British folk-punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner spends a lot of time touring the U.S. — his show Friday at the Fillmore marks his 2,186 solo performance. So it’s no wonder that his latest album, “Be More Kind,” took some inspiration from what was happening around him leading up to the 2016 presidential election.
“I was flailing subject-wise. I was on tour in the U.S. just as the Trump/Clinton debacle picked up steam. I don’t want to sound overly thankful about this, but it certainly gave me things to write about,” Turner says. “Obviously, I’m an outsider, a visitor, but I’m a huge fan of the U.S., and I found everything that happened that summer and with the election to be very depressing.”
Turner found himself sitting at the bar defending Americans to his countrymen.
“A lot of people were giving up, and I’d say, ‘You know, Americans aren’t really like that.’ Then the biggest (representation of that) stereotype gets elected,” he says.
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“Be More Kind” wasn’t inspired entirely by the situation here at home. The title was borrowed from a poem by one of Turner’s favorite writers, Clive James, as he was dying.
“For someone with that intellectual heft and wisdom to look back at the end of their life and say, ‘I should have been more kind,’ it’s been hugely impactful for me. I thought, ‘Why wait until I’m on my deathbed?’ ” says Turner.
The album contains driving anthems, societal warnings and apocalyptic love songs in “Make America Great Again,” “1933” and “21st Century Survival Blues.” There are also moments of poignant intimacy (in “Going Nowhere”) and inspirational tracks (like the quiet opener “Don’t Worry,” and “Brave Face”).
“21st Century Survival Blues” took shape after Turner met a man on a plane who’d spent his fortune compiling an arsenal. Turner’s song is more about his own actions in the face of such a catastrophe.
“I think my concern would be to be with the people I care about. If we were together and OK – not shooting people who have food,” he says.
“Brave Face” came together while on tour with Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit.
“That song went through more revisions than any song I’ve worked on recently,” he says. “The feel and arrangement were very different, and not in a good way. Listening to the way (Isbell and his band) approach arrangements in their songs, we had this eureka moment during sound check. Why don’t we try playing this song like Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit? And that was the song.”
As much as they drew inspiration from the 400 Unit, Turner and his own band the Sleeping Souls could have easily stolen the shows from a lesser headliner – they’re that good live.
“Jason and I are kindred spirits in that way. I want to stand on the side of my own shows and watch this band blow me away,” says Turner, who stacked his bill with Lucero, the Menzingers, and Homeless Gospel Choir.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this tour,” he says. “Following Lucero, who are the godfathers of the music that I make – that’s a challenge, and I love it.”
When: 7 p.m. Friday.
Where: The Fillmore, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.