At the time of writing, he is on his 2,694th concert until he returns to his home county Hampshire on the final night of his current tour with The Sleeping Souls, the 2703 show will take place.
Now he has also announced further shows next year – including Portsmouth Guildhall on February 7.
And while he’s played numerous UK festivals in the meantime, he hasn’t toured the UK since what he says was a “roof collapse” in March 2020.
“Being a touring musician was a miserable few years,” Frank tells The Guide. “It’s very important to say together that the live industry around the world is not exactly good right now,” he affects forced cheerfulness.
The Mary Rose Museum is getting an exciting new 4D theater that tells the story of H…
“A lot of damage has been done in the last couple of years and the industry is still limping along and will be for some time.” However, I try to approach things with gratitude. When I’m on stage in front of an audience of people who are happy that I’m there, I’ll be grateful for that.
“It’s an old cliche: you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, but now I know it’s being taken away for the first time in my adult life, so I’m very, very grateful to have it back.”
When we speak, Frank has recently returned from a grueling US tour – playing all 50 states in 50 days.
“It was mental – and extremely hard work – and I spent a lot of the tour wondering who I could blame for the nightmare I’d been through – then realized it was entirely my fault because the idea for the tour was mine! We’re only the third people to do it, and now I understand why we’re only the third people to do it…
“But it’s a cool achievement. Before the tour, I had 47 states marked, and now I have them all. And for the record, my booking agent actually said we could only do three shows, and I was like, “No, no, no!” But about halfway through I was like, “Man, three shows sounds like a great idea…”
“We had a great time though, it was nice to be back in America properly again. I’ve been touring America a lot, I’m enjoying it there, but it’s a pretty tough time in America, which makes me anxious and sad, but for what it’s worth, we’ve done some great gigs and I’ve got to see some old friends and make some new ones.’
The tour ended in Hawaii, but after a grueling run, they did not rest.
“You either have to start or end there because it’s so far from everything. A few people said maybe you have a holiday? But I just wanted to go home. I haven’t seen my wife in two months and pretty much everyone in my group and team has kids and they miss their families and homes and everything else. I went home and got some rest instead.’
Not only is this his first UK tour in two and a half years, it celebrates his first ever number one album. FTHC, his ninth long-player, went to number one after its release in February.
“It was a relief,” he admits. “My records went number two, number two, number three, number two and finally number one. If it was another number two…” he sighs.
“For some of them it was a focused campaign to try and get number one, and for some it wasn’t, but in this case it was just like, ‘Let’s see if we can do it!'” And it was quite an effort, I I admit.
“It’s a funny old thing, because when I was a kid I was aggressively not about the charts, it was almost like a point of identity for me, being – and this is a word I’m trying to revive – greb[thealternativemusicsceneoftheearly90sx)baggycombatshortsandallthat!Weweren’tinterestedinthechartsSothere’sapartofmethatdoesn’tresonateasemotionallybutatthesametime–Igotnumberone!Ihaveasmallbrassfigurineofone!
Despite being physically unable to tour during the pandemic, Turner turned to live streaming, hosting a series of 27 concerts from his home, each supporting a different independent music venue, raising nearly £300,000 in the process. He won the Music Venue Trust’s Outstanding Achievement Award for his efforts.
“These are venues that I was very grateful for, because I played there when no one cared about me and my music.
“The whole thing felt like a debt paid back, really. I’d probably struggle to pay for a drink at a lot of these places, and that’s okay!” he laughs. “Some of them were for places I didn’t play, but places like The Cavern, Nambucca and The Tunbridge Wells Forum, I wouldn’t have had a career without them.”
These concerts took place in two venues in Hampshire – The Railway in Winchester and The Joiners of Southampton. As someone who grew up in the Meon Valley, he knows them both well.
