Frank Turner is aware of the passage of time, of the influence of days that drag and months that gallop can exert on what he would probably never dream of calling his body of work. After all, it has been a number of years now since the hardcore troubadour transformed himself from The Boy Who Surely Could Not, to The Man That Did; it has been years now that his name has appeared in the largest type on ticket stubs that permit entry to such venues as Wembley Arena, or the Royal Albert Hall; just as it has been years since the sound of his voice projecting itself from a digital radio was anything like a surprise, let alone a novelty.
From the ferocious, sweaty box venues of rock band Million Dead to starting from scratch with an acoustic guitar in pubs and bedrooms in 2005, Frank’s popularity grew with his artistry. Selling out gradually bigger venues – Camden’s Barfly, King’s Cross Scala, Shepherd’s Bush Empire and Wembley Arena (both captured for posterity on DVD); four albums in England Keep My Bones ends up selling 100K copies and rising; performing in front of millions worldwide before the official opening ceremony of London 2012 Olympics; a personal milestone of winning Mastermind with his specialist subject of Iron Maiden. Each year seemed to bring a new elevation, a plateau which initially seemed out of reach but just became a foothold for ascending further.
Naturally, such upward mobility provides reasons to be cheerful, and in ways that it would be lazy to term predictable. But at the same time, the mindful songwriter will take heed: for in order to gain a foothold one can subconsciously lose an edge. The last couple of years shows he’s resolutely refused to let that budge him from an onward course. He’s lived with and inside Positive Songs For Negative People, his sixth album, since writing songs for it in 2014 and continues to garner career highlights.
The album reached number two in the UK album charts upon release in August 2015 (beaten only by Dr Dre’s first album in 16 years, the soundtrack to highly-acclaimed NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton); he played his tenth consecutive slot at Reading and Leeds festival in August 2016, an unprecedented achievement; he released his Amazon number 1 bestseller The Road Beneath My Feet in paperback in February 2016; he sold out a huge autumn and winter 2016 UK tour of regional venues; he released his third compilation of b-sides and rarities, The Third Three Years, plus a bonus disc of unreleased tracks called Ten For Ten (10 tracks for 10 years); and in 2016 alone, he and the Sleeping Souls played to over a quarter of a million people.
And so it goes on.
Frank has his biggest US show to date in Boston come 2017 but before that, he hurtles towards his 2000th show. Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls – that most supple, dexterous and punishing of permanent backing bands – put in the hard hours to keep this momentum going, never taking forward motion for granted nor allowing obstacles and inertia to slow them down.
If Frank Turner’s fifth album, Tape Deck Heart, released in 2013, was a catharsis of licked-wounds, not to mention the sting of raw and recent personal failure, then Positive Songs For Negative People is the sound of a man putting his show back on the road.
“In some ways I feel like this record is my definitive statement, a summation of the first five records,” says Frank. Though even with ten years and six albums on the clock, it’s already time to move onward. Positive Songs For Negative People may merely be the end of a chapter of an engrossing and lengthy story involving thousands of participants – fans, friends and loved ones. In 2017, Frank Turner will have played over 2,000 shows, written and begun recording new music, celebrated a decade since the release of his debut album Sleep Is For the Week, and laid more road and groundwork for a journey with no end in sight. There isn’t a soul that will be left behind if you choose to join him.
Frank Turner is the author of six albums and has four rarities collections to his name alongside a number of EPs and singles. A Wessex Boy by inclination, these days his post is delivered to Holloway, North London. He intends to spend the next 18 months, and probably the rest of his life, on tour.