By James Wood
Guitarist Frank Turner’s preferred method of swaying people to his cause has always been by getting in front of them and playing.
On his May 24 appearance on Guitar Center Sessions, he had the opportunity to showcase his brand of honest and passionate folk/punk for the world. Filmed during his hectic SXSW schedule, Turner's Sessions episode includes performances by Turner and his band, plus an in-depth interview with the artist himself.
Since leaving Million Dead and going solo in 2005, Turner has released four acclaimed albums and played more than 1,400 shows. His recently released his fifth album, Tape Deck Heart, a work of emotional revelation and change. It’s the kind of album Turner says he’s always wanted to make.
I spoke with Turner about Guitar Center Sessions, his new album and his most memorable shows.
GUITAR AFICIONADO: What can you tell me about your Guitar Center Sessions appearance?
Throughout my career, the best way for me to expose my music to people is by getting out there and playing. That’s what we’re doing with this Sessions performance; getting in front of people so that anyone around the world can watch it. There’s also an in-depth interview session we did, which was great fun. It was filmed in the middle of SXSW and the schedule I was on was hectic. There was one day where we played a show in Austin in the afternoon and then flew to Denver for a breakfast show, and then flew right back to Austin for two more gigs.
Who are some of your musical influences?
My initial love was punk rock bands like Nirvana, Black Flag, Descendents and Dead Kennedys. Later in life, I got hit with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. Music I was never really exposed to as a kid by my parents. When I discovered them in my early 20s, I just went, “Holy crap! What have I been missing?” [laughs].
You once said Phillip Larkin was a big influence in your writing. What did you find so inspiring about his work?
There’s something that’s sort of “down home” about Larkin’s approach that really appeals to me. A corner of my musical tastes has always been geared toward early 20th century, modernist poetry. People like Larkin, T.S. Eliot and John Betjeman.
Let’s talk about the origin and meaning behind a song from Tape Deck Heart, “The Way I Tend to Be.”
It’s a song about regret and nostalgia. I had a really crazy bit of scheduling over the last few years. I was in Australia and my time zones were out of whack and I was completely exhausted. I remember sitting in a bar at three in the morning trying to figure out what I thought I was doing with my life, and that’s where the song started. It was a song that went through quite a bit of change, but at the end of the day it’s a simple melody with a nice sentiment. I was trying to find a way of doing it that wasn’t too soft because I remain at heart a kid that was raised on punk rock records [laughs]. The solution we came to was to get my drummer Nigel [Powell] to play like John Bonham throughout the whole thing. It really gave the song a unique dynamic.
Tell me a little about your upcoming US tour.
We have an American run coming up with some cool shows in new places that I’ve never been to before. I have a complete list of all of the States I’ve ever played in. I have 39 in the pocket so far, and I’m going for the full 50.
Is there a particular show you’ve done in the States that stands out?
There was a show I did in Philadelphia a few years ago. I was on tour with the Offspring on the east coast, but they didn’t have a Philly show scheduled. I wasn’t supposed to be doing a show, but phoned a few friends of mine who ran a punk squat house in South Philly, and they told me to just come over with my guitar. They said the show would be under the radar and low-key, but it ended up being in this house where 200 people showed up. It was the hottest, sweatiest and most jammed out atmosphere for a show that I’ve ever had in my life. There’s even footage of it available on YouTube.
Sometimes you have one of those gigs where everything is just completely electric, and that was one of them.
Here's the series' entire 2013 schedule:
May 17, Smashing Pumpkins
May 24, Frank Turner
May 31, Goo Goo Dolls
June 7, OneRepublic
June 14, Fitz & The Tantrums
June 21, Alkaline Trio
June 28, Talib Kweli
July 12, Asking Alexandria
July 19, All Time Low
July 26, Thenewno2
For more info about the series, head here.
For more about Frank Turner, check out his Facebook page.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.