English singer-songwriter and bestselling author Frank Turner, who offers both poetry and prose that is uncommonly uplifting, will be bringing his philosophy of optimism to The Paramount on May 11 along with his band, The Sleeping Souls. He recently spoke to the Press about his eastern European fan base, finding silver linings, and the creative process in both his new album, Be more Kind, and his new book, Try This At Home.
You’ve played on Long Island before, right? We have yeah, although I think it’s been a while since we’ve been through. We came through with Dropkick Murphys in 2012, I think playing the same venue actually. We’re all excited to come back again.
How did you like the Paramount? I remember it being one the best shows of the whole tour, and I’m not just saying that because I’m talking to you (laughs). We all had an amazing time. Somewhere in my wardrobe I have a Strong Island t-shirt that I got that day. I’m going to try and dig it out for the tour so I can wear it that night.
Did you get to spend any time here outside of the venue? Passingly. You know it’s the nature of the beast on tour that I only see a lot of car parks and dressing rooms and hotels. I try my best to make time to have a look around and take advantage of my privilege of being in different parts of the world, but I also have a job to do.
Are there any spots you’ve gone to on tour that took you by surprise? Yeah, I think one of the things I would say is that quite often the places that are further off the beaten path on the touring scheduling can be the more exciting places to play because there’s this sense of appreciation for you actually having made the journey out there. I’ve toured in eastern Europe a lot, particularly in the Baltic states in Latvia and Lithuania, and the crowds there are just bananas, and a big part of it is that the kids there are just like, “We’re so glad that you took the time to come.”
Can you tell me about the new album, Be More Kind? Well, one of the interesting things about this record from my point of view was that for the first time pretty much ever in my career I had the time, the money, and the inclination to really take my time in the studio. In the past quite often I’d arrive in the studio with my band and we know exactly how the record is going to sound. There’s not really a lot of experimentation. This time around, when we arrived at the studio in Fort Worth, Texas, I had the songs written but the arrangements were still kind of nebulous in my head, so we really spent a lot of time kind of messing around with different sounds, different textures, different instruments, that kind of thing. It was a really rewarding and creative experience. I’m not sure I’d want to do that every time I make a record but certainly it was a fun thing to do one time around.
A running theme of the new album and in much of your music is maintaining a sense of optimism in spite of harsh realities. Is voicing that idea something you have to make a conscious effort of or is it just your natural disposition? It’s a funny thing. It’s not something I sat down and planned in any way…but it’s definitely true looking through my songs, particularly over the last four albums or so, that there is a kind of optimistic angle in a lot of it, but I think that that’s normative as much as it is positive in the sense that I’m not entirely sure that I am inherently all that optimistic. It’s more just that, if I’m going to spend the time and the energy singing about something, then I want to try and make something positive out of it.
When we interviewed Dennis Casey of Flogging Molly, who you’re doing the Salty Dog cruise with this year, he described you on a previous cruise walking around with an acoustic guitar doing impromptu poolside shows. Don’t you do that sort of thing when you’re on tour as well? (laughs) Yeah, well I mean at the end of the day I love to play, you know what I mean? I’m so lucky to do what I do because playing songs on guitar is my favorite thing in the whole world. I understand the necessity for us to have shows in a venue that are promoted ahead of time but pretty regularly, when we’re on tour, if there’s an opportunity for me to grab a guitar and just go to a bar and play some more I’ll do that, too.
Can you tell me a bit about your new book, Try This At Home? It’s a book about songwriting. I wrote a book a few years ago about touring and to everybody’s surprise, including mine, it went over really well and it was a successful publication and all this, so everybody was interested in me writing another one. I didn’t want to repeat myself, I felt like I’d said what I had to say about touring, and I hadn’t written anything about songwriting. I’m always thinking about songs so there was plenty to write about, shall we say. It came out in the UK a few weeks ago and it’s done very well this time around as well so, yeah, I’ve got two books under my belt, I guess that makes me an author.
The Paramount, 370 New York Avenue, Huntington, paramountny.com $25-$70, 7:30 p.m. May 11