Afternoon all. I’ve been enjoying time off the road in London, doing history walks, writing songs and lounging in the unseasonable sunshine. Bliss.

I’ve also been clearing out some old storage units and the like, and in the process I stumbled across some old shirts. Rather than throw them out or charity-shop them, I decided it’d be a better use of my time and resources to auction them off and give the proceeds to Shelter. They’re a little shabby – showing their age – and could use a wash and an iron, but they’re bona fide bits of (my) music history. I’ve listed them up on my E-Bay site, the auctions are open now.

Go check it out.

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We made it. I’m pleased to say that at about 8am this morning I walked in through my front door, threw everything I own into the washing machine, and made myself some toast. That was quite a tour. We travelled roughly 14,763 kilometres, playing 25 shows in 14 different countries (including two I hadn’t visited before). I came home with a lovely new guitar; we lost Ronnie Corbett, Merle Haggard and Prince. We ended up with a killer set on the main stage at Groezrock Festival, during which I managed to smash my in-ear monitor earpiece inside my head; the lovely Belgian doctors got everything out and patched me up. Hats off to the Sleeping Souls, and our crew – Johnny, Cahir, Doug, Martine and Tre. We now have a few weeks off the road, which I am going to enjoy.

There’s a few things in the diary coming up – a 6 Music takeover tomorrow, a songwriting class in Camden, the show in Brixton (sold out alas). I’m also getting my knee fixed and my back-piece finished. After that we’ll be heading back to the USA. The summer run we have coming up is killer; shows across the states with Gogol Bordello, Jason Isbell, Flogging Molly, and just headlining, as well as a few festivals. Check out the dates, my American friends, and I’ll see you on the road.

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Hope In The Ruins

From Prague (which was an amazing, wonderful show) up through Poland we have wandered, and now I write from Copenhagen Airport, en route to Aarhus, Denmark. I had a day off yesterday, and spent it, with some friends, visiting the camp museum at Auschwitz Birkenau.

I’ve long nerded out about the history of Central and Eastern Europe; I read Hilberg and Gilbert when I was younger, and I have recently been devastated by Timothy Snyder’s “Bloodlands”. Even so, I’d never visited one of the camps before, and so when the opportunity to got o Auschwitz came up, I thought it was important for me to go, to be humble, to learn.

I don’t want to write a long post about the place; others have written much more eloquently than I ever will about the experience. I had one thought that I wanted to share. At one point I was in the area where they unloaded the cattle trucks and made the selections, a long dusty railway siding. There’s a solitary train car there now (not an original, as it goes; it was paid for by an Australian Holocaust survivor to commemorate his parents). As we were there, a group of Israeli school kids were hanging around, playing pranks, chatting, on their phones, generally being irreverent and not paying much attention to their impatient teacher. My initial reaction was mild horror at their open lack of respect for the place we were in. But then it occurred to me that a class of free, happy, vivacious young Jews enjoying themselves was the most wonderful sight to see in that godforsaken place.

It felt like a victory of sorts. I left there feeling weirdly optimistic. If you get a chance, you should go.

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Greetings from the wonderful city of Prague. Since my last post (from Milan), we have dipped down into the Balkans and back again. We had our first ever visit to Bratislava (and Slovakia), which was wonderful; a triumphant return to Ljubljana; and a day off and a show in Belgrade.

Belgrade was a particularly big deal for me. I studied central European history at university, and have done my best to keep up with the historiography in the meantime (in a terribly amateur fashion). My dissertation was on British policy towards Yugoslavia in the 1930s. I’d never been to Serbia before, so I was excited about it. On our day off I managed a 15 mile walk around the city seeing the sights. It was beyond fascinating – the melange of religions, nationalities, histories, all overlapping, conflicting and mixing together. I saw Hapsburg architecture peeking over brutalist facades, Byzantine walls pockmarked with German bullet-holes from 1915, beautiful orthodox churches hidden behind ugly communist malls. In the evening I was lucky enough to be wined and dined by our promoter, Vlada, his wife, and Alek, our label rep. We drank plum schnapps, ate endless meat dishes and discussed history and politics long into the night. The show the following day was a blast; all in all a great experience, one I’d be keen to repeat sometime soon.

