"The new record I'm working on right now is shaping up to be pretty different" A chat with Frank Turner
If there's anyone with a busier career in the UK than Frank Turner then we're yet to hear of them. From fronting post-hardcore band Million Dead to the UK's most beloved folk-rocker, by way of hosting his own festival (2017's Lost Evenings) and side project Mongol Horde Frank's a busy man. Now, with the release of his first "hits" collection, Songbook, we catch up with the troubadour as he winds down 2017.
Hey Frank, how the devil are you?
Currently I'm exhausted, this weekend I flew to New York and back to open for the Hold Steady in Brooklyn. I am officially too old for that kind of travel and party schedule now, feeling totally wiped out. But otherwise well, thanks for asking.
What have you been up to today?
Not much really, recovering mostly.
What can you tell us about Songbook in two sentences?
It's a look back at the last 12 years, and a reevaluation of some of that material.
How does it feel, making it to a greatest hits album?
I'm not sure I quite think of it as that really. It's a catalogue collection, obviously, but I'm not sure these are technically "hits" anyway. The purpose is to take stock of my work as it has been to date, not least because the new record I'm working on right now is shaping up to be pretty different.
Your fans are going to have at least one favourite track on the album, but if you could get them to listen to a track they might not gravitate to, what would it be? And why?
I'd point them in the general direction of the reworkings disc. That's my favourite part of it. Partly because it's fun for me to rework stuff, but also because some of those versions feel better than the originals to me. The new version of 'Way I Tend To Be' is definitive, to my ears.
What was the thinking behind the new versions?
Well, it's like covering a song by someone else; in order to justify it, you have to find a new way into the song, emotionally and musically. That dictated the choice of songs.
How did you choose what to do with each of the re-records?
Whatever felt good.
What’s your approach to songwriting these days?
Haphazard, elusive, relentless, as ever. I don't really have a regular technique, but I spend most of my waking days thinking about songwriting, about how songs I like are structured and so on. Something about the whole thing is still ineluctible for me, and I'm happy for it to stay that way.
And how has that changed since your first album?
I guess I'd add to that, that having the Sleeping Souls as my permanent band changes some of the nuances of my writing. I know who's going to be playing the songs that I write, and the range of their talents, so I can work towards that.
You’ve got some proper fans, they’re fanatic. How do you account for the feverish support you get?
I'm the wrong person to ask, I just do what I do. I'm very grateful that some people enjoy what I do, eternally so. But it's important to state that I write to my own best judgement and act to my own ethical standards, I'm not trying to play to the choir or anything.
It’s the right weather for mittens now, and you being an Englishman through and through must have a favourite season, which is it?
Actually English summers do it for me, short and unpredictable as they are. London in June can be an absolute delight.
You held your own festival at the Roundhouse earlier this year, how did that come about?
I have klong wanted to run some kind of festival, but I didn't want to repeat other people's ideas, and the outdoor festival market felt pretty saturated to me right now, so I was looking for a different approach. I went to see my pals in Wolf Alice play four nights at the Forum a few years back. They had different supports each night and it had a kind of festival vibe, so I thought I could take that idea and run with it. Hence Lost Evenings.
And what have you got planned for the 2018 version?
Lots of things, which will be announced soon. (Ed: some details are already available)
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
Right now I'm listening to 'Marrow' by Ani DiFranco, which is making me feel pretty good.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
How about the next record? Mixing it at the moment, out Spring 2018, all being well.
Finally, how do you take your coffee?
Milk and two.
Thanks so much for your time Frank.
For details on Frank's tour in early 2018 visit his website, you can keep up to date on all things Frank Turner by following him on Twitter or liking him on Facebook. You can stream Songbook from anywhere that streams music legally, or buy it from Amazon and the like.