Sing for your sorrow, your wisdom, your rage, sing out…
(Pass It Along ~ Frank Turner, 2011)
In another blog post I recently hesitated to use the term “Frank Turner has changed my life”, because at that time I thought that sounds a bit wacky. And it’s not like he actually – personally and directly – has orchestrated some major change in my life since I accidentally saw him and the Sleeping Souls on TV during the Southside Festival 2013. But in so many small and sometimes not so small ways, he has had an impact on my life of course. With his lyrics. His music. His live shows. With the way he makes me think or questions my way of thinking about politics and/or religion. With the way he interacts with us fans. With all the things I did and all the people I’ve met, because I love going to his shows. So why should I be embarrassed to say it like it is? Yes, Frank Turner has changed my life. In so many small and sometimes not so small ways.
How exactly, you might wonder. Let’s see… For starters: I use the term “fuck(ing)” much more generously than 4 years ago. His mum will not be pleased about that ;-) But, seriously, there are the obvious changes: the amount of shows I’ve seen him play over the last four years. The miles I’ve travelled to see him in Stockholm or Edinburgh or Strasbourg. The many lovely people I’ve met over the years online and offline. The music he introduced me to by choosing his support bands. But everything we do and experience in life and everyone we meet changes us in some ways, doesn’t it? That’s what life is all about, right? I’m sorry, if I’m getting a bit philosophical here now. It’s just not easy to discern how much of the change in the past few years I can really ascribe to being a fan of Frank and his music and to everything I’ve experienced through it. And how much of the changes would have happened anyway, because of other influences? Job and my co-workers. Non-music-related trips I’ve taken. Things I’ve read. People I’ve met. Healthy habits I’ve tried to incorporate in my life. Life in general… ?
The biggest impact on my life I can definitely ascribe to Frank himself was (and probably forever will be) that all of a sudden there were these songs – these words to be exact – that touched me on so many levels, because I could relate to so many of the emotions or situations he was singing about. I’ve liked other songs / songwriters before and I was moved by other songs and other words before. But none ever managed it in the way Frank did and still does. Of course he has also written a few songs I don’t care much about and songs that are catchy tunes, but mainly are (just) fun to sing and dance along to. But he has also written so many songs which I still listen to in awe, because these words express what I feel or have felt at some point so much better than I ever could. It has been disconcerting sometimes, because when I look at Frank’s life and mine, it seems like we don’t have a lot in common. Neither from how we grew up nor from the way we both live of our lives now. And still… often enough through his music I feel like Frank gets “it”. That in a way he gets me. So many times his music makes me feel understood. It makes me feel not alone in this scary, messy, complicated existence we all live in. So many times some of his songs are a huge comfort to me. And just as often, other songs help to cheer me up. They motivate me to do better. To be better. To Get Better ;-). So many of his songs are a huge source of inspiration and therefore mean the world to me.
"When you're out there floundering, like a lighthouse I will shine – Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind" ____ The more I listen to this song on YouTube the more I fall in love with it. It's such a beautiful tune and the lyrics just take my breath away. I have a thing for everything nautical and especially for lighthouses. Thus it fills my heart with pure joy that @frankturner chose this metaphor here. What can I say? I'm a fan. I've got the St. Christopher 5 years ago, when I bought my first own car. That's down to my mum's traditional Catholic influence, I guess. The tiny lighthouse I brought back from Brighton in May. Fangirl that I am, I'm honestly a bit thrilled that somehow both items are linked to Frank in my mind now. [In case you're wondering why I'm so chatty today… I need to pass time till movers show up at the new office space] #frankturner #singer #songwriter #musician #music #folk #punk #poet #poetry #lyrics #fangirling #memories #entertainer #wordart #lighthouse #stchristopher
“Be More Kind” is the best example for all of this right now. One of the many things I still don’t like about myself is, that I’m often pre-emptively defensive, because I expect others to “attack” me in any kind of way. I know this stems back to low self-esteem, tons of self-doubt, anxieties and such. All of this often makes me guarded and close-minded and I really don’t like that about myself. I’m trying to change that and I’m trying to be more open and to be more kind in my approach to others, but also more kind towards myself. More forgiving. Less judgemental. It might sound weird to some people, but after just a few days of hearing that song I’ve now got these few words permanently stored in my mind. By now it’s easy to tap into that and “hear” “Be more kind, my friends, try to be more kind”, whenever I need to calm down a bit or mentally have to take a step back while interacting with other people. There are so many more lyrics from other songs over the last few years that have (had) a similar effect on me and that’s definitely a direct and positive change in my life I can ascribe to Frank and for which I’m very, very grateful.
When I got back from the Lost Evenings Festival in May I wrote a post about comfort zones and confidence and what Frank Turner has got to do with both. I don’t want to reiterate that here in length. But after staying on my own at his gigs for the first two years (self-esteem, self-doubt and all that) it was a huge step for me to reach out to find some gig buddies online or to volunteer for a FTHC Flag stint at the German tour last year. It still doesn’t come naturally to me to meet up and chat with other fans. But… it’s gotten a whole lot easier by now, not just at the Lost Evenings in London, but also at the last show I’ve been to in Erlangen, Germany last Sunday. Maybe it’s a learning curve after all. Once you feel more confident around the people in a certain social environment (here: Frank Turner audience) it gets easier to talk to the people around you and the easier it gets to talk to people the more confident you become? Maybe by now I have just finally found “my” tribe among the Frank Turner fans. I don’t know…. In other social situations – work, vacation, parties – I also sometimes feel more confident than I did a couple of years ago, but I have no idea how much that influences my way of interacting with unknown people at a Frank Turner gig or if it is the other way around? Chicken and egg problem? Either way, I’m glad I’ve overcome a part of that social anxiety or whatever you want to name it.