From there we have continued up through Budapest to Prague. This morning I announced a special show in Brixton at the Electric on May 13th. It’s a solo show, I’ll be playing “England Keep My Bones” in full, plus B-sides (and probably a couple of other tunes as well). It’s a benefit for the Music Venue Trust and CALM, two great organisations deserving of your time and attention. The pre-sale for tickets starts tomorrow morning here at 9am UK time.

Predictably, the announcement caused a bit of a tizzy on this here internet thingy, and I got into some discussions on Twitter (never a brilliant idea in my experience). I wanted to lay out some thoughts here for everyone. The whole show announce thing can be very frustrating from where I stand, but it’s important for me to remind myself that not everyone is as immersed in the workings of the industry as I am, and that a little explanation from my end might do more good than getting annoyed online.

When booking a show, there are a ton of things to take into consideration. Size of venue, location, cost of hiring, ticket price, availability, age restrictions and so on. When putting together a show at short notice (like this one), it’s probably not going to be ideal, but we do our best. The choice this time is a sizeable venue (1500 tickets) that is available, in zone 2, and most importantly enables us to do a £15 ticket while still raising a whack of cash for the causes involved. The show is a club-night type affair, which alas means it’s 18+, but that’s the law in this country. I didn’t book the show myself (I’m always surprised at how many people find that surprising) but the good people who did have done their best, and an excellent job, at getting this one right.

Some people have been talking about touting. First off, that’s a wilfully negative thing to do *before the tickets have even gone on sale*. 1500 is a lot of tickets to sell for any artist, if you’re on a computer tomorrow morning you’ll more than likely be fine. Touting is, of course, a problem, one that drives me to distraction. Alas there isn’t a simple solution (except for always playing places like Ally Pally, something that isn’t an option for this show for reasons outlined above). There’s no legal barrier to it in the UK. In my experience, the best thing to do is *not to buy from touts or touting sites*. There are twitter hash-tags, there’s the forum on my site, and there’s more often than not friendly people exchanging outside the show.

None of that is perfect, obviously. The other solution I can offer is to play more shows, something I’m not exactly a slacker at. This is a one off London show – there are plenty more UK show announcements coming soon, I’ve played my home country more than anywhere else by some orders of magnitude! Of course it’s lovely to be in demand, and I’m grateful to the people who want to see me play, especially when I can turn that to a charitable end.

I guess my take-away from all of this is, let’s all try and be a little less negative online. I know, I’m hopelessly naive. But I think it’d do us all a lot of good. It’s pretty demoralising for me to announce a cool show and be inundated with complaints. We’re trying here. Stay positive. See you at a show.

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Temporary Tour Flag Adventures

Greetings from a hotel room in Milan. We’ve just arrived after a mammoth journey from Madrid, via Montpellier (and probably some other places beginning with M – I slept through as much of it as I could). Last night we celebrated Ben Lloyd’s birthday, and today I am paying for my sins.

As many of you will know, the last few years have seen a few Tour Flags at my shows. The idea is to have one that starts the tour and follows it, without being carried by me or my crew, just helping people make friends at shows, building a little community idea. It’s been great fun. Since the release of “Positive Songs”, we’ve had one tour flag with us (pictured at Ally Pally), made by the wonderful Val. It travelled the US, UK, northern Europe and Canada (and the cruise) with us, which was amazing.

Val decided that getting that flag around the European shows was too much to organise (quite understandably – I’m still slightly scared of some of the travel schedules we have coming up). So that flag has retired for now. But! But! In a lovely vindication of the principle behind the whole thing, Arabell has made a new flag, and asked me to pass on this message:

“If you see the tour flag, come by, say hi, ask us to take a picture with the flag, post it on instagram/facebook/twitter using the hashtag ‪#‎fthcflag‬ and spread the word. Get involved.
In Ljubljana we’ll meet at Kaverna Kino Siska, a bar at/in the venue in the late afternoon/early evening. In Bratislava we’ll meet at Fabrika the beer pub around 5ish, So just grab a chair and come by.

