Just before the credits roll, Frank Turner sits back in his chair and asks himself “Who is Frank Turner?”, he pauses for thought before answering, “I’m finding out”. He does go on to give a more convoluted answer but these three words just rang in my head, does anyone really know who they are? We know what we do, we know what we know but do we really know WHO we are?
I was invited to chat to Frank Turner ahead of the Exeter show at the end of November and I will say now that he came across as one of the most honest people that I have interviewed in such a long time. You could tell that the answers were very much his own, no corporate bullshit fed to him via a silver plated earpiece to fill the column inches of the various websites and publications that had come to listen to what he had to say. I kept things above board, only having 15 minutes with him, I steered well clear of his public school upbringing, his political views and his personal life, opting instead to chat about the movie that I have just seen, his upcoming 2000th show and what was on the top of his Christmas list this year, you can read the full transcription of the interview HERE, anyhow, back to the movie….
Having been introduced to Frank Turner during the Tape Deck Heart tour, I find him an enigma, I wanted to learn more about Frank Turner, does he distance himself from the fans more than he used to, is there a barrier between his on-stage self and the real person, how does he manage relationships whilst spending so many days a year on the road, all questions that the film poses and provides answers to.
Having a film made about yourself can go two ways, it can turn into an indulgent PR exercise where you show everyone how great and successful you are or it highlights elements of a musician’s life that you rarely consider. Having watched the 90 minute movie, I was amazed at the little amount of time that Frank gets to himself on a daily basis, the hours being swallowed up by travelling, interviews, press, radio sessions, in-store signings, sound-checks, food, sleep….all things that you and I take for granted but like me, you probably don’t have people chasing after you wanting a ‘selfie’ or an autograph. There is a really interesting section of the movie where Frank talks about not spending as much time at the merchandise table at the end of a show these days, the reason is very understandable and it has nothing to do with the fact that he has become lazy, Christ, you try and show me a harder working musician on the circuit these days!
To hear the views of Frank’s family, the Sleeping Souls, the tour manager, Frank’s manager and so many more people that are so close to Frank is amazing, by the end of the film, you really do feel that you understand the pressures that Frank is under (mostly bought on by himself) but even so, you soon understand how easy it is for musicians to seek comfort in a bottle of bourbon or a line of something extracted from a plant that grows freely in the Columbian mountains (so I’ve been told)….
The movie is a balanced view of life on the road, it takes a look at the punishing schedule that Frank throws himself into on a regular basis and you see the tiring journeys, the endless nights trying to sleep on a packed tour bus alongside fellow band members and road crew and you soon start feeling for Frank. Then consider the feeling of adulation that he must get when he takes to the stage in front of a capacity crowd anywhere in the world, playing the songs that have touched so many and the reactions that are thrown back at him onstage and you get the impression that it’s a tough but very rewarding lifestyle!
Is it a “Warts ‘n’ all” style documentary? I guess it is and it isn’t. Frank goes into the troubled times leading up to the recording of his 6th album Positive Songs for Negative People and isn’t afraid to mention about his somewhat hedonistic past on multiple occasions during the film, what is interesting is how others around him react to an instance of when he overdid things the night before a show and turned in a more than lacklustre performance!
The footage is simple, many candid interviews with friends and family reveal a side of the business that you are not exposed to. It’s not an epic movie, it’s not an adventure that takes you to places that you’re highly unlikely to visit in your lifetime, it’s a year in the life of possibly the hardest working musician in the business today and all the struggles and rewards that go with it.
The movie plays on December 13th at cinemas up and down the country and will be followed by a live Q&A session and a short set from a venue in London. For more information on venues and to buy tickets, please click HERE