Frank Turner’s ACM Masterclass

Frank Turner and ACM students in Guildford
Frank Turner and ACM students in Guildford

Frank Turner and ACM students in Guildford

An Academy of Contemporary Music student reports on a recent talk by the punk-folk songwriter who doesn’t mince his words

English folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner visited Bar Thirteen in Guildford recently, to give his second Masterclass talk to a group of ACM students. He’s come a long way from the days when he was the “token acoustic guy on a punk bill”; his journey, via a drunken promise and a front room gig in Naples, led to his 2,000th show in 2016.

When asked how he copes with ‘normal life’, Frank replies: “This is normal life for me. I’ve done way more of this than anything else… the thing I find difficult is adjusting to being at home.” On the subject of touring, he elaborates frankly: “There is an inarguable focus of your day, there’s a show, there’s an audience and you have to be good and everything is secondary to that.”

When dealing with the music business, he urged us to avoid gimmicks, and to use the industry but not be absorbed by it. The self-taught musician rallies for hope through youthful ideologies, tainted with world-weary cynicism. Always his own harshest critic, his mantra – “Don’t like it, get better” – bleeds through his words.


Now we were getting an almost tangible sense of his musical philosophy. He offered solid advice on the three pillars of artistry: musicianship, songwriting and performance each requiring constant work. He reminded us to listen to our inner artistic voice: “If the song’s there, it’s going to shine through”.

Dryly commenting that, “no one gives you a badge saying you’ve made it”, he reminded us about opportunities for new musicians to innovate using the internet, saying: “It’s a really good time to be aggressively proactive”. That’s a far more positive view of the internet than we’re used to hearing from the music business!

He left us with this summary: “Attack it with everything you’ve got. Don’t go half measures… if you have an artistic fire in your soul, then make it your life.”

Words: Callum James Ripley

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