Feel free to follow the flag on twitter/instagram; we’ll try to keep the feed up to date:
07.04. Milan @federriga
09.04. Ljubljana @federriga @MySuitcaselife
10.04. Bratislava @federriga @MySuitcaselife
13.04. Budapest @turtlemarzi @jsturner89
14.04. Prague @jsturner89 @federriga
15.04. Wroclaw @jsturner89 @federriga @MySuitcaselife
16.04. Warsaw @jsturner89 @federriga @MySuitcaselife”

So, head down, make new friends, play nice. I’m going to relax into what we call “SLUG LIFE” on tour – which basically means putting on the hotel room dressing gown (if there is one) and mainlining room service and Netflix. See you at a show.

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Lo Siento Valencia, Gracias Gijón!

A blog post! Goodness me. I’ve long been planning to start blogging on here agin properly, but life keeps getting in the way. Well, there’s no time like the present, so here we go. I’m planning on posting here every week or two. Nothing special or earth-shattering, just some musings, some tour-diarising, that kind of thing. Enjoy, or don’t, as you fancy.

I write from a sterile hotel room in the outskirts of Madrid on the first day off of this tour. We started four days ago in Barcelona, and have traipsed through Valencia, Santander and Gijón in the meantime. This is our second European tour this year, and it’s the tougher of the two. Essentially, we hit the countries where we play to more than 1,000 people a show, on average, in one bout, in January; now we’re visiting places were crowds are more in the 200-500 range. This makes the technical and financial side of things more efficient, but it also means that this next few weeks will be testing for me and the Sleeping Souls.

In practice, what I’m talking about here is having no luxuries. We have a sleeper bus, it’s true, but we’re down to a minimal crew – Johnny and Cahir on the technical side of things, Tre tour-managing and Martine on merch. We’re using in-venue showers (usually pretty dire), we’re loading in and loading out ourselves, we’re running our own monitors, and so on; everyone has to muck in.

“My diamond slippers are chafing!” I hear you cry. And yes, this is all pretty first-world-problem stuff. Interestingly, it reminds me of tours we did back in 2008 or so in the UK, around “Love Ire & Song”. The difference, I suppose, is that we’ve gotten used to the luxuries of full crew and the extra comforts that bigger venues can afford. We’ve also gotten older and creakier. In a funny way, I’m enjoying the tour because of this. I think it’s reminding me how good I usually have it, and it’s giving me and the band a refresher course in being punk-rock touring machines.

There’s another angle to all this, which is what prompted the idea of a blog post. Playing big shows to rapturous sold-out crowds is wonderful, of course. But you get used to it. With every tour, you have to adjust a little to the setting – whether you’re headline or support, how big the shows are, that kind of thing. At the start of this run I was a little down about some of the shows – in Gijón, for example, we’d only sold about 50 tickets in advance. I’ve become accustomed to playing to larger crowds, and somewhere inside myself I was a little deflated about all this. At the show in Valencia, I was less connected that I like to be for a show, and I should apologise for that.

But, over time, that’s where this tour has been great, because the shows have reminded me to get the fuck over myself. When I was starting touring, in Million Dead, we used to idolise Black Flag, and Henry Rollins’ book “Get In The Van“, where they talked about giving everything you have even if there’s only one person in the audience. That person paid for a show, and goddammit, they deserve one. In Gijón last night (98 people in the room in total!) I was reminded of the wisdom of that approach. Forget the numbers, the facilities, the size of the room; it all comes down to you and an audience, and your job is to communicate, to connect, to create something collective. Last night we did.

So in general, this tour is ace, I’m learning, or relearning, and seeing new things, meeting new people, making the most of it. From here (Madrid) we go across to Italy, thence Slovenia, our first stops in Slovakia and Serbia (which my inner history nerd is having palpitations about), up through Budapest, Prague, Poland and into Scandinavia, by which time I hope to have blogged some more. See you down the front.

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US in-store shows

Ladies and gentlemen! I’m very excited to announce I’ll be playing a series of intimate in-store shows during my US tour in September and October.

Check out the full list below to see if I’ll be swinging by your local emporium. All you have to do for tickets is pick up my new album ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’ from the relevant store. First come first served.

