Punk musician Frank Turner has been on a musical journey for many years, and after releasing his ninth album last year, he’s not slowing down in any way. With a loyal fan base and managing to garner new fans with each show, he had the opportunity to open the stage for Bruce Springsteen’s headline show today. I stopped by to chat with him about mental health, his tattoos and his new album FTHC.
Hey Frank, Thanks for taking the time to chat today. how are you?
I’m good, I’ll be honest with you all a bit of an emotional rollercoaster today but good. Hey you?
i am fine thank you. Did you ever imagine being on stage in Hyde Park supporting Bruce Springsteen as a young girl from Hampshire?
No, not like a boy from nowhere. I was talking to someone about this. I grew up listening to metal first, then punk and then hardcore punk. When I was 21 I knew all about New York hardcore and I had never listened to a Bob Dylan song, you know what I mean? I had this weird upside down journey through music. I knew who Bruce Springsteen was but at certain times I was rude to him because I had never heard his music and he had blue jeans and an American flag and I was like ‘f**k that guy’. snotty teenage way. I’m old enough now to realize that he’s doing something much more complicated with Americana images and covers than I realized as a pissed off teenager. I was introduced to the music in my early 20s, acoustic records like ‘Nebraska’, ‘Devils and Dust’ and then I got into the rest… and now ‘Born to Run’ is written in my stomach. . *Frank lifts his shirt and shows me the words in tattoo form*.
When she teased the audience with a reference to Springsteen’s tattoo, I was curious as to what it was.
For high paying customers only! I became a big fan but was a relatively late bloomer. However, I never thought I would be performing on the same stage as Bruce Springsteen. Admittedly, there was an interview with him in Vanity Fair about five years ago where I heard my music and went *Frank’s nervous and shocked reaction and tattooed the lyrics on my neck. I really lost it when this game was over.
You played a great set today. I think your stage presence sets you apart as an artist on stage, would you say this element came to you from the beginning of your career or was it a long process?
f *** k no. It’s funny, I think there are some people who are completely mature as artists from the start. If you look at the early (Bob) Dylan records or Mindthreat like ‘We are here‘! I’m always comforted by Henry Rollins, I’m a fan of his writing and his work in general, but he often talks about how hard he had to work to make himself and I feel sorry for him because I can’t. Sing, I can’t play, all I’ve got in this life is slow and steady wins the race *laughs*. Like I said, this is a solo show of 2788 and that doesn’t include the bands I was in when I was younger. That’s a lot of gigs. It was too much if I didn’t have some talent for it. It’s ironic that stage presence and performance are rarely addressed as a touring musician. Everyone talks about musicianship and songwriting. For me, it’s three different careers, musicianship, songwriting and performing. Three special skill groups. In the world of punk, it’s a dirty little secret that performance is a thing. You don’t care. At a certain point or a certain age to be a touring musician, one band is really good, the other not so much, and what are you doing? I love them both on record but this is better live. You start paying attention to people like Bruce Springsteen, Freddie Mercury, Nina Simone. It’s about predictability and ownership. When we did our first arena headline show eleven years ago, I thought I would have to change something, but in the few months leading up to it, I was very lucky to do a tour. Opened for The Dropkick Murphy’s in America and realized I wouldn’t. What I need to do is project it a little differently. You have to speak slowly because the people behind you have a bit of an echo, but you got there by doing something, so do it boldly.
Outside of music, you speak with great grace about mental health, which helps so many young men.
i hope so. Not sure how good I am at that, *laughs* I’ll try. It’s interesting that you mention that because I was once asked to be an ambassador for a calm, mental health campaign. I said yes and I learned a lot from talking the talk. I had all the lines, the most difficult thing is to get to the first stage, there is no shame and then my girlfriend, now my wife, suggested that I did not go on the walk. I wasn’t in therapy, I was cleaning it all up. I started therapy at that point and now I’m in a place where I’m really free to talk. I was ashamed of it. I think most people, like us, stand in front of 50,000 people and say, “I don’t think so.This songs about anxiety is a problem for me.‘ It’s empowering in a way, it’s great. If that continues to break the stigma, I’m very happy about it.
Since the last album ‘FTHC’ you’ve explored a lot, do you feel like you’re a more well-rounded person?
*Frank laughed during the question. I laugh because I don’t know anyone who describes me as a well-rounded person! I think there will be a bit of hesitation from many of my nearest and dearest *laughs*. Of course more. After I made some things, it allowed me to discuss it in my art.
I say that because during the previous visits, they were not very clear, drugs were prevalent and it was a more complicated lifestyle.
It definitely was. Just going back to (Henry) Rollins, I love him, but if you watch Rollins in the middle of the period, the only thing he ever did was tour, tour, tour and that’s what I wanted to be, but you realize at some point. It’s really a one-dimensional lifestyle. In fact, to be a decent artist and writer, you need a bit more well-rounded experience. It’s also a cliché because it’s true but it’s like you’re running away from something and I gave it a good shot but it still caught me.
Would you say you have a song on the ‘FTHC’ album that you’re proud of? I know ‘A Wave Across A Bay’, for example, is a suicide song dedicated to a friend.
Yes, it’s funny. This is probably the obvious choice. Every time you finish a song, there’s a little something that says you either rest or you don’t. That’s pretty simple, but my favorite songs aren’t always my most successful songs. They are the ones I go to. I had a goal when I started writing that song and I achieved that‘ . I think ‘A Wave Across A Bay’ is one of the best songs I’ve ever written. In three and a half minutes I set out to do something and I accomplished it. We really talked a lot about what we’re going to play today. Nine albums is a lot to choose from but that song was missing from the set for me today but there were other things to play. When we do a headline show, we try to make sure there are covers of all the albums, but I’m only doing this show once in my life, so let’s make sure we kill the audience *laughs*. I don’t need to be precious about which songs came from which album but I think it went well.
After doing almost 3000 shows, is there still a bucket list place to play?
Well, yes but there are bucket list countries for me. I have never done South America or Japan and in both cases I have irons in the fire. Saying that, I want to go where I haven’t been, I want to go again wherever I’ve been. I’ve been all over the world because I play guitar and that’s a ridiculous privilege. I really appreciate it and look forward to continuing it.
Frank Turner’s album ‘FTHC’ is available now. Buy a copy of the album at Amazon.co.uk.
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