It’s safe to say that Frank Turner knows his craft.
In the decade since departing the world of hardcore and beginning a solo venture that is all his own, the British singer-songwriter has proven this time and time again with the release of an astounding six studio albums, five EPs, three DVDs, four compilation records of rarities, and a single split with Jon Snodgrass of Drag The River—an extensive and impressive discography that not many artists, despite the span of their career, can compete with. And though some may argue ‘quality over quantity,’ it’s clear that despite the frequency of his releases, the quality of his art does not suffer. Instead, Turner manages to successfully tap into a wealth of unadulterated, honest emotion that even the most seasoned writer might view as unnerving, and this honesty is what has drawn thousands of fans to his music worldwide.
But is opening yourself up so thoroughly to the public difficult?
“It can be,” said Turner in a recent phone interview from across the Atlantic. “I mean, on one hand, you’re literally spilling your guts out, and on the other hand it’s part of writing a song that is emotional. I guess I try not to think about it while writing and recording.”
Originally hailing from Hampshire, England, Turner initially turned his focus to the heavier side of music. He was a member of the alternative band Kneejerk while still in school, which ultimately led him to become vocalist for post-hardcore act, Million Dead, in the early 2000s. After releasing several albums and gaining a steady following amongst the UK punk scene, the band parted ways, which prompted him to change direction from frontman to solo artist. Although he is regularly joined both on stage and in the studio with backup band The Sleeping Souls, Turner makes it clear that this is very much a solitary endeavor.
Despite the change in genres, Turner still seems to carry values and influences found in his roots within his music, wearing its influence like a badge of honor. He often refers to his act as FTHC—Frank Turner Hardcore—an ode to the original regional hardcore scenes in the United States of the ’80s. There is also a rawness found within his work that hasn’t changed, and though he has redefined his sound to a softer style, at its core his music hasn’t lost its edge.
Last month marked the release of his latest record, Positive Songs For Negative People, the follow-up to 2013’s Tape Deck Heart. According to Turner, creating this new album was “cathartic.”
“Tape Deck Heart was an album that was based on a very difficult time in my life,” he said. “But when I sat down to write this record, the main feeling was relief, you know? Release from all of that. On this record, it was about having got out from underneath of something—standing up and dusting yourself down. Something like that.”
Despite the record having a different vibe than some of his previous works, he claims the writing process behind the LP hasn’t really changed much.
“It just kind of remained [the same] in the sense that I don’t really understand it, in a way,” he said with a laugh. “But one thing that was different with this one is that I had an idea that I wanted to work in a way that we had the feel and that kind of zest and excitingness of a debut album. So the band and I rehearsed together for a really long time. We practiced during sound check at shows and while we were on the road. We were prepared. So we actually knocked out the whole record in nine days.”
In honor of the upbeat aura found on the disc, Turner and his team launched a Twitter campaign called Random Acts of Kindness under the hashtag #FTRAOK, which encourages fans from around the globe to share stories of good deeds which they have witnessed or that they themselves have done.
“It’s so great to see people doing good things to each other,” he said. “There have been a handful that have stood out to me so far, but I’m hesitant to reveal anything just yet as we’re planning a grand finale to the campaign.”
This fall marks Turner’s first tour in the United States in two years. And though comparatively he isn’t as well-known here as opposed to throughout the United Kingdom, his dedicated legion of Stateside fans have been eagerly waiting for his return. For instance, he’s booked for three consecutive days at Manhattan’s Irving Plaza, with two of the shows selling out almost immediately after tickets were made available to the public in May, and several stops across the country mirror these statistics. Although this tour won’t be taking him through any venues nearly as big as London’s Wembley Stadium (where he performed at the 2012 Summer Olympics), this does mark the biggest and most expansive North American stint he has done so far in his career.
“Growing up in England, America has a certain mystique to it. So going to Chicago, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C…. It’s all very exciting,” he says.
The tour will also consist of some more intimate performances at a series of in-store events, including a Sept. 29 stop at Williamsburg’s Rough Trade. With a wristband from the purchase of copy of Positive Songs For Negative People, a limited number of fans will be treated to a stripped-down acoustic performance which will be followed by a meet and greet afterwards.
With such a wide collection of music under his belt, and such an avid fan base, it gets hard to try to cover all of his bases.
“Creating a setlist is an art form within itself,” he explains, noting that he tries not to leave out any albums when making his. “But it can be hard to please everybody.”
Turner will wrap up this expedition at the end of October at New Orleans’ Voodoo Festival. Almost immediately afterwards, he will head back to the UK and remain on the road for another month and pick up touring again through Europe in January after a well-deserved break.
Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls will be performing in New York City at Irving Plaza with Skinny Lister and Beans On Toast Sept. 28, 29, and 30, as well as at The Fillmore in Philadelphia on Oct. 2. For more information, go to frank-turner.com.