Frank Turner – who headlined Upstate Concert Hall on Wednesday Nov. 2 with support from Arkells and Will Varley – radiates passion and authenticity both in his on stage performance and work behind the scenes. Turner, who has six albums under his belt with 2015’s most recent release Positive Songs for Negative People, hovers the genre line between punk and folk. Defying categorization, he has amassed a fan following who packed Upstate Concert Hall to near capacity, the largest Turner has seen for one of his performances at the venue.
Fans of Turner perhaps most identify with his honesty and tendency to not deter from difficult themes, even when those topics are self-deprecating. Turner was open about discussing authenticity, empathy, and his experience writing The Road Beneath My Feet.
Lisa Christopher: You tour pretty incessantly. Can I know what show number this one is?
Frank Turner: Tonight is 1,972.
LC: How do you keep all the different numbers and shows straight in all the shows from The Road Beneath My Feet?
FT: I just have a list. It’s on my website; it’s publicly accessible. That’s the thing, people think I’m sort of, more, sort of like “rain man” about it than I actually am. I write the set number on the set list every day, and I just write it down, and I just check when the number of the previous one was.
LC: Was it difficult transitioning from song writing to memoir writing with The Road Beneath My Feet?
FT: Yeah, definitely, that was a classic case of hubris for me. I sort of got, I was part reluctant about writing a book, full stop, at the beginning simply because I think people who write autobiographies when they’re young, I think that’s lame. But we talked about stuff like, Henry Rollin’s tour memoirs, which have been a big deal to me growing up. I know he’s in town today, actually. Get in the Van was like a bible for me as a kid. The publisher and I sort of came up with an approach that made sense. And then I was like, well I’ve written sort of three-page magazine articles plenty of times so this is kind of going to be like writing –
LC: A bunch of them all in a row?
FT: Yeah, and that’s obviously completely wrong. And there’s quite a serious intellectual effort to support the internal architecture of a 300-page book, you know?
FT: It was quite rough at times where I wasn’t sure if I would pull it off. It was immensely satisfying when I did. It’s always satisfying to finish a record, but I’ve done it a few times now. This was the first time I’ve finished a book. When I got a hard back copy it was great because you can gift it to your friends for Christmas, or indeed your enemies.
LC: Inflict it upon them.
FT: Yeah, you can hit people with it, it’s quite a solid thing. It felt pretty good.
LC: I noticed there’s kind of a big change and transition in the tone from Tape Deck Heart to your current album. Is it hard to include songs from both albums in a complete set?
FT: No, I don’t think so. The set list thing – I try to do something different every time I make a record because I sort of write autobiographically and I tend to write chronologically as well. You know, the mood of a record generally reflects my mood as an individual at the time. Part of the reason I find comparing the records I’ve made impossible – I think most artists do anyway – but it’s like asking me to compare my second record with my sixth record. It’s a slightly meaningless comparison to me because it’s like asking me to compare myself at twenty-five to myself at thirty-two. It’s just like…what?