Frank Turner opens for Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit at the Bomb Factory on Saturday, Sept. 23.
Fort Worth recording studio Niles City Sound, founded in 2014, is best known for launching local talent Leon Bridges into the celebrity stratosphere when it recorded his debut LP, Coming Home. But this summer, the studio worked with a singer-songwriter a little further from home: 3,700 miles, to be exact.
Hampshire, England, native Frank Turner has been in Fort Worth recording songs for his forthcoming seventh album. He sought out Niles City Sound because he wanted to work with its owners, Austin Jenkins, Josh Block and Chris Vivion.
"They felt like the right people to make a record with," he told the Observer from Chicago, where he was jetlagged and preparing to start his tour with Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit. "Indeed, they were."
Turner was also interested in North Texas because of its connection to Pantera, one of his major early influences.
“They’re one of my first loves,” says Turner, who got his start in the post-hardcore band Million Dead in the early 2000s before moving on to a successful career as a solo singer-songwriter. “Pantera remains one of my all-time favorite bands. One of the things I liked about them was it was aggressive music and the lyrical content wasn’t thuggish.”
The new record is loosely inspired by politics, a frequent subject for Turner.
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“I don’t want to say that I’m making a record about the current state of American politics, per se,” he says. “[President Donald Trump] is endlessly fascinating in the way that a car crash is fascinating. The themes on the record are part inspired by that, but it’s in slightly broader strokes. It’s more about how it feels like in the parts of the world I inhabit. I’m pretty worried about it.”
For his work at Niles City Sound, Turner brought his backing band, the Sleeping Souls. They had a good experience in Fort Worth, he says.
“I loved it. It has this up-and-coming vibe to it, if I can say that without sounding too much like a real estate agent. It was full of a lot of creative people who were doing interesting things, so it was a good place to be,” he says.
Niles City Sound is housed in the same complex as concert venue Shipping & Receiving, and as Turner and his band finished recording, he played an impromptu solo show. While playing a new song called “The Sand in the Gears,” he recorded the crowd singing the chorus on his iPhone. He hopes to use the singalong on the record.
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There's no release date yet. Turner has more songs written, and he plans to return to Fort Wort to record them.
“I’m sort of taking my time with this record because it’s supposedly quite different from the previous records I have made, so I want to make sure I don’t screw them up,” he says.
While the new record is inspired by current events, Turner hopes to write it in a timeless style, which reduces the rush to get it out. He wants to follow Bob Dylan's lead.
“Dylan wrote in this deliberately timeless sort of style whereas Phil Ochs wrote in a very contemporary-specific style,” he says. “People don’t remember Phil Ochs but they do remember Bob Dylan, so there’s a lesson there somewhere.”