In between hangover’s and in the midst of a dense touring schedule, we manage to grab some time with the man, to talk festivals, tattoos and favourite records
words: Steve Fletcher
– Hello Frank! How are you?
Hi there. I’m good. Currently nursing a hangover. I was hanging out with Sean from Andrew Jackson Jihad last night in Michigan, Madison Wisonsin.
– We saw you at Southside festival in Germany last month. Great show dude – we were magnificently inebriated but there was an amazing vibe about the place. The crowd loved the set; particularly the sit down / stand up and go nuts part. You were there in 2012 too and we think its a great festival – is it becoming a favourite for you?
Yeah, Hurricane and Southside seem like the Reading and Leeds of Germany to me, the Sleeping Souls and I have played both many times now and always have a blast. And this year the weather was OK too!
– Did you get to see any of the other acts / headliners?
Not this year, alas. My press schedule was pretty busy, and after that I had some old friends to catch up with before we drove out to the next show. Such is life on tour.
– You’ve an intense set of tour dates coming up – how do you manage such a schedule and what’s your downtime in between shows?
I’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s not that it’s easy, as such, it’s just that I’m pretty hardened to life on the road now. In between shows I don’t get masses of downtime, with press, radio, work, correspondence and the like I’m busy most of the day. But that’s how I like it. I sleep hard at night.
– You’ve a really upbeat style to your shows, even with more downbeat lyrical content. Is that a conscious effort in the way you want to convey your material?
I’d say it has to do with how I want my live shows to feel. I want them to be celebratory experiences, something that lifts the weight of the world from people’s shoulders for a moment or two. I’m a professional entertainer, after all. Sharing the hurt can be (and is) a part of that, but yeah, I want people to have a positive experience when they come see me play.
– How much do you need to vary your approach and sets for different shows, depending on where you are?
Well I try to vary them a little as we go on point of principle, not to repeat myself, not to bore people who come to more than one show, to play more songs (I have way too many for one set!). But I don’t really do much in the way of tailoring my set for a specific audience. It seems pointless to me, I don’t want to fool people into liking my music, if you see what I mean. Take it or leave it.
– How’s the new material going across? Are there any clear favourites appearing?
Great, thanks. The singles (Recovery, Way I Tend To Be) are going over great, which is to be expected. Plain Sailing Weather has been the surprise fan favourite. People *love* that song, haha, it’s great.
– You’ve played a bunch of varying festival types, which is a testament to your style and broad appeal. But how does Download for example, differ for you from say Blissfields or Cambridge Folk Festival?
Well, there’s more tattoos at Download, haha. I don’t actually think there’s too much of a difference. Maybe a slightly different atmosphere at the festivals in general, but in terms of what I do and how people react to it, well, people have more in common than separates them, in my opinion.
– Anything crazy happened on the tour so far?
Many crazy things, but I’m not sure if I should talk about them.
– Ok. Sounds intriguing but we’ll not probe. For the new record, what was different in your approach to writing and recording compared to ‘Poetry…’ or ‘England Keep My Bones’?
First of all, I don’t want to repeat myself, so that’s always in mind when I’m writing. This time around we (me and the band) demo’d the record like four times, which was kind of a pain in the arse, but totally worth it in the long run – you can hear how songs developed and improved over that time very clearly. Working with Rich Costey was new as well, I haven’t worked with a producer at that level before, and it was a great experience.
– The timing of Keep My Bones fell well for the Olympics. Great job by the way – how did you decide which song to play at the ceremony?
Danny Boyle picked three songs for me to play (they only broadcast one). He said I could choose different ones if I wanted, but he’d obviously put a lot of thought into it already – he’s a big fan – so I went with his decision.
– It’s been 6 years since your debut. What’s changed for you since then do you think; apart from becoming superstar famous 🙂 ? Lifestyle / writing styles etc.
I don’t consider myself to be famous, incidentally, it’s not really how my life is. I guess I’ve covered a lot of ground, learned a lot about the world and myself. I’m a little more in control of myself these days, I had some issues with drinking and the rest thast I’ve put to bed, which is a positive thing. I think I’ve got better at my job – writing, playing shows and the rest.
– You had Rich Costey twiddling the knobs this time around. What’s the thinking, generally, behind changing producers for each record? Are you leveraging capability or are certain producers unable to achieve certain things?
I haven’t really thought about it like that. It’s always just been a question of trying to find the right person for the job at that time. Budget also plays a part – I could’t have afforded to work with Rich before this record.
My idea. I like tattoos a lot, the aesthetic and the culture. The artwork for this album has all been done by a tattooer friend of mine from Florida, Heather Law. I wanted to get something of hers done anyway, and it all came together for this one video.
– We’d usually ask about your influences at some point, but we’d love to hear more about what your listening to right now – favourite bands and records of the moment, of 2012, of 2013 so far?
My record of the year thusfar is Jason Isbell, hands down, an absolute masterpiece. I also love the new Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo record too.
– We’re looking for positives – What’s your favourite thing about the music industry today?
I think it’s much more democratic and open than it used to be, thanks to the internet.
– And finally, do you ever get offers to collaborate with other artists? Who would be your ideal collaborator?
Sure, some come through, though it’s usually more a case of me hanging with a friend and messing around with guitars or a studio. I’d be intrigued to work with someone like Robie Robertson, or maybe Nick Cave.
Now that would be interesting. Thanks for your time Frank, all the best