Though Frank Turner is still a young buck in the folk-punk game—he turns 28 in December—he's accomplished an awful lot in the past few years. The British songwriter forsook a fledgling career fronting punk bands to write detailed, contemplative pub pop and stirring folk-punk anthems with stylistic nods to Ted Leo, Against Me! and—while Turner says he's a only recent convert to his music—Billy Bragg. Turner's songs—tales of drinking, loving and aging against a backdrop of stupid pop culture—would overwhelm listeners with pop sentimentality if they didn't ring so true. On Poetry of the Deed, Turner's third album in as many years, he pairs characteristically detailed lyrics with a newly layered approach at melodic exploration. We caught up with Frank over the phone from England ahead of his US Fall tour supporting the Gaslight Anthem.
WW: Hi Frank, listening your new album Poetry of the Deed, it feels a bit more hopeful, aspirational even, than the last one? Which seemed to be suggesting that everything's going to shit and we're all screwed, a little bit?
I wondered if that was solely due to personal factors, or any wider positive changes you'd noticed?
What were you planning on, musically, when you went in to the studios this time around? Because it sounds like there's more instrumentation on there, and it's got a much richer sound in places?
Are you pretty solid touring mates by now then?
I wondered with your songwriting, is it all from the heart and mainly about your own experiences, or do you find you can create characters at all?
Well it sounds like there's some of that on “Journey of the Magi” for example. But does this mean that when you sing about not living the life your parents wanted, on “Faithful Son”, that's all from the heart? Maybe everyone feels a little bit of parental disapproval but I assumed yours would be kinda stoked?
Really, completely against?
And you're making a living off it pretty well.
You sing about Sunday nights too, and not wanting to go to your day job in the morning—now you don't really have a crappy day job to go to, do you just remember that feeling, and try to still include it, or does the monotony of certain band stuff get you down too?
I wondered with your website, given that you make loads of effort to reply to people, and you say that there's a lot of boring work to your job too, is that less of problem as you get bigger, or there's more and more?
On “Try This At Home” you sing about people who are in the London indie music industry for the wrong reasons and so on, do you think that is a continuing problem, or something of a phase that's on the way out, with the way things are in music at the moment?
How did you develop your songwriting style? Did you just write a lot and it comes out how it comes out, or are there certain writers that you admire and study?
You seem pretty good at speaking about home truths and picking out things people can relate to. Like “Isobel” particularly resonated with me, do you write things and suddenly find people saying, “Oh my God that song's about me!”?
Yeah I wondered with that one, are there some times that - I mean we all have days where sometimes we don't particularly feel like talking - do you get days where you don't really want to sing your heart out in front of a crowd, and some songs are hard to have to do every day?
I saw your website blog posts about piracy and how much response that generated and was wondering, does it give you a bit of hope now that people are hearing about you through the mainstream media too, and actually buying records?
I was going to ask, and you might have just answered it, what makes up the best kind of show for you, is it outside at a big festival or is it small little gigs or anywhere?
Is there a difference how, because of the minutiae that come into your songwriting, is there a difference how the US and the UK receive your music? Because some of it seems particularly “Englishy” if you will, do Americans pick up on that, that you've noticed?
Are you much of a Billy Bragg fan too, are there any particular songs of his you've admired?
How do you feel about being labeled both folk and anti-folk? The latter has always sounded like a weird genre tag to me.
Have you been through Portland before on your American tours?
Crikey. How well do you get on with tour mates Gaslight Anthem?
Finally is there anything you're particularly looking forward to about touring America?