Frank Turner Talks with Billy Bragg on the Talkhouse Podcast

Can rock and roll save us all? Discuss.

On this week’s Talkhouse Podcast we’ve got two singer-songwriters who both come from the tradition of socially conscious folk-punk. One of them you could credit with inventing the genre, the other may be its most popular current proponent: Billy Bragg and Frank Turner.

Billy Bragg is a legendary British performer who came up just after the punk boom of the late 1970s and channeled that energy into the style of a solo troubadour. His early records were massively influential to all sorts of musicians, which is no surprise given their wit, their lyrical pointedness, and how beautifully they capture the spirit of youthful engagement. But that was 40 years ago, and Bragg has created an incredible body of work that’s always expanding but never losing that kernel of truth. It got really easy to catch up with the whole thing recently, as he released a massive 14-CD box set called The Roaring Forty, which you’ll hear a little bit about in this chat. Bragg also has some US dates lined up for this July. Check out a classic Bragg track right here, one that today’s other guest references in this chat. This is “Tank Park Salute.”

Frank Turner mentions that song as well as some other Bragg classics in this chat, because he’s clearly a big fan. Turner has been doing it for two decades now, and he’s an absolute road warrior: Next week will mark his 3000th gig, a big number recently aided by a world record he set in which he played 15 shows in different cities in the span of 24 hours. True to his ethic, this wasn’t a publicity stunt, but also a way to support one of the many causes he believes in—in this case the Music Venue Trust. Those shows came hot on the heels of Turner’s tenth album, Undefeated, in which he reckons a bit with getting older but remaining true to himself and the things he believes in. That feeling is perfectly encapsulated in the relatively chill “Ceasefire,” check it out.

In this great chat, Bragg and Turner talk about everything from Bragg’s first US tour to their moments of musical awakening. Turner hilariously talks about his inner 15 year old giving him shit for being successful, as well as an old punk mentor who came to see him at Wembley. They talk about how activism and understanding change over the years, and how one of Bragg’s biggest songs, “Sexuality,” has morphed in this age of trans visibility. And they talk about how music—especially live music—as a chance for communion, which is something I imagine most Talkhouse listeners can relate to. Enjoy.

Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast, and thanks to Frank Turner and Billy Bragg for chatting. If you liked what you heard, please follow Talkhouse on your favorite podcasting platform, and check out all the great stuff at This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan, and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by the Range. See you next time!

0:00 – Intro
3:00 – Start of the chat
4:58 – Where to look while you’re on stage performing
8:04 – Who’s the most famous person in Frank Turner’s phone?
16:11 – How to sustain yourself in the music industry
18:50 – Turner’s upcoming 3000th gig
24:24 – Frank’s 15-year-old inner punk judges his current chart success
29:45 – Staying true to your 25 year old self
44:58 – People choose the wrong Frank and Billy songs for their weddings

(Photo Credit: left, Jill Furmanovsky; right, Shannon Shumaker; Edited by: Keenan Kush.)

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