Frank Turner is one of those artists that when I first discovered his sound, I wanted to bottle it up and keep it all to myself. However, with his recent global success, I could not be happier to say I am a fan of such a multi-talented singer and songwriter. With his latest record, Tape Deck Heart, becoming an instant smash, and currently headlining a massive U.S. tour, Frank has a lot to be proud of. I recently had the opportunity to chat with Frank about his writing style, life on the road, and his overall career success.
First and foremost, thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Frank. You’ve had a great year with your fifth album, Tape Deck Heart, and now you are in the midst of a massive headlining U.S. tour. I think it’s safe to say 2013 has been a good year for you professionally!
Of course, thanks for calling. In regards to your question, I’d have to say absolutely. It has been one of the best years of my life professionally. It has been one of the more intense years of my life (laughs). You know, like you said, with the success of the new record and the nonstop touring, it has been a pitch of excellent insanity. And the tour has been great. I just need a little relaxation time when it’s done (laughs).
I’m glad to hear the tour is going great. You’ve got some notable venues on the schedule! How have the setlists been constructed? Have you been catering to each crowd a little differently?
Yeah, the tour has been awesome. You know, in regards to the setlists, it’s a little bit of everything. I have to be honest, I hate when bands refuse to play their hits. I mean, just because I have a new record out doesn’t mean I am only going to tour the new record. Imagine going to see Radiohead or even Nirvana in their day, and them not playing their hits? I can’t imagine that.
I try to make sure on all of my setlists I play at least a few of the songs that I know the fans want to hear and sing along to and, of course, throw some new ones in here and there. So yeah, there is some catering, always trying to please the crowd.
That’s a fantastic point, and I couldn’t agree more. A thing that always impresses me about your tours is your strong support for up-and-coming acts. I can honestly say I always discover someone cool when I come see you. This time around, you’ve got the Smith Street Band along with Koo Koo Kanga Roo on board! Do you always pick the bands yourself or is there more to it?
Thanks for the compliment. Yes, I pick them. This aspect of touring is extremely important to me as an artist. It is something that I pride myself on for a number of reasons. I feel like when someone buys tickets to one of my shows, I am responsible for the show and the entertainment being provided. I want each one of my acts to fit the show and not be misplaced. It is part of this great cycle in a way. It’s my opportunity to get bands in the spotlight. You know, after all, that is one of the biggest parts of how I have been successful.
A few years ago, when I played a show with The Offspring, I remember asking them, “How can I ever repay you?” And they flat-out told me (in a nutshell), “No need to repay us. Take out bands that are up-and-coming. Don’t let labels tell you [who] to take out. Keep the cycle going.” I am a firm believer in that, and love giving bands an opportunity. The bands I have on the road with me right now, as you mentioned, have the youthful energy that you just cannot fake, and the crowd has loved them. That makes for a great show all around.
Wow, that is great advice, and I couldn’t agree with you more. Now, I have been a fan of yours for quite some time. I remember seeing you back at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park a few years back and thinking, “Damn, this guy is going to be huge.” It almost seems to the public that you emerged from the underground out of nowhere, though you’ve been at this for quite some time. Has all of your recent success been a lot to take in?
Well, yes and no. I mean, I feel like I’ve been very fortunate, you know. In the UK, things happen very slowly and gradually, and I have really done this by touring constantly and networking myself, gaining a fanbase.
I built a ground for myself. I put myself in a situation where I didn’t need to go to a label looking for them to make me a career. I already established a career. By the time that had happened, I was already in my late 20s, which is cool. And, you know, yes, things are really kicking off in the U.S. for me, and it’s been amazing. I guess I could say I kind of already had a dry run by doing this in the UK first—and trust me, I am not being blasé about this at all—and my whole career has been remarkable.
That’s awesome, and you’re doing a great job! Now, I want to touch on your fanbase for a second, and maybe this is more of a statement rather than a question, but every time I’ve been to one of your shows, I tend to observe the crowd surrounding me, and as stereotypical as it may sound, you do not have a specific type of fanbase whatsoever. Maybe it’s because of your punk/hardcore background with Million Dead, but I think it’s super cool that so many different types of music listeners are into your sound. Have you noticed that as well?
Yes, it’s something that I am so proud of as an artist. I am glad you brought this up. Sometimes I think people have a created picture of what kind of people go to certain shows and, of course, at times it’s accurate, however, I didn’t ever want to just communicate with one demographic of people. I love seeing people who may not ever rub shoulders in a certain crowd come out to different shows, and I am glad my shows are one of them.
Just for example, one year my band and I played at Download Festival, which is a hardcore festival, and then also played the main stage at the Cambridge Folk Festival. Two completely different genre classifications and I am proud to say I have done that.
That is exactly my point and why it’s so great! Speaking of your music and who listens to it, I feel like your songwriting has really changed throughout the years, and one of the reasons I respect you so much as an artist is you never try to repeat yourself. I feel it’s important for artists to change. Do you find yourself striving to “keep things fresh,” or is this just something that comes naturally as you grow in this business?
Well, I’d have to say a little bit of both. As an artist, I am not interested in repeating myself, ever. I don’t ever want to become creatively redundant. Just like in anything in life, if you want to have a long-term career in this business, you have to change roles. If you look at some bands that have had a long-term career, they have all reinvented themselves at some point. I find it humorous and even complimentary at times when fans tell me, “Your record sounds so different this time around,” because that’s the whole point. I want to change and grow and develop. If I toured the world and came back the same person, I would totally be doing something wrong.
Please continue to make different music, for it’s not only refreshing, but that’s what people should want! Have you started writing for the new record?
I would say in terms of writing and rehearsing, it’s about two-thirds done. I am very excited for the future projects I have in store, however, I am not going to set a date as to when it’s coming out, for I have a million and one things to think about! But yes, it will be coming!
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, Frank.
Frank Turner’s latest record, Tape Deck Heart, is available now through Interscope Records. See him live at Terminal 5 in NYC on Nov. 27 and at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Nov. 29. For more information, visit frank-turner.com.