By Katie Royals
As we speak, Frank Turner should be on a plane flying back from Costa Rica, in the middle of a global tour. Instead, like the rest of us, he’s stuck at home. And with no idea when touring may be able to restart, he admits it’s a “profoundly worrying time” for him professionally.
He’s not letting these fears deter him though and has just released a new album – Live in Newcastle. This was always going to be released but given the current climate Frank decided to move it forward. In many ways it’s “slightly bittersweet” as while it’s comforting to relive live shows, it also reminds him how much he misses gigs.
Mental health is a recurrent theme throughout the album, which follows Frank’s journey as a musician. He speaks openly about his own issues with addiction and mental health, with many of his songs focusing on these difficult periods. He explains he uses some of his songs as a form of “public therapy,” telling himself things he needs to hear.
When asked about the role music can have in supporting those struggling with their mental health, particularly given the current situation, he said his answer is different to what it would’ve been a few years ago.
He’s always placed great emphasis on the importance music has had on his mental health, indeed before one of the tracks on the album he alludes to “that one record you heard at the right time that saved your life that one night.” However, now he believes music is “necessary but not sufficient.” Of course, it can provide a great comfort when you are struggling but should not be used as an excuse to neglect other forms of support.
Aside from the album, Frank is offering live concerts from his own living room. This all started when he got back from his abruptly ended tour and thought, “well, let’s just do a gig” and, to his surprise, “it just went super well.”
When touring, (he is a frequent Aylesbury Waterside Theatre performer) Frank employs 11 people full time, and as much as he’s worried about his career during the pandemic, he acknowledges he has passive forms on income, so is more concerned about his crew. Therefore, he thought he’d use the gig as a chance to raise money for them. This ended up raising over £10,000.
From this, he realised, with the help of his audience, he has the ability to raise significant funds for worthy causes. But, “I’m not such a narcissist that I think my stature can save the NHS,” nor does he necessarily think it’s his job, Frank noted.
Instead, he’s directing his fundraising efforts towards independent music venues, a cause he cares passionately about.
Explaining the rationale behind Independent Venue Love, he said: “I owe a debt of gratitude to these venues for existing in the first place.” The venues provide a valuable lifeline to many up and coming artists and allow many music lovers to experience a wide range of live gigs.
Each Thursday evening Frank is streaming a live concert from his home on his YouTube account in support of a different venue. His aim is not to perform the same song twice, partly for his own sanity, but also to give his audience more of an incentive to tune in week after week.
Given the number of venues that desperately need support up and down the country – he estimates there’s at least 600 – Frank never wanted to be the only person doing this, so is pleased Music Venue Trust has since launched a campaign to support these venues.
More than anything “I don’t have enough songs” to fundraise for all the venues, joked Frank.
While all of this may seem like a completely different world to the home schooling and socially distant supermarket queues most of us are currently experiencing, the international music star’s lockdown life is not too different. While his friends say “it’s not surprising that [he’s] manically busy right now”, any extra free time he has is spent reading or gardening, like many of us.
Listen to “Live in Newcastle”: