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    Frank Turner comes to town for six nights of not being a role model

    Frank Turner
    Frank Turner

    In theory, Frank Turner says, everyone seems to be in favor of the simple notion behind his new album, which is called “Be More Kind.” Everyone, that is, as long as we’re all talking about people being nicer to us.

    “The hard part is when you have to reciprocate,” Turner says.

    If the title track sounds like an advice song, he says, “I do think a lot of the time the intended audience for my exhortations is myself. ‘Be more kind’ is a piece of advice I could absolutely stand to take.”


    Currently touring the United States in support of his seventh album, the British songwriter is being especially kind to his devoted Boston fan base, scheduling six shows with special guest openers beginning Tuesday at Royale. At press time, the first four shows, with opening acts including Speedy Ortiz and Jeff Rosenstock, were sold out. The final date, on July 2, will feature a live performance of Turner’s entire second album, “Love Ire & Song,” marking its 10th anniversary.

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    Boston, Turner says on the phone from a tour stop, is “kind of our home city in the States.” A product of Eton College and the London School of Economics, Turner appreciates how Boston music fans have been for decades early adopters of British music.

    His punk-rock politics — which boil down to an advocacy of personal autonomy, what he calls “classical liberalism” — have drawn a generation of supporters who pore over his lyrics even as Turner readily admits to struggling with the “hierarchical nature” of performing: being the chosen one in the spotlight, dispensing pearls of wisdom in the form of songs. Much of his music, he says, “is centered around the idea of not telling people what to do.”

    “I’ve been standing on stages in crowded rooms for more than half my life,” says Turner, who is 36. “I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with whether I have any responsibilities as a role model or any of that crap.” His typical response, he says, is “an emphatic no. I’m playing rock ’n’ roll. Make your own life choices.”

    Still, he says, he’s well aware that many (if not nearly all) of his fans have taken his music to heart as much for the messages as for the anthemic, pirate-chorus, arms-around-shoulders attributes of the tunes.


    Turner got his start as part of an English hardcore band before going solo with an acoustic guitar. He’s often said he was encouraged to make the switch in part by Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” album. He gained some confidence, he says, while touring with Brookline native Jonah Matranga, who had shifted his focus from the intense hard rock band Far to the intimate solo project onelinedrawing. Together they released a split single in 2006, with Matranga covering Billy Bragg and Turner doing a Lemonheads song and the American standard “You Are My Sunshine.”

    Matranga, Turner says, showed him “that it was possible to get up there with an acoustic guitar in the context of a punk rock show. It planted a seed.”

    One of Turner’s nods to his punk rock background is his ongoing accessibility to fans, who can e-mail him directly through his website. Since he released “Be More Kind” in May, he says, a lot of fans have told him they hear it as an optimistic record.

    “Which is curious to me, because I’m not optimistic at all — I’m actually quite pessimistic about politics right now,” he says.

    While he’s constantly asking himself what he’s trying to say when he’s writing a song, ultimately “it means whatever the listener interprets it to mean.” There are some exceptions — there’s that one conspiracy theorist from Germany who claims all of Turner’s songs are part of one grand narrative, he says with a laugh — but for the most part, there’s some truth in each personalized reading of the songs.


    Turner was perversely inspired by one theme of the 2016 American election, one that envisioned the GOP candidate as a kind of punk rock anarchist: volatile, transgressive, a purposeful spectacle. (Boston writer James Parker posited this theory in an October 2016 Atlantic article called “Donald Trump, Sex Pistol.”)

    ‘I’ve been standing on stages in crowded rooms for more than half my life. I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with whether I have any responsibilities as a role model. . . . I’m playing rock ’n’ roll. Make your own life choices.’

    “That certainly gave me pause,” Turner says. “I grew up listening to punk. It still influences my ethics. Punk places a huge premium on the idea of being rebellious, transgressive, all the rest.” As he matures, he says, he realizes that punk itself has no inherent moral content. “It’s entirely dependent on context — what it is you’re rebelling against. If you’re rebelling against a repressive, reactionary society, that’s one thing. But if you’re rebelling against an established set of liberal norms, that’s entirely another. To be transgressive in the liberal West is to be alt-right. They’re not wrong in that they’re rebellious. They’re just [expletive].”

    His despair rings loud and clear on “1933,” the second track on the new album, an aptly urgent, clanging rocker in which the singer compares the present day to a certain ignominious time in 20th-century world affairs: “The first time it was a tragedy/ The second time is a farce.”

    He does sometimes hear from fans who take issue with one or another of his broadsides, he says. He might open his e-mail to find a flurry of invective.

    “But I’ve learned that if you respond in kind, nothing’s changed,” he says. When one recent correspondent unleashed a “tirade of hatred,” Turner says, he made a conscious effort to Be More Kind.


    At Royale, June 26, 27, 29, 30, July 1, 2. Times vary. Tickets $35, 617-338-7699,

    James Sullivan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.