Family Man

3 May 2012 | 6:30 am | Daniel Cribb

From shitty pub shows to packing out Wembley Arena, Daniel Cribb chats to Frank Turner about finding success.

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It's September '05 and hardcore punk band Million Dead has just stepped off the stage in Southampton, England for their final show ever. But what sounds like the end of a story is really just the beginning. Vocalist Frank Turner now finds himself with ample free time and a musical void that desperately needs filling. Having already dabbled in the acoustic realm, he focuses his extreme motivation and unstoppable passion into his solo work and finds his true calling in acoustic folk-punk.

Seven years, four studio albums, thousands of shows across the world and an impressive amount of awards brings us to April '12, where Turner finds himself, accompanied by his backing band The Sleeping Souls, headlining a sold-out show at Wembley Arena, the capacity of which is 12,500. “When I was a kid, my favourite bands were not the kind of bands that would play at Wembley. It was kind of off my radar a little bit, but it came up as a possibility about a year or so ago. When it was mentioned in a conversation with my manager I burst out laughing and said 'You've got to be fucking kidding me – I can't play an arena show',” Turner recalls.

A sea of fans meant that his usual post-show meet'n'greet, an activity that helped in his rise to success, became an unrealistic venture for one night. “There are certainly nights when I can't wait to jump in the van myself, but not that many,” he admits, discussing the usual protocol of some bands. “But at the end of the day, I'm doing my dream job; I travel around and play music – it's incredible. The reason I'm able to do that is because people buy my records and give me their time and attention and money and come to shows… There's a weird structural imbalance in it, just in the sense that something that might take five seconds of my time – signing a ticket stub or taking a photo – that's very little effort on my behalf and it has quite a large result. I don't hold myself above people that come to my shows and if they want to say hi or hang out, they're more than welcome to.”

Once the dust settled and the achievement had sunk in, he grabbed his acoustic guitar for a solo tour to clear his head before jumping on a plane with the rest of his band, Australia-bound. “It's nice that I have the opportunity to shift between the two, to be honest. The one man with a guitar is a really iconic and strong template and I think that will remain the backbone of what I do, for as long as I do it. That said, at this moment in time, I love my backing band and I'm really excited that they're coming to Australia for the first time,” Turner explains.

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The Frank Turner family extends beyond those on-stage and in the crowd, which is apparent in a photo book which surfaced after The Sleeping Souls' key player Matt Nasir took his camera on tour for a year and snapped photos of their best and worst moments – from playing sold-out venues to the nine hour hung-over van trip the following day. “I have regular guitar techs, sound techs, tour managers, and all that kind of thing. It's something that I'm quite keen to emphasise as often as I can, because for a show to happen, it takes more than just the people on the stage. There are a lot of people who I work with that work really hard who don't stand under the spotlight at any point, so quite often if I'm doing a 'round the band' introduction at the end of my set, I'll take a moment to introduce my crew members as well, because they work just as hard as anybody else, if not harder.”