Frank Turner reflects on ‘miserable’ year

by Ben MacDonald

As it was revealed that Glastonbury Festival was cancelled for the second year in a row, a future where musicians get to perform in front of their adoring fans remains unclear.

When the first lockdown was put in place on March 16th, many musicians were in the middle of nationwide tours. Folk-punk singer Frank Turner was just one of those who were forced to put a halt to his performances. The ‘I Still Believe’ singer was disappointed that he had to stop halfway through his run. He said:

That was a pretty miserable time, all told, but it was also very, very weird. I don’t think anyone knew what was going to happen, and in a way the unprecedented nature of events took some of the sting out of it; it felt like living through history a little bit. But, such highfalutin thoughts aside, it sucked cancelling shows, it always does.”

Like many artists online, Frank came up with the decision to start performing livestreams through social media, raising funds for music venues and touring staff who had no form of income during lockdown. Turner continues:

Playing music is what I do, both for a living and as an identity, so I was keen to keep doing that in some format. After the first stream, which we did immediately after the cancellations, I realised that there was both an audience and a potential to raise funds for things I think are important, so I came up with a plan to move forward, with all the Independent Venue Love shows. They went really well, we raised around £200,000 for various venues and my touring family. The full band live streams have been fun too, I miss playing with my guys.”

As well as performing for his fans, Frank also spent Thursday evenings on Instagram joining Jaret Reddick from American punk band Bowling For Soup for his online series ‘Happy Hour Hangtime’, where they discussed music that they mutually love. Discussing how the series came together, Frank said:

I’ve known Jaret for years, he’s a sweetheart, and a talented songwriter to boot. He asked me to do one chat, I think he was doing a lot of them with different people at the time, and we had a blast, so I suggested keeping it going. It was a lot of fun.”

Whilst preparing for his first solo UK tour in nine years, Turner was also on the verge of releasing a collaborative album with rock icons NOFX when the pandemic stuck. Discussing how the album came about, Frank answered:

We were two thirds of the way through making the split before the pandemic hit. Mike (Burkett) asked me to do it in the summer of 2019, ahead of me playing the Punk In Drublic festivals. I was very flattered by that, NOFX are one of my favourite bands, and it’s a huge honour (not to mention a lot of fun) to be asked to do it. Once everything ground to a halt, we decided to expedite the process and get on with the release. I still can’t quite believe it happened to be honest, it’s kind of a dream.

Winchester-raised Turner immediately announced his intentions to carry on performing online when it was announced that the public had to stay at home after Christmas. Discussing how the streams have potentially helped ease the mental health of his fans, the singer concluded by saying:

It’s hard for me to talk about other people’s mentalities, but the initial run of livestreams were helpful for me, in terms of mental health, purpose and so on. One of my concerns, as the weeks wore on, was that I didn’t want to outstay my welcome, over-expose myself or whatever. That said, it seems like a lot of people enjoy them, and we are back in a national lockdown, so it seems appropriate to have another look at doing some more.”

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