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Frank Turner’s Too Cool for Merch Tables in the UK, Slightly Less So Stateside

Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2012 11:09

Frank Turner

Erik Weiss

Frank Turner

Frank Turner isn’t exactly a household name in the US, but he’s a rising star in his native England. Turner has sold out shows in Wembley Stadium and played during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. He’ll be playing to yet another sold out crowd this Friday at Crescent Ballroom.

Turner is confident and quick when he speaks, answering questions as if he were a polished politician. Quick, concise and thoughtful in his speech, it is clear to see why he’s a great songwriter. Turner is also no stranger to Arizona and has played Phoenix nearly a dozen times before. He recently chatted with College Times about differences between making it in the US and the UK. 

College Times: Hi, Frank. How are you?

Frank Turner: Yeah, good! In Boston. Day two of the tour. All is well. We’re one day in but yesterday was a great day. This is a full band tour in the States and we started off with two sold out nights in Boston and it’s amazing. It took me a lot longer than this to achieve this kind of thing in the UK, so it’s making me like America a lot.

You obviously have a different fan base in the UK that knows your punk past. How is it coming to the US, where people are getting to know you as Frank Turner the folk singer?

It’s kind of refreshing in a way. I want to be careful because I am very proud of things I did in [the] Million Dead metal band that I was in and I stand by it. And I’m not trying to edit my past or anything, but it’s kind of nice to not to be loaded up with expectations from that era over here. Y’know what I mean? And just kind of present things in a clean slate sort of way.

It’s kind of complicated, because in the UK as well the shows are different. The shows are bigger in the UK right now. It’s almost kind of reaching the point where I can’t really comfortably hang out at the merch table and stuff in the UK anymore, which is kind of a mixed blessing. It’s kind of great to come to the States and it feels like it did in the UK a few years ago. It feels very punk and very comfortable and very cool. It also keeps me on my toes. If you keep playing the same kind of shows all day every day, I imagine it would get quite easy to get complacent. It’s nice to be able to mix it up.

Does it almost feel like you’re starting over?

I wouldn’t say starting over because the material is there and the songs are there and the experiences and all the rest of it, but it’s fresh certainly.

You’ve toured America an insane amount over the past years.

I love playing shows. I’ve combined that love with being dysfunctionally homeless for the last eight years or so and I’ve spent a lot of time on the road. I think the first American tour I did was in 2007 probably, somewhere in there, and it’s been great coming back and [having] more people paying attention each time around.

How do you keep your sanity?

The thing about it is this is now my normal. It’s much, much weirder to me to stay in one place these days. I find that I have to do quite a bit of thinking and adjusting and kind of work quite hard to keep my sanity if I stop for a while. It’s been a really, really long time since I’ve had my own place or stopped for longer than a weekend. It’s my day to day now. This is what I do.

You’ve pretty much played in every single venue we have here in Phoenix.

[laughs] Phoenix is a great town. I’ve done Modified [Arts] a bunch of times and the one we’re playing this time around is a new one for me. I’m very much looking forward to coming back to Phoenix. It’s always a fun town.

Sorry we can’t be as cool as Wembley Stadium or the Olympics.

[laughs] Come now! As much fun as those two shows were they were very much out of the ordinary in terms of my magnitude. I’ve spent many, many more years of my life playing in venues like Modified than I have in arenas.

How was it playing on the opening ceremony of the Olympics?

It was surreal. It was a weird gig but it was great to be a part of. I’m not really a kind of nationalist at heart but my cynical blackened soul kind of cracked for London with a touch of something because it’s the Olympics.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls w/Larry and His Flask, Jenny Owen Youngs, Crescent Ballroom, September 21, 8:30 p.m., sold out

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