'Rock City? It has a special place in my heart'
W HEN Frank Turner walks off stage at Rock City on Sunday night, he will have completed his 12th gig in the city. It's a quite a record for someone who only set out on the solo path seven years ago. And it's not just here – since 2005 he's played a mammoth 1,284 shows, which equates to roughly one every other day.
This year he's played a sold-out Wembley Arena, featured in the Olympics opening ceremony, toured the US and recorded a fifth studio album. Anyone would think he'd deserve a break but Turner is currently on one of his biggest tour in years.
"It's definitely the longest UK tour I've done for a while which is kind of the point actually," says the 30-year-old from Winchester.
"We did a few years of doing those five, six, seven-day UK tours at bigger venues and I think there were some people who were concerned that I was going to become one of those artists who just does massive shows that you have to get on a train to get to."
In fact, he's happiest at places like Rock City.
"I've been to Rock City a whole bunch of times in many different forms and the place has a special place in my heart. Not least because it's an independent venue that everybody loves but also because last time I played at Rock City in 2009 we just booked the downstairs but then we sold out the whole thing.
"At the time that was the biggest show I'd ever done in the UK by miles. It was one of those turning-point moments for me where I stood there and thought 'holy cow'."
Turner started out in post-hardcore band Million Dead, launching his solo career when they split in 2005. He toured by himself for 18 months, travelling by train across the UK, relying on the generosity of his audience's for a bed.
"If somebody put a gig on for me in the early days or let me sleep on their floor, as far as I'm concerned, they've got guest list to any show I do for life," he says. "In every town, not least Nottingham, I have friends who I've met that were kind enough to take on the equivalent of a vagabond troubadour that was playing to no people in a park and I'm grateful to everyone that helped me."
He's no longer the vagabond troubadour – now he's a man who can sell out Wembley and be asked to play at the Olympics. The former, however, was a bigger deal to Turner.
"The Olympics was weird for me in a way because it was out of context. I'm very happy that I did it, not least because my approach to everything in life is say yes, because none of us are going to be here for very long.
"But it was this weird one-off event and I think 99 per cent of people who were watching it probably saw some weird guy they'd never seen before with an acoustic guitar stood on a hill and just thought 'OK, whatever'.
"Wembley was a much bigger deal for me and a culmination of a lot of hard work. The Olympic thing, as great as it was, didn't really seem to be connected to anything else I was doing with my life. It was this weird thing that was there, then it was done and then I just carried on doing what it was I'd been doing before.
"The only bad thing I have to say about Wembley is that I put so much pressure on myself to get everything right, that I really didn't feel I got enough time to soak it all in.
"The only point in the whole set where I really felt like I could enjoy it was right at the end when I'd run out of things to worry about. I had two minutes of standing there just going 'hell, this is huge!'."
Despite such a high-profile gig, Turner is essentially a one-man band doing the same thing he did seven years ago. But that's not to say he hasn't changed.
"I've had old friends who see me for the first time in ages say 'oh you've changed' as if that's an accusation. My response to that is 'obviously – that's the point, isn't it?'
"I've done more than a thousand shows, been all over the world and made five records, so to me it would just be bizarre if I was the same person that I was back then.
"None of that is to disown anything I've done in the past particularly but I'm definitely a different person... and that's a good thing."