In a bright dressing room, hidden among a maze of passages in Truro’s Hall for Cornwall, Frank Turner sits back casually in his chair and recalls the good, and the bad, parts of his music career that have led him to this moment in time. Visiting Cornwall for the first time since 2008, it holds a special place in his heart as he remembers holidaying there as a child with his family.
However more recently, the Wessex boy played there as a support act for the Levellers and describes the thrill of returning to headline the same venue. “The West Country generally is great, I love it. And also, it always feels really good to come back to a venue you were a support act at and headline; it’s kind of like ‘tick’, you know?” As of yet, he hasn’t got round to having a pasty on this particular tour.
More seriously, the Winchester-born folk singer who studied at Eton, feels that perhaps there were times when he was on the verge of giving up his music career, but fighting was worth it. “I learnt a lot of lessons about how to tour and how to write songs and how to engage a crowd and that kind of thing, which are important to what I do now,” he says, remembering the first years of his solo career, when on his worst nights he might have only two people a show. “I don’t care how punk you are, that’s a blow to the ego… It makes you feel like ‘Wow, no-one cares.’”
The major contrast of those first three years to his recent success is staggering. Things turned around for the 31-year-old at Reading and Leeds Festival in 2008. Since then, he played to a crowd of 80,000 people at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony, with an average television audience of 27 million. He described the experience as not just successful, but surreal. “The whole thing was just odd, I mean it was amazing to do… you can’t really turn down an opportunity of that kind of exposure and I think you should say yes to everything in life, because we’re all going to die reasonably soon and you might as well have fun in the meantime.” Perhaps this positive outlook on life is how he indefinitely soldered his name onto the punk/folk genre.
Studying at Eton College was the spark that lit the fire in Turner’s heart for punk music. As he attended the renowned school alongside the likes of Prince William on an academic scholarship, he didn’t follow the usual status quo of kids who came from wealthy families and were the epitome of high society. “I felt very socially alienated when I went there because most of the kids come from very similar social and economic backgrounds…You can’t hold that against them, it’s just the way you’re born into life, but it wasn’t quite like that for me and I felt very much on the outside there.” Through punk he found an escape for his feelings of not fitting into the social norm. He explains how, as a 13-year-old, it helped him to overcome that; “I stumbled across Black Flag and bands like that, and it made a ton of sense to me because there’s a lot of rejection and rage and defiance behind punk, and its like ‘Fuck you world I wont take your shit, this is me’ and that really spoke to me at that point in my life.”
Playing to the mere 2,000 people crammed into Truro’s biggest venue is not something that can phase this man. He not only overcame his own fears, but the doubts of others too, and lived to tell the tale by selling the world the same inspiration and freedom that punk music gave to him almost 20 years ago.
You can see where Frank Turner’s latest shows are here: