Positive songs and words from the immensely quotable Frank Turner


Frank Turner performs a solo acoustic version of "The Next Storm" live in the studios of 89.3 The Current. (MPR/Nate Ryan)
Frank Turner performs in The Current studio (full session + interview)
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  • Frank Turner performs in The Current studio (full session + interview) 21:48
  • Frank Turner - The Next Storm (Live on 89.3 The Current) 03:22
  • Frank Turner - Glorious You (Live on 89.3 The Current) 03:40
  • Frank Turner - The Way I Tend to Be (Live on 89.3 The Current) 03:45

If the only constant in life is change, that likely sits well with Frank Turner. "I think that it's important to change," he says. "I'm sort of amazed at how conservative some music fans can be sometimes. I don't want a band to put out the same record they put out last time again … I've got that one already. I want to hear what else you've got. And so I'm always trying to change up what I do."

Recently in Minneapolis to play a show at the Varsity Theater in support of his recent album, Positive Songs for Negative People, Turner stopped at The Current's studio for a solo set of songs and a lively, candid chat with host Jade.

Noting the shift in tone from his previous album to the new one, Jade asks about Turner's recent evolution. "Tape Deck Heart, the previous record, was a breakup record and that was very introspective," Turner says. "It's quite a sad album. This new record is very much about recovering from that and about the process of trying to put your life back together again. The overwhelming feelings that I wanted to convey were, first of all, relief at having survived, and then, defiance … a kind of defiant optimism despite the ruins."

Here are additional interview highlights from Jade's interview with the immensely quotable Frank Turner:

On the origin of his album title, Positive Songs for Negative People:
"The title came out of a long, late-night drunken conversation with a very old friend of mine about what I'd do. It kind of dribbled out of my mouth and it sounded like a good thing to call an album. It's not supposed to be a joke title, but it has more of a nod and a wink to it than some people have grasped. … Sad songs can make you feel better. It's sort of a reference to all that."

On his quote in The Independent, in which Turner said, "I'd rather be Bruce Springsteen than Billy Bragg":
"I've spent quite a lot of my career being compared to Billy Bragg. I don't have a problem with that per se: We're both English, we've both got kind of punk backgrounds and we're both kind of solo artists. Bill's been a great friend to me over the years; once my career was underway, he sort of came in and was very mentor-y … he's a lovely guy. The thing is, Bill has chosen to be a political activist with his music, and that's totally legitimate and fair enough, and good luck to him. But the practical result of that is that almost no one talks about his songwriting, and everyone just talks about his politics, which apparently is what he wants, and that's fine. But I don't care remotely enough about politics to spend all day talking about them. It's a passing interest to me, whereas I am deeply — one might almost say boringly — obsessed with rock 'n' roll and with songwriting as an art form.

"The Bruce Springsteen quote kind of runs off the tongue rather quicker, but one of my favorite songwriters is Adam Duritz from Counting Crows, and I'm much more interested in being discussed in that kind of world than Billy Bragg's — and that's with all due respect to Bill."

On the possibility of writing short stories or a novel:
"I'm sort of interested in other creative outlets, and I read a fair bit of poetry and literature and that kind of thing. At the same time, I think … artists shouldn't imagine that artistic skills are automatically transferable. And there's that ancient cliché of the actor becoming a musician or indeed vice versa. Sometimes it works and it's fantastic, but more often than not, it's taken in a blasé kind of way, and it ends up being rubbish because the skills that one needs to be an effective novelist are just as complicated as the skills you need to be an effective songwriter, and assuming that just because you can write songs you can probably write a novel strikes me as hubristic in the extreme. It's something that I would think about, certainly, but I hope I would go into it with due reverence and humility."

On what the future may hold for him, musically:
"Part of me is interested in maybe taking some radical, stylistic left-hand turns right about now. … I'm currently in a bit of a soul vibe, I've just been listening to a lot of Sam Cooke live records. To be honest, I've developed a seriously terminal obsession with Elvis lately. Having never been that interested in Elvis, I read Peter Guralnick's two-volume biography and came out the other side of it completely obsessed with the guy. But then on the other hand, I have actually — no foolin' — been taking bluegrass guitar lessons lately, because I want to get better as a guitar player, and I'm very interested in bluegrass as a style. But then I have a friend who makes weirdo drum & bass electro records, and I might do a song with him. … I suspect I'll pick one of these fields to concentrate on because I don't want to be a dilettante. Maybe all of this is just the panicked burblings of a tired mind, and once I've recovered from the making of the previous record, I'll just carry on doing what I do. But it sort of feels like an interesting moment."

On the inspiration for "Song for Josh" and its live version on the album:
"Josh was a friend of mine from Washington, D.C., he used to work at 9:30 Club, Josh Burdette, and he took his life two years ago. I wrote a song about it because … it has long since become an instinctive, almost Pavlovian response for me, if things happen in my life, they generally emerge in songwriting in some way or another.

"The song came together, and then it was a difficult song to thing about how and where to record it. We had a show at 9:30 — which was Josh's club — coming up, and it seemed that it would be interesting and appropriate to record a version of it there, and it was a song that no one knew at the time. It turned out to be a very moving evening, and we got a great version of it."

Songs Performed

"The Next Storm"
"Glorious You"
"The Way I Tend to Be"
The first two songs are on Turner's 2015 album, Positive Songs for Negative People; "The Way I Tend to Be" appears on Turner's 2013 album, Tape Deck Heart. Both are available on Interscope Records.

Hosted by Jade
Produced by Derrick Stevens
Engineered by Michael DeMark
Web feature by Luke Taylor

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7 Photos

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    Frank Turner performs in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Frank Turner - 3
    Frank Turner performs in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Frank Turner performs in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Frank Turner performs in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Frank Turner portrait. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Frank Turner portrait. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
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    Frank Turner portrait. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

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