Frank Turner: “Touring makes me feel free and alive”

For a lot of artists, it can take years and years to build a large fanbase on a worldwide scale. One such artist who has already made a big name for himself in the UK is folk rocker Frank Turner. Having started out in hardcore band Million Dead before going solo, he’s sold out crowds worldwide, with his biggest ever sold out show at Wembley Arena in 2012 firmly securing his cult legend status in the rock world. He also performed at the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony, before releasing his 5th studio record, Tape Deck Heart, to critical acclaim last year. We spoke to Frank about touring, keeping in touch with your fanbase and why he absolutely loves dogs. Read on for more!

Last year you unleashed your 5th studio album Tape Deck Heart to the world, garnering even more commercial success in the UK than before. When recording the album, what did you originally strive to achieve?
The same thing as every time – to make the best album I could at the time and place I was in. And, emphatically, the judge of what constitutes “best” is me. I don’t write to please anyone else, that would be artistically compromised, in my opinion. I’m happy, of course, if people like what I do and if it does well and all that, but that’s not the main driving ethos.

You’re known for your relentless touring and strong work ethic. What is it that keeps driving you to tour so much?
Partly, it’s my living, this is how I pay my bills, it’s what I know how to do well. Partly, because people want me to play shows in different parts of the world, the demand is there. But mainly because it’s a fulfilling mode of existence, for me, it makes me feel free and alive and like I’m achieving something with my time.

At the moment, your last scheduled show is during the summer festival season. What are your plans for after the summer? Will you continue touring or are you planning on taking a break?
This summer we have a bunch more festival appearances coming, and also a tour with Mongol Horde, which I’m very excited about.

It’s very clear that you place a lot of emphasis on being in touch with your fans – how important do you think it is for artists to remain close to their fans?
I think it’s up to the individual in question, I’m not in the business of criticising the way other musicians relate to their respective audience. Personally, it feels important to me to be accessible, partly because I know well that my career is enabled and facilitated by the people who buy records and come to shows, and partly because I don’t want to become some kind of arrogant recluse. Other people have different views on it though, as is their right.

When you’re on tour, are there any interesting items on your tour rider?
There are things that we need. I don’t really go in for the comedy rider item thing. We have a tour dog clause, because I f*cking love dogs, that says if any crew members have dogs I can hang out with in the afternoon to bring them in.

What are your 5 favourite cities to play in, and why?
Off the top of my head, Boston MA, London, Austin TX, Helsinki, Koln. Just good crowds and good friends. But it’s an artificially short list, there’s lots of great places that have been welcoming to me and mine.

During long tours, what do you do to occupy yourself in your free time?
I read as much as I can, I’d like to know more about the world than I do. And I work on new songs. Free time is few and far between though.

If you could collaborate with any artist (dead or alive), who would it be and why?
Robbie Robertson (from The Band) or Nick Cave. Because they’re both untouchable geniuses.

And finally, if you were to quit making music tomorrow morning, which one memory would you cherish the most?
I know this sounds like a cop out answer, but I’d say just the whole process itself. I said I was going to be a traveling professional musician when I was a kid, and everyone laughed at me, and here I am doing what I love and doing it well. I’m proud of that fact.

Frank is currently touring Europe with his backing band, The Sleeping Souls