SAVING THE WORLD ONE SONG AT A TIME
FRANK TURNER AND THE POLITICS OF KINDNESS
The world right now is not in a good place. Ten minutes watching the news is all it takes to become disheartened with the moment we find ourselves in. Reality star Presidents picking fights on Twitter tend to have that effect. UK based singer/songwriter Frank Turner has seen the world falling apart and has some advice for his fellow humans.
Be. More. Kind.
It’s simple advice. But it’s effective. Turner believes in it so much he named his seventh studio album Be More Kind as a stand against these turbulent and divided times. “Come 2016 the world went pretty crazy.” Frank Turner recalls the beginnings of his latest studio project. “We spent a lot of the summer on tour in the United States during the [Presidential] election campaign. Really a wild time to be in America. It just reached a point where I couldn’t not say something about it.” Created in this highly politicized environment Turner doesn’t see Be More Kind as an overtly political record. Describing it instead as: “It’s kind of nonpartisan this record. It’s more about the way we choose to have our disagreements. The way we choose to interact with one another. Rather than the content of our disagreements. Maybe it’s a social record instead of a political record.”
With creating a social record like Be More Kind it was important that Turner didn’t feed into the unbridled rage that so many other artists have been showcasing over the past few years. “The escalation of outrage and anger is actually one of the problems we have as a society. I think it’s quite easy to respond with inchoate rage…I don’t think it helps our discourse. You don’t solve problems by screaming at people.” Responding to anger with even more anger only entrenches us in our positions as he further explains; “We have to find ways to communicate with the people who disagree with us, no matter how distasteful that might be. People seem to have forgotten that the point of debate is trying to persuade other people of your point of view. To bring them over to your team…Reacting with anger is the easy thing to do, but maybe not the smart thing to do.”
The title of Be More Kind comes from the poem “Leçons de ténèbres” by Australian poet Clive James. For Turner the line “I should have been more kind/ It is my fate/ To find this out,but find it out too late” stuck with him as a way to help combat the cynicism of the day. “The idea of kindness being an essential value is not a particularly new or original idea. I’m a huge fan of James’ work. He’s terminally ill and someone with that sort of emotional intelligence and wisdom, to settle on that as sort of a vision of what he wished he had done with his life, was really arresting to me.” Turner goes on to say “The minute I read that I started to play around with some words and guitar and started to figure out the song “Be More Kind.” It was the first song I wrote for this record.”
Turner has built a reputation as one of rock music’s most entertaining live acts. His shows are famous for bringing people together and celebrating the power of music. He hopes that his new album’s message can be even more resonating in a live setting. “The most important thing is that it’s a Rock ‘n’ Roll show. I want people to get up and have a good time.” Explains Turner. “Having said that, I want my show to embody certain feelings and certain values. I’m an old fashioned liberal egalitarian, I want people to come in and feel safe and welcome and part of a collective who enjoy communing with their fellow humans. Regardless of who they are and where they come from.” It’s important for Turner to foster a sense of community at his shows, to make sure everyone from all walks of life feel comfortable singing along to the music.
The world is in a rough place right now and it’s easy to feel as if there’s nothing you can do. But maybe in these divisive times what’s most important is to remember what unites us. Try and find the humanity in those that may disagree with us. It can be easy to be angry, to hate. But it’s hard to be an optimist in such pessimistic times. “Over the years I’ve tried quite hard to be a goth and failed.” Recalls Turner with a laugh. “I wish I was more nihilistic. But in my writings, my silver linings tend to come out.” It’s something we can all take to heart, in such times. Always try to find the silver lining. Even when you think it’s impossible.
Be more kind.