It’ll be a never ending run of magic this November when iconic UK folk-punk troubadour FRANK TURNER and his band THE SLEEPING SOULS return to New Zealand and Australia for The Never Ending Tour Of Everywhere, alongside special guests MOM JEANS and EMILY BARKER. This marks FRANK TURNER’s biggest Australian headline tour.
As one of the UK’s most successful artists, FRANK TURNER has played almost 2.7K shows across the globe since his first solo gig back in 2004. Now with nine studio albums to his name and having sold over a million albums worldwide, FRANK TURNER’s ongoing legacy has seen him perform at practically every UK venue imaginable, from tiny club shows to stadiums, including London’s O2 Arena and Wembley Arena, and even at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
With his recent albums peaking at #2 and #3 in the charts, FRANK TURNER’s latest full length, 2022’s FTHC, scored a #1 on the UK Official Album Chart, with his ninth album praised by Kerrang! for its self-awareness, honesty and heartfelt inspiration. Stemming from pandemic acoustic livestream sessions, FTHC also accompanied FRANK’s work raising over £200K for struggling grassroot music venues via his livestreams, resulting in him winning the Music Venue Trust’s award for Outstanding Achievement for Grassroots Music Venues.
Great to be talking to you. I guess the name of the tour is a, an interesting one. The Never Ending Tour Over Everywhere, does it feel like it’s going to end?
The story behind that name, it’s been around for a long time in my world. In about 2007 or something, I did a kind of a named tour for my first album, Sleep Is For the Week, and we printed too many tour posters and at the end of the tour we had this giant stash of posters and my manager was like, what the fuck we can do with these? I slightly flippantly, well, next time we’ll come up with a tour name that won’t go out of date, if you see what I mean. The Never Ending Tour of Everywhere was born. I have no intention of stopping touring as long as I’m physically up to it and people wish for me to play shows. Obviously that’s a factor as well, but it’s going quite well at the moment.
So what is it that you love about Australia that’s got you here twice in a year?
Well, the first time I played Australia in 2010, I came over with Chuck Ragan, who’s an old friend of mine, and we’d been touring for a few years together before then. He kept banging on and on about how Australia was the promised land of touring was his expression. Eventually I said, well, prove it, take me there, and he did. He was irritatingly right! I love Australia. It’s just such a fun place to be. Everybody’s delightful. The shows are always great. Also on some level the fact that I’m that far away from home because I play guitar, there’s something sort of fundamentally joyously ridiculous about that to me. It seems wild to me that I get to go to all the places I get to go to simply because I fanny about with the guitar on stage every night. That’s a beautiful thing.
Does that make it easier to cope with the grind of touring?
Yeah, the flying that is the downside of Australian touring and indeed, from where I’m standing the jet lag. I have a new drummer in my brand Callum, who’s never been to Australia before, and this will be his first visit and he is very excited, but he keeps being like, oh, the jet lag will be fine. It’s like, okay, motherfucker, we’ll see about that! It can be quite brutal, but the memories of that side of it tend to fade away pretty quickly and my enduring memories of being in Australia are positive.
Do you have any favourite tour stories from Australia?
There’s many to choose from. I always remember the first time I was on that tour with Chuck Ragan. I always have this when I go to a new territory for the first time, like is anyone here going to know who I am or care about what I do once I’ve started doing it? We were in Brisbane for the first show at The Zoo, and I was very jet lagged. I went out to get some food after soundcheck and I ran into a guy who had some of my lyrics tattooed on his arm, which just blew my mind to smithereens because it wasn’t the first time I’d seen somebody with my lyrics tattooed in their arm. But the fact that I was in a new country to me, that was so far away from home and to run in somebody like that on my very first kind of wander around a city was a truly, humbling experience. It was awesome. It made me very happy.
On this tour is there a leaning to a particular album considering the set list?
