he sings on that record: “Now who’d have thought that after all, something as simple as rock ‘n’ roll would save us all.”