The Charlotte Interview: Frank Turner

by Charlotte Jakobsen:
Cambridge Folk Festival Special
Photo Credit: Ben Morse
In the press you are often called a Folk musician and your music is described as Punk/Folk. I understand that you don´t consider yourself a folk musician. So how would you describe yourself and your music?

I think there's an element of folk to what I do, perhaps more ideologically than anything else - I'm interested in communication, iconoclasm, a sense of place, that kind of thing. There have been some folk-influenced stylings on some of my records as well. But I don't sing trad. I grew up with punk. Beyond that, people can make up their own minds. I'd rather play people my music than discuss it, in the final analysis. 

You have just finished your 6th album which you recorded with your amazing band “ The Sleeping Souls” in Nashville. Can you tell us more about the new record?

The record was recorded pretty much live, with Butch Walker in the producer chair. It's more raw, unpolished, more aggressive sounding than the last record I made. It's a collection of songs about survival, about defiance, and I suppose it's kind of upbeat, in a way. I'm very happy with it, I can't wait for it to be released.

Nashville seem to be a very popular amongst European musicians at the moment. Why did you choose to record your new album there and how did it influence your song writing and the album? We recorded in Nashville because that's where Butch's studio is. The songs and the arrangements were all worked out before we got there, it wasn't a factor in the sound of the album. 

Will your new songs be as personal as on some of your previous records? 
Yes, the songs are personal, that's how I write basically. 

When is it released?
We'll be announcing a release date when we're ready.

You have toured non-stop for the last 10-15 years doing more than 1650 shows playing venues like Wembley, London O2 Arena and at the London Olympics. Looking back at your very successful career, what have been the highlights so far?

I can't really just pick one or two occasions from the thousands, I don't really think about things like that. I think, in a way, the fact that I am continuing to make a living from travelling and playing music itself is a highlight for me. I always wanted to do this, I told people I would, and most everyone laughed at me as a kid. But I did it anyway. I'm proud of that. 

What makes a good song and an amazing gig?

Those are two very different questions. A good gig, for me, has to be a communal experience, where the weight of the world lifts collectively off the shoulders of the performers and the audience together. There has to be a sense of connection. A good song, well, there isn't just one approach to that, and if I could give a simple answer I'd be a rich man.

This spring you published your first book “The Road Beneath My Feet”. It's a tour diary more than an autobiography. Can you tell more about the book and the funniest/wildest story you have from all these years of touring? 

It's my first book. I was at pains not to try and write an autobiography. I'm way too young. So it's tour diaries, recollections from years out on the road. It's been pretty well received, which I'm happy about. The stories are all in the book.

In July you are back at Cambridge Folk Festival for the 3rd time where you will be doing an acoustic solo gig. How do you find playing Folk Festivals compared to other festivals? 

I like playing Folk festivals, I've done a fair few of the Canadian ones as well. It's an opportunity for me to learn, for the most part. I didn't grow up with folk music, I'm a latecomer, and there's still so much I don't know, so many artists and songs and approaches that are new to me.

Does Folk music and the singer-songwriter genre influence and inspire your own song writing?

Yes, very much so, given that it's kind of what I do for a living. I listen to a lot of folk, singer/songwriter stuff.

You have a busy summer coming up playing festivals in the States and all over Europe. What are you plans for the rest of the year?

I have a new album coming out this summer, which engenders its own onslaught of touring and promotion and so on. I'll be very busy.

Frank Turner will play at Cambridge Folk Festival on July 31.