The other thing I mentioned in the comfort zone post was, how during the one-hour talk at the festival Frank talked about how he had to learn to be more gregarious when he started out touring on his own. Which brings me back to the “Do Frank and I have anything in common at all?” question. Because it’s these kind of talks or interviews where every once in a while I glimpse a part of his personality, which make it so obvious to me, why I can relate so much to many of his lyrics. Why I feel that he gets it/me. Whether it’s him talking during this Lost Evenings Talk about the conscious effort it took on his part, to be more outgoing and social when he was younger. Or a few moments during the talk at the Cambridge Union in 2014 (which is an hour worth watching if you haven’t done it yet) At some point during that he still can’t quite believe his own success so far and states “I’m reasonably confident, that it’s not going to last” and when questioned about this mindset he replies “being a pessimist in life, you’re occasional pleasantly surprised”. My reaction back then was “Woah, that’s pretty much like I feel about a lot of things in life, too!” I knew from all his lyrics that he must have felt something similar to how I have felt in certain situations, but it’s still been a comfort to hear it confirmed from the man himself.
From many interviews I’ve watched and from the way he acts on stage and the way I experience him interact with us fans (online and offline) and probably with literally everyone he meets I also consider Frank himself a huge inspiration. He is kind. He is down-to-earth. He is thoughtful. He treats everyone with the same kind of respect. He cares about issues, not just by singing about it, but also by raising awareness and support for it. Did I mention his kindness? Is it weird that I feel the need to stress this so much :-) ? Anyway, in a lot of ways, especially when it comes to interacting with other people, I definitely consider him an example to live up to. And yes I know, even Frank can be and has been and will be a jerk on occasion and might treat people less nicely than they deserve. We all do that. But in general I consider him an inherently kind and good person. And I’m so very glad that he is, because if he had turned out to be an arrogant jerk in real life, I probably wouldn’t have been able to be such a dedicated fan and experience so much joy through his music and gigs.
Which leaves one last impact I have to mention, if I want this to be a somewhat honest post about all the change Frank has brought about my life so far. And this leads me back to the whole self-esteem, self-doubt issues, I’ve mentioned somewhere above. Sorry, if this post isn’t as stringent as I had aimed it to be, but it’s not easy to untangle all my thoughts and emotions here. I have to do a quick throwback to a time in my life (1998 – 2008 or so) when I had an active role in a German TV fandom, running a fan-website, getting in touch with the two stars, being an extra on their TV shows and so on. After a while these two TV stars started to know and remember me (face, name etc) and in a way of course I wanted them to, because I was a huge fan! I loved what they did, they were (and still are) very lovely and kind people. I was a young woman with tons of self-esteem issues and self-doubts and anxieties and constantly seeking “external validation”, which I think is the correct psychological term for it. From everyone around me really, but obviously from these two TV stars as well. And it was nerve-racking, because no matter how helpful and kind and generous they were towards me, I was still worrying and thinking self-deprecating thoughts and constantly second-guessing everything. That negative thinking stopped after a few years – Thank God! – but I have to admit that it probably only stopped, because they continued to be kind and friendly and generous towards me. They made me feel like they saw me and liked me. And thus I had gotten the approval and validation I was looking for. For an ordinary person with a healthy dose of self-confidence this must sound quite crazy. And it is. I know, it is. But I’ve been working on it.
I hadn’t expected to go through something similarly nerve-racking with any other artist ever again in my life. And I’m happy to say that it hasn’t been like this with Frank these past few years. At least not in the nerve-racking, angst-ridden, feeling-physically-ill-about-stuff kind of way it had been for me on many occasions 15 years ago. Maybe it’s been different with Frank, because of what I’ve learned about myself and how I should act and react in any fandom context? Maybe because I feel (a bit) more self-confident and comfortable with myself. Hopefully, because I’m seeking less approval and validation from someone who isn’t a part of my real life, like family and friends or co-workers.
Or to put it more bluntly: Because I really shouldn’t give a damn about what Frank Turner thinks of me.
But… in a way, of course I do. Maybe, because his music and his lyrics make me feel some kind of connection through our similar experiences / emotions? Maybe, because I think this connection will last longer through some kind of personal one-on-one-interaction? I honestly haven’t quite figured out why yet, and trust me I’ve been thinking about it, especially in regards to all my experiences from that other fandom and how I think I have changed over the years. Why haven’t I been satisfied with the first photo and autograph I got in September 2013? Why do I try to keep catching Frank after the show? I don’t even care much about photo and autograph, that has always been just the start of a conversation for me. So why do I want to keep chatting with Frank for a bit?
But the most honest question probably should be: Why does it make me feel so good, that Frank by now seem to remember my name and has recently (Strasbourg, Erlangen) started greeting me with a hug? Why on earth does that matter to me? I guess, I’m not quite over the whole external validation thing after all. And to give you a full insight into my warped way of thinking, let me tell you, that I feel kind of bad for even mentioning this here, because I’m afraid it looks like I’m showing off. And because I’m afraid by mentioning it I’m hurting the feelings of anyone whom he doesn’t remember by name (yet).
My mind seems a pretty messed up place sometimes, right? But I’m happy to say that I can process all of these thoughts and emotions with at least a bit of detachment. I’m happy to notice, that I don’t react to all these fandom-related experiences and events on such an emotional, anxious and visceral level as I did 15 years ago. I do feel a bit anxious about writing so openly about my emotions and reactions here right now. But then I try to remember how much I appreciate Frank’s honesty in his songwriting about all kinds of experiences. And I thought “Fuck it! (Frank’s influence again! *g*) If I can’t be at least a bit honest in this “Frank Turner Changed My Life” post, I have no right to even write it.” I owe myself (and him) that much….