When Frank Turner hits the stage in New York City on Wednesday, he will have played more than 2,000 shows in his career, which puts the English folk-punk vagabond on par with the likes of The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, but he did it much faster.
But for Turner — currently touring his seventh album, “Be More Kind” — the miles traveled are as essential a part of his life as the music itself.
“Every day when you’re on tour, you have a new attempt at redemption,” he told amNewYork. “Coming off the road, you lack that daily attempt to restate who you are and what you do.”
We spoke with the singer-songwriter about changing up his sound, regrets, and why playing in the States is still a milestone after all these years.
“Be More Kind” is a departure stylistically for you. How much of that is due to how you’ve changed as a person?
A fair amount, just in a sense that — in a way that is perhaps less exciting than it sounds — music is my life. It’s what I do for a living, it’s my passion, it’s the thing I spend a large majority of my day thinking about. On that level, the changes in my life and the changes in my music are pretty intertwined.
The opening track, “Don’t Worry,” ends on the line “No one has a clue, but you’ll figure it out, and I might, too.” Do you think you’ll ever get a handle on things?
I think that anybody who thinks they’ve got it all figured out doesn’t know very much about the world. The point to getting older and wiser is certainly to realize how little you know. Nevertheless, I guess that’s an optimistic place to finish that song. I’m guilty of incorrigible optimism. I can’t really help myself. It’s funny, I have a lot of people ask me questions about the world in a way that they think I’ve got it figured out, which seems kind of strange. Because I feel like one of my central subjects as a songwriter is that I don’t.
The phrase “Be More Kind” itself is based on the Clive James quote, “I should have been more kind.” What did it mean for you to change it to something less reflective?
Clive James was terminally ill, and he’s also someone who I regard as upending my understanding of pretty much everything. For someone of that intellectual stature to look back over on life and at the conclusion of it say he could have been more kind, that was really impactful for me. But it also made me think that I’m not — touch wood — at the end of my life right now. Whilst it’s terribly punk to say something like, “No regrets, motherf——,” I think that’s a really adolescent statement. If I do think back on the things that trouble me, the things that wake you up at night or come to you in the shower, the things that bother me are the times I was inconsiderate to people.
What’s different about playing in New York City?
First of all, we’re in the great United States of America. Lots of people think I’m taking the piss when I say this, but I’m really not, it’s my favorite country outside my home country. I love the U.S.A. I love the people and the culture and the history. As an English kid listening to rock and roll music and punk, you grow up with America as this mystic land. The first time I ever came to New York was on a showcase trip with my old band. We got met at the airport by a guy with a sign from the record label, and the whole thing couldn’t have been more cliché, but in a beautiful way. That never leaves you. I grew up watching “Almost Famous.” If you’re in a truck stop on a tour bus in the United States you’re doing something right, coming from the point of view of a kid from the English suburbs.
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls perform 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the PlayStation Theater, 1515 Broadway, playstationtheater.com