Frank Turner: England’s folk rock poet comes stateside
There is a long tradition of punk rockers trading in their power chords and electric guitars for the more idyllic pastures of folk music. Born in the the Persian Gulf country of Bahrain but raised in Winchester, England, Frank Turner made the leap from punk-rocker to folk-rocker a few years ago after the breakup of his progressive hardcore band Million Dead had reached it’s zenith. He hasn’t looked back since.
Armed only with his voice, an acoustic guitar, and a batch of socially conscious and sometimes politically flavored folk rock songs, Frank Turner has garnered a growing legion of fans through his tireless worldwide touring schedule. This fall marks the folk-punk balladeer’s first appearance stateside with tourmates the Gaslight Anthem whom he has been touring with the last few months around the globe. Ever wonder types of contraband young musicians smuggle into their rooms growing up? Get a chance to discover the answer to that question along with other keen insights from Frank Turner himself:
Dutch: Do you embrace the term “singer-songwriter”? And do you ever find the term limiting in any way?
Frank Turner: Historically, it’s not a bad term (Dylan, Young etc.), and it pretty neatly defines what I do. My only reservation with it is that, more recently, it’s a term associated more with people like James Morrisson or James Blunt, and, with all due respect to those guys, I don’t want to be associated with that. More often than not I’ll describe myself as a folk singer.
Dutch: Were you in any bands before you decided to try the solo thing? What kind of bands were you in?
FT: Yes, a number, mostly punk and hardcore bands. I was in a band called Million Dead. We played complicated hardcore and toured for about 4 years, put out 2 albums and so on. It was fun.
Dutch: Are there other people in your family that are / were musicians?
FT: My family is musical but in quite an old-school way – my dad plays psalms on the piano and my mum is a singer in a cathedral choir here in Winchester. They were a little dubious about me getting so involved in popular / modern music at first, but they’ve come to be supportive as time has gone by. I guess I associate a degree of rebelliousness with being a musician because of their early disdain for what I was doing. While my friends were smuggling porno mags into their rooms, I was smuggling in copies of Kerrang. My first exposure was falling in love with Iron Maiden when I was about 11 years old.
Dutch: Do you ever get compared to Billy Bragg? If so, do you mind the comparison?
FT: Yeah sure, it happens, and on the whole I don’t mind so much – I am a fan, and given that we’re both English ex-punks playing folk-influenced music, it’s not a stupid comparison. I just don’t want to get totally subsumed beneath the comparison as time goes by. I’m musically much more interested in Springsteen and Dylan.
Get a glimpse of Frank Turner’s unique brand of folk rock and check out the music video for his song Casanova Lament off his Campfire Punk Rock EP: