I first encountered Frank Turner in 2010 when I was 12. The old Etonian folk-rocker stepped onto the stage of Wembley Stadium to support Green Day, looking more at home at a village fete, and left the stage with a preteen me sat up in the cheap seats in awe. He was the first act I ever saw and that night was his 868th show. I caught up with him shortly before he graced the stage of the LCR for show 1996.
Hey Frank! How’s the tour been going?
Good. It’s nice to be in the UK. We spend most of our time in America and Europe so it’s like a homecoming tour!
You’ve done a lot since I saw you at Wembley Stadium, has there ever been a moment where you thought you’d reached the peak and wanted to stop building?
It’s not so mathematically linear. It’s nice when things get bigger, but my ambitions are more to do with less quantifiable things, like songwriting and challenging myself as a writer. The majority of what I do is tour so I also try to keep things interesting for the audience and change things up there.
You’ve not seen 2016 out quietly. A massive tour, a film about you coming out, show 2000. Is there a plan to have a rest before getting back to it in 2017?
After we toured Tape Deck Heart we got back off of a 14 month stretch and we just walked away. Everyone in the band and crew had a moment where we were like “Let’s not drive ourselves insane doing this.” I don’t publicise my time off. I’ve had two holidays this year and we’ve got better at taking time off. We’re back on tour again in late January then will probably take a few weeks off in the studio. Overall, I hesitate to class what I do as work, I travel and I play music for a living.
What drove making a film finally?
It’s funny because Ben Morse made it, it’s someone else’s piece of art. I am the subject, not the artist. Ben pitched it on tour. It was pitched as a year in the life of the guy who never stops working, and a month in everything ground to a halt because I had a huge argument with my label about the album. That also coincided with a dark time in my personal life. Spoiler alert: there’s a happier ending. It makes for a more interesting film.
What are your goals for 2017?
The main thing is making a new record. I’m at a bit of a crossroads. I have lots of songs, but which ones go where l I don’t know.
Are you going to touch on the political goings on of 2016 in it?
I initially wrote a concept album about women in history but it doesn’t feel like the right time to make that a statement. I spent the last few years distancing myself from politics in music, partly because I got burned, partly because I got bored. I felt until recently it was a middle class parlour game. This year I feel politics has mattered more than it has for a while. There’s part of me still afraid of venturing back into that field. Last time people loved me when I said anything they agreed with and hated me when I said something they disagreed with. At the same time, I don’t want to censor myself. The short answer to that is who knows.
Have you been broadening influences or drawing back to what you used to listen to, like old style folk?
There was a moment in time I threatened to make a bluesgrass album as I’ve been practicing my bluesgrass guitar. However, we’ve been touring with the Arkells a lot and I adore the Arkells so might draw on that. I am keen to go out of my comfort zone. I’ve been thinking a lot about Bob Dylan’s “If you’re not busy being born you are busy dying.” Who knows, maybe I’ll make a pop album. Maybe I’m casting idle threats to the wind. I think it’s a bad thing if you release an album and everyone in your existing fanbase likes it. People go, “Why don’t you write songs like on Love, Ire and Song”. I think about it in a setlist way. If I want a song like Love, Ire & Song, I’ll play Love, Ire & Song.
Image credit: Lotte Schrander