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Keeping Frank Turner

Former Million Dead frontman Frank Turner, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention for the past six years, isn’t quite as punk as he used to be. Well, not sonically, at least. The talented Turner has – ‘scuse the pun – turned to a new sound since the breakup of Million Dead – namely folk music. But never fear, Turner fans of yore – there’s still plenty of his punk aesthetic left, which adds a nice layer of musical grit to his tracks.

It’s a mix that is serving the English musician quite well, one of the best examples of same being one of Turner’s own favorite songs (and one of PyxisMag’s, too) – the uplifting, surprisingly thankful and just-punk-enough “If Ever I Stray.”

“That one sits prettily happily in the middle of punk, folk, and country,” Turner smiles, “I like that song a lot.”

Immediately catchy and perfectly arranged with a bit of an unexpected buildup to Turner’s more raucous vocals on the chorus, echoes of other vocalists can be heard on the song – a bit of Paul Weller, perhaps, or Joe Strummer – but the style is really all Turner’s own. And as for his actual musical influences, he grew up on heavier music, but it wasn’t until his 20s that he started listening to stuff like early Bob Dylan or The Man in Black.

“My parents didn’t really believe in modern music,” he chuckles, “so the Johnny Cash American Recordings series was a big eye opener for me, seeing how acoustic music could be just as intense as screaming at people over a wall of noise with your shirt off.”

After that, he says, he just wanted to be a folk or country singer, but…

“But my background in punk rock – not least in my guitar and vocal technique – shines through whether I want it to or not,” he says. “I’m not trying to push what I do in any particular direction, I just let it all happen how it wants to.”

Once the songs are formed, generally with Turner on rhythm guitar and the occasional foray into mandolin or banjo, his band, The Sleeping Souls (Ben Lloyd, Tarrant Anderson, Nigel Powell, and Matt Nasir) helps him translate them onto recording and stage.

The latter is where Turner’s been spending a good portion of his time lately, in promotion of his newest album, England Keep My Bones. Shortly after the album’s release, as a matter of fact, Turner played his 1000th solo show at the Strummerville Fest in Shoreditch, London. And while he’s still under-the-radar across much of America, he probably won’t be for much longer, as he continues to add to his rapidly-growing fanbase with every live show.

“I just finished two months in the USA and have another two month tour to announce later in the year,” he says. “I easily tour the USA more than anywhere else in the world. Things are going pretty well for me over there – which is great, I love America. I’ve always had a great reception on the upper East coast, like Boston and NYC and the like, and I adore Texas, it’s my favorite part of the country. We’re going to be playing some pretty big venues (in the USA) in the fall.”

But first, his busy schedule of April and May shows beckons, including returns to a few favorite countries, and a ‘local’ show that he’s especially looking forward to.

“Playing Wembley (April 13) is going to be a big thing for me,” Turner enthuses, “it’s a huge show in London, my surrogate hometown. I suppose I’m almost looking forward to going back to Australia and Canada just as much, they’re great places to travel.”

“But most of all, I like playing new songs,” he continues, “it’s refreshing for me in a way – and I like playing songs that help break down the barrier between performer and audience.”  – Kristi Kates