“I have a bit of a weird relationship with them – there’s a bit of a romantic rivalry, a bit of a love triangle between me, The Railway and The Joiners! I love them both. I know the guys who run The Joiners better, but when I was a kid nobody came to Winchester on tour. But The Railway was always there and courageously flying the banner of live music. There were those rare occasions when a band would come to Winchester on tour and people would come from Southampton and say, “Ugh, I had to catch the train!”
“And those of us in Winchester said, ‘Welcome to our world!’
The latest album sees Frank return to his noisier roots while also becoming more personal than ever before.
“The overall creative decision to make a more aggressive, more ‘punk rock’ record was before the pandemic. I started to explore that line of attack, and then there was so much time in 2020 that I wrote a lot more songs than I might have done otherwise, and I got a lot more into recording technology, which meant I demoed a lot more deeply.
“It was time to go down whatever roads I was on, and that goes for the music and the harshness of the lyrics – the rawness of the lyrics. I was going that way, but was I going to get that far without blocking and everything? I doubt it.
“I started talking about what my new record was going to be like before I even finished writing it, so I deliberately backed myself into a rhetorical corner by telling everyone I was going to make a punk record next.
“You and I both know that thing where a band talks about how different their new record is and it turns out to be exactly the same, so I had to do it. I had to walk!
The emotional core of the album consists of three songs – Fatherless, My Bad, Miranda – which talk about his childhood and relationship with his father.
Frank explains: “I turned 40 when I did it, and one of the few consolations of getting older is that you’re more confident, you’re less looking over your shoulder – there’s no point in wasting energy.
“For example, the endless albatross of my education.” Frank was sent to the Summer Fields boarding school and then went to Eton on a scholarship – something not unlike the anti-establishment punk rocker and something his detractors often latch onto.
“I always did my best not to talk about it – I hated it, I didn’t want it to define me and I don’t agree with it politically, so my approach was not to talk about it. But what I’ve found throughout my life is that not talking about it didn’t stop every other person from having an opinion about it.
“It’s gotten to the point where I get my two cents in on it, and a lot of it has to do with my dad and my relationship with him. When I was younger, he really wanted me to go to those schools and become a certain type of person, in a rather angry and violent way, and I hated it. So My Bad is about where I went to school and thought it was an abomination, and it was traumatic. I was kicked out of home when I was eight years old. I know that sounds melodramatic, but it’s not untrue. I didn’t have my own bedroom at home. I had lived elsewhere since I was eight years old, and I didn’t like it. I would not do that with my child.
“Now that I’m 40, I’m a ‘recognised artist’ for lack of a catch phrase, and I’m married, and I’ve moved out of the big city, and all of that – now we have a garden!” he stage whispers, “Don’t tell the punks…”
“For me, that means I’m fat and comfortable and I like high-waisted jeans because I’m safer as an artist, I can fish in deeper water because I’m safer than the land I’m standing , when I do it.
“I was completely unprepared to discuss my childhood in a public forum, or even with my wife or myself until recently.”
The song Miranda – the name of his mother, who recently became a trans woman – also attracted a lot of attention. It was, as Frank said, “not what I saw.”
“Deciding to write about this was interesting to me because the public trans debate can be extremely angry and toxic. I was very careful when I was writing the song to make sure I wasn’t speaking for anyone – I don’t know what it’s like to be trans, I don’t know what it’s like to deal with it as a struggle.
“Creatively, this song is far from metaphorical. Literally the following things happened in the following order – this seemed like the best approach to me. I’m not going to tell anyone what to think or do, but this happened to me.
“This song isn’t really meant to change anyone’s mind, but probably the best thing I remember from this song is a dear friend of mine telling me that his parents were pretty skeptical about everything trance, and that the song made them reconsider their view of the situation because they like me and my music.
“I don’t want to talk about the social utility of my music, because that’s navel-gazing to the nth degree, but there’s a certain benefit to it, and I’m very proud of it.”
Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls, supported by Lottery Winners and Wilswood Buoys, will perform at Portsmouth Guildhall on February 7. Tickets cost £36.95. Go to portsmouthguildhall.org.uk.