In his new book Frank Turner takes 36 songs and explains how they were written. He also explains a lot about how they work. Each song has a separate chapter where Frank talks about the inspiration for the song, the words, the music and how the recording came together.
I listened to the audio book version which is a great way to get close to the songs. One of my strongest impressions is the difference between the thoughtful intelligent analytical discussion of the songs and the wild passionate way he performs them. The contrast is dramatic and that is one of the main lessons from this book.
For a long time I used to say that Frank Turner was the most successful singer songwriter that most people have never heard of. In the last few years he has become more visible to a general audience but he has achieved this success by writing great songs and playing thousands of shows. Word of mouth seems to be his secret weapon.If you haven heard of him then check out this play list.
The first part of each chapter talks about the background of
the song and the lyrics. Many of Frank’s songs are based on his experiences so
there is an element of autobiography. He believes that he has the right to
share what he likes about himself but says it is difficult when he is writing
about relationships because they involve other people. How much should he
share? Some of his songs are a combination of people pulled together under a
common name, Amy is one of these.
He then goes on to discuss the music of the song, often this
is in terms of chord patterns (I, IV, V or C,F G) but he also goes into more
detail about how he moves away from these to make for interesting music. The
song ‘Broken Piano’ was based on the sound of a faulty microwave oven that
produced a sixth interval, singing other notes over the top of this drone made
The final part of each chapter covers the recording and
performance of the song. How the band built up the arrangement and how the song
changes as it was rehearsed. It’s interesting toi hear how much of the songs
come alive in performance.
Best Bits: When you get stuck on a song just play what you
have with confidence and see what happens when you get to the part that is
missing, perhaps it will just come to you.
Don’t be afraid to redraft. Play a song as much as possible before you record
it to rub off the rough edges. A great song is not just the words and the music;
it is the way you present the finished piece. The arrangement is a major part
of the song.
This is definitely worth five stars. Some great song writing
ideas and an entertaining read.
There is a nice project, mainly in London at the moment called “notes to strangers”. (you can find out more about the project here www.andy-leek.com/notes-to-strangers) . I was inspired to write a song and make a video as my own notes to strangers.
I’ve been writing songs for a long time but only started recording them properly around five years ago. I have now put together seventeen of my favourite demos in an album. This is a very strange selection so I don’t expect anyone to like all of them. I’ll be surprised if you don’t find something you like.
The most popular track on Spotify at the moment is Schauinsland.