If you have already purchased a copy of the album from one of these stores, you will still be eligible for a wristband, please bring your receipt.

I’ll be playing live and signing albums at each date – looking forward to seeing you all.

26th Sep – 2pm – Newbury Comics – Boston, MA
29th Sep – 5pm – Rough Trade – Brooklyn, NY
3rd Oct – 2pm – The Sound Garden – Baltimore, MD
7th Oct – 6pm – Electric Fetus – Minneapolis, MN
9th Oct – 7pm – Twist & Shout – Denver, CO
15th Oct – 7pm – Easy Street Records – Seattle, WA
17th Oct – 2pm – Music Millennium – Portland, OR
24th Oct – 2pm – Fingerprints – Long Beach, CA
25th Oct – 2pm – Zia Records – Phoenix, AZ
27th Oct – 6.30pm – Waterloo Records – Austin, TX
28th Oct – 6.30pm – Good Records – Dallas, TX
29th Oct – 6.30pm – Cactus Music – Houston, TX

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Positive Songs For Negative People out now

The day of judgement has arrived! Well, the day of release of my new record at any rate. Ladies, gentlemen, friends, it is with great pleasure and humble hope that I offer you ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’, my sixth studio album.

I threw everything I’ve got into this one, and with the help of The Sleeping Souls and Butch Walker, I think it might be a good one. I hope you agree. Enjoy.

If you haven’t already you can buy it from iTunes here

Or get the deluxe edition (featuring a bonus disc of acoustic tracks) or the limited edition picture disc at the official store here.

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Next month I’ll be visiting some of the nation’s finest music retailers to play live and celebrate the launch of ‘Positive Songs For Negative People’.

Please come out and support our remaining record stores.

See below for more details on how to attend.

06.08.15 – Banquet Records, Kingston More Info
07.08.15 – HMV, London More Info
10.08.15 – HMV, Manchester More Info
11.08.15 – Rise Music, Worcester More Info
11.08.15 – Rise Music, Bristol More Info
12.08.15 – Rough Trade, Nottingham More Info
13.08.15 – Resident Music, Brighton More Info

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Let’s announce some tour dates then, shall we?

Myself and the Sleeping Souls will be coming to America in September and October of this year, ably supported by Skinny Lister and Beans On Toast.

(These are in addition to the Boston and New York Shows previously announced)

Don’t panic if your town (or indeed state) isn’t on here; travel, make new friends and wend your way to your nearest gig.

An exclusive fan pre-sale starts in just four hours, keep ’em peeled…
Sat 19 – Pittsburgh, PA Mr. Smalls
Sun 20 – Toronto, ON Riot Fest
Tue 22 – Syracuse, NY Lost Horizon
Wed 23 – Burlington, VT Higher Ground
Fri 25 – Boston, MA House of Blues – SOLD OUT
Sat 26 – Boston, MA House of Blues
Mon 28 – New York, NY Irving Plaza – SOLD OUT
Tue 29 – New York, NY Irving Plaza – SOLD OUT
Wed 30 – New York, NY Irving Plaza

Fri 02 Philadelphia, PA The Fillmore
Sat 03 Baltimore, MD Ram’s Head Live
Sun 04 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
Tue 06 Chicago, IL House of Blues
Wed 07 Minneapolis, MN The Varsity Theater
Fri 09 Denver, CO The Ogden Theatre
Sat 10 Boulder, CO The Boulder Theater
Mon 12 Salt Lake City, UT Urban Lounge
Tue 13 Boise, ID Knitting Factory
Thu 15 Seattle, WA The Neptune
Fri 16 Spokane, WA Knitting Factory
Sat 17 Portland, OR Roseland Theater
Mon 19 Sacramento, CA Ace of Spades
Tue 20 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
Thu 22 Los Angeles, CA The Mayan
Fri 23 San Diego, CA House of Blues
Sat 24 Anaheim, CA House of Blues
Sun 25 Phoenix, AZ The Press Room
Tue 27 Austin, TX Emos
Wed 28 Dallas, TX House of Blues
Thu 29 Houston, TX House of Blues

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