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Frank Turner tells Lee Trewhela he'd write a self-help book if he knew the secret of his success

By West Briton  |  Posted: June 21, 2012

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IF YOU'RE au fait with his music, it's no surprise to find that Frank Turner is quite a serious and intense bloke.

A folk-punk protest singer, it's easy to understand why he starts most sentences guardedly with a "this may sound blasé" and "this may sound big-headed".

After all, not many folk-punk protest singers went to Eton with Prince William and are the grandson of the former chairman of BHS – something that's been used to attack him in the media.

A privileged background didn't do Joe Strummer any harm though ....

Turner returns to Cornwall (he vividly remembers playing support to The Levellers at the Hall for Cornwall a few years ago) with dates headlining the Eden Sessions on July 1 and the HfC, this time in his own right, on November 30.

He told me: "On tour I usually only see car parks and dressing rooms, but the Eden Project is definitely on my tourist to-do list, and I can't believe how good the line-up is."

With his band, the Sleeping Souls, he tops a day featuring The Staves (3pm), Mull Historical Society (4pm), Seth Lakeman Band (5pm), Bellowhead (6.30pm) and Stornoway (8pm). He's on at 9.30pm.

Turner has had an astonishing rise which has left many of us bewildered.

The former frontman of hardcore punk act Million Dead went solo in 2005. His fourth album, England Keep My Bones, entered the chart at No 12 last year and, even more amazingly, he played to 12,000 fans at Wembley Arena in April.

He said: "I would have eaten my hat if you'd told me I would headline Wembley four years ago. I don't ever want to lose that astonishment.

"When you consider the number of people in bands who dream of that, the odds are that most are unlikely to achieve it, which is why my parents were so against me doing this. I can see why now.

"To actually reach the level of playing Wembley is unbelievable. But in ten years I'm sure I'll be deeply uncool and washing dishes somewhere."

The man who could be described as his generation's Billy Bragg (but without the charisma) has built this loyal following by playing 250 shows a year for the past seven years.

"It's not a sob story but I don't have a place of my own to return to – life on the road suits me. A lot of bands struggle with writing songs on tour, but it's not something I have a problem with. I've just spent 13 months on the road and come up with 22 songs, though I'm sure most of those will fall by the wayside."

So is the next album – which he is currently recording – a change in direction?

"I don't want to talk about the direction the songs are going while in gestation. That's up for you and me to discuss after the record's out."

So why does he think he's caught the imagination of so many people?

"If I knew that I'd write a self-help book ... there doesn't seem to be a grey area with me; people seem to love my music or they don't at all."

So how does he square his success with his famously DIY ideals?

"On one level I've always been an ambitious person and like being successful but with the caveat that I do it on my own terms and conditions. What matters most to me is that I continue writing good songs.

"I don't want to sound blasé but it's immaterial to me whether I play to 200 people in a club or to an arena just as long as I am still writing and playing quality songs."

For tickets to Frank Turner's Eden Session head to www.edenproject.com. Tickets for his Hall for Cornwall show go on sale on July 2 from www.hallforcornwall.co.uk

Don't forget, Aussie musical comic Tim Minchin headlines the first Eden Session on Saturday night, fresh from the success of his score for Matilda.

For a limited time Eden is offering a special ticket price of £20 plus £5 booking fee on five of this year's Sessions – Tim Minchin, Example, Frank Turner's Folk Session, Chase & Status plus Labrinth, and Noah and the Whale and The Vaccines.

Subject to availability, the special offer tickets will be available until Saturday for Minchin and June 30 for the other four Sessions.

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