Yeah, to a degree, yes. I mean FTHC, my ninth record came out in last February and whilst I was in Australia with The Counting Crows earlier this year, this is the first like headline tour since that record came out. On paper it’s the FTHC era tour for Australia. That said, I just finished making a new record. There might be a new song or two in there, but secondly, I’m an unashamed populist in one thing and one thing only, which is my set list choice. I try and think of a set list, the songs I choose to put in the set list, I try and think of it from the point of view of an audience member. There are bands that I love where I don’t a hundred percent know all of their records if they’ve got a lot of records, which I also do. So, this is a long-winded way of saying that there’s going to be something from every era of my career in the set list.
Have any particular shows stood out on this tour?
To answer that question properly, I’ve been lucky enough over the years to go to some pretty kind off the beaten track places. I played the show in Vietnam once, that was completely wild and we’ve toured in China, in the olden days before current events, I went to Russia and stuff like that, which was amazing even then was slightly intimidating in terms of the regime shall we say. Anywhere that you go where you, as I was saying with that story about Brisbane where you encounter people who know what you do before you’ve even been there once is really quite something. It’s also, it’s worth saying that the United States, I think for everybody, you and me, both who’s not from America, the kind of platonic ideal of touring is being on a tour bus in America. I’ve done that many times in my life now, but I still have this kind of like internal giggle whenever I’m doing that because it just seems like such a fantastical thing to be doing.
You must be feeling chuffed to have finished album number ten?
Very much so. Any record I make right the beginning of writing to a finished set of wavs on your desktop is generally, I mean, in this instance it was about two years and so it’s a lot of my life compressed into forty five minutes. If I didn’t say what I was about to say, I would still be in the studio working on it. I think it’s a really good record. I think it might be one of the better ones that I’ve made, and I’m really excited to put it out and I’m very proud of it.
Have you focused on any particular themes on this album?
I think with the new record, there’s a sense of defiance would be the word I would choose, because essentially post pandemic, post turning forty, which is a thing that happened, god dammit! I have a new drummer in my band, there’s a sense in my head that I’m sort of pleasantly surprised that I’m still doing this. Once I’ve got over the pleasant surprise, I’m also quite fiercely proud that I’m still doing this because. To be ten albums into a career is a rare thing, full stop. When I was a kid, every single person in my life discouraged me from even attempting to do this, my teachers, my friends, my family, my parents, everybody told me not to do this, not to try and not to bother, it wouldn’t work, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a sense I have that it’s cool, it’s fun and it’s surprising that I get to do this. I guess there’s a general sense of and a bit of a fuck you sense to the record, if you see what I mean with a smile on my face at the same time.
Do you feel unburdened in your own mind once you have finished writing songs?
Very much so. This is going to sound melodramatic because it literally is. I think a lot of writers have this, which is that when you finish a thing, you get to breathe out a bit because it’s captured, it’s down and it’s on the record, and it means you can get hit by a bus tomorrow nothing gets lost. Of course, you wait a month or two and then you start writing new things and the whole paranoia starts again. In terms of the fact that I, I write autobiographically, confessionally, however you want to put it, yes there’s very much a sense of catharsis in finishing a record,
Is there anything left musically that you want to explore maybe next time you haven’t had the chance to yet?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, the first thing I think that artists have a duty to change and to explore things. Also, I’m at pains not to repeat myself or at least that’s what I’m trying to do, other people can argue about how successful I am in doing that. There are avenues to pursue. I would say that at this point in my life, I, I’m better at knowing my strengths and my weaknesses. I’m not sure I’m actually going to try and make a drum and bass record as much as I enjoy drum and bass. I’m not sure I have the skill set to actually do that. That said, one of the things that is slightly tickling the back corners of my mind and has been for years is the idea of trying to make a proper country record. I love country music, kind of George Jones, Merle Haggard in that kind of territory of pure seventies FM country. The thing is, I know well in my heart that it’s really quite a difficult type of music to nail properly. So, I’m going to be respectful about attempting that as and when I do and who knows when that will be.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls on the following dates. Tickets from Destroy All Lines…