Frank Turner, the folk-punk troubadour who released his sixth album Positive Songs for Negative People in August, is famously open with his legions of devoted fans. So when I saw that he’s happy to pretty much speak to anyone at any time, I decided to ask him some questions about his songwriting. He got back to me that day…
CM: Talk me through how a song develops from beginning to end – do you start with chords, with lyrics… how does it work?
FT: “It’s different every time, there’s no set formula. The best stuff comes all at once, but that’s rare. Songs can take anything from a week to several years to get right.”
Where and when is your favourite time, and place, to write?
“I don’t get to decide. Stuff arrives in the manner of its own choosing.”
Do you ever experience writer’s block and if so, how do you overcome it?
“I do. I guess I try to listen outside of my comfort zone, and just keep playing. I learn a lot of covers.”
To what extent are the Sleeping Souls [Turner’s band] involved in the creative process?
“I write the songs for vocals and guitar, and usually have some pretty strong ideas about arrangements, but we then work them up collectively and iron out the creases. They have a big input into how the songs sound.”
Tell me about the lyrical inspiration for The Next Storm [arguably the album’s standout track] and how it fits with the album?
“I had it in my head that there was a scene at the end of “The Wizard Of Oz” where they emerge from a storm shelter and start tidying up. I went back and checked and it’s not actually in the film, I guess I made it up, but the scene in my head is the jumping off point for the song. It seems like a pretty central image for the new record.”
Can you remember the first song you ever wrote?
“I used to just muck around with a guitar, taking four chords and shouting over the top of them if I’m honest, for years, so I couldn’t really tell you the first one.”
Was the title of the album anything to do with the storm of negativity that surrounded you after the politics problem?
“There’s a little bit of that in there. The record is largely about weathering a storm, and part of that was the idiotic bullshit that came my way around that. But it’s not the major component.”
‘Positive Songs for Negative People’ is available on Spotify, in all good record stores and probably some rubbish ones as well.