Twenty Questions with Indie Awards Winner JUNIOR TURNER!
Junior Turner launched himself in 2010 when he entered a competition to release a national single for BBC’s Children in Need. He went on to win the competition out of 110,000 applicants and then shot to national fame when he recorded and released a cover version of the world famous “The Impossible Dream”. Whilst promoting his BBC single he had handed out demo recordings including a self-penned track called “Say Goodbye”. In due course he received a phone call from war veteran’s charity “Help for Heroes” co-founder Bryn Parry, asking if they could use this song for their charity.
In April 2011 Junior Turner released “Say Goodbye” in support of Help for Heroes. The next year he recorded his first ever official 1Radio UK newcomers’ chart number 1 single, with “Loveblind” featuring Jess Wood. He then went on to follow that up with a further two more 1Radio number 1 singles with ‘Sweet Love’ and “Hurt” featuring Robbie Williams guitarist Neil Taylor.
In the meantime Junior Turner also released his ‘critically acclaimed’ debut album ‘Under Scrutiny’, and followed it up in 2013 with the release of ‘Better Day’ which has had rave reviews in the UK and in the USA.
In 2014 Junior decided to go back to his strongest asset, his voice, with his first release a power ballad that again could easily be related to, with ‘Save Me’. Again it rocketed to number 1 in several USA state charts and was about to take Junior to the next step. In April this year, Junior picked up ‘Best Pop Song’ at the indie musician prestigious awards ceremony for ‘The Indie Music Channel’. This was seen and recognized by a lot of fellow professionals and music personnel around the globe as a huge achievement which may just open the next door to the next chapter in his career.
We recently caught up with Junior Turner to get a one-on-one glimpse of what makes this extraordinary talent tick in the vibrant indie industry.
- How long have you been in the music business and how did you get started in the first place?
JUNIOR TURNER: I have been singing since I was 13 years old. My father used to be a local disc jockey and we had a karaoke machine which when not used was kept in our home. So I used to set it up and have a sing when no one was home. Then eventually one night I went to work with my dad and he had a live singer on with him and he lost his voice so I was sitting in the background and asked if I could sing, everyone looked shocked as nobody had heard me or believed me, so reluctantly and with anxiety on their face they agreed. So up I got 13 year old and sang my heart out, the audience went crazy, my real name is David like my dad so the audience when I was finished began chanting ‘Junior, Junior’ and thats where it all began
- Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
JUNIOR TURNER: Like I said prior my father was a disc jockey so my ear was surrounded from a very young age by a vast array of music from opera to rock. So I have so many but if forced for names then a few of them that spring to mind would be ….. michael bolton, marvin gaye, ray charles, luther vandross.
- Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anyone of these that you’d like to collaborate with?
JUNIOR TURNER: Currently I am digging Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran they are really making music that I wish I had written and recorded. Either one of these I would jump at the chance to collaborate with for sure
- Have you suffered any ‘resistance’ or skepticism from within the industry and fellow artists, and if so how have you handled that?
JUNIOR TURNER: There is always a school of thought that will remain as sceptics no matter how far you go or how much success you gather on the way. But it is healthy to have them as in the back of your mind as you write and record they ensure that the final product is as good as it can be to try and make them love you too. I always take criticism whether positive or negative and turn it into adjustments or forward into my next release for them to notice and hopefully comment on that my lesson has been learned and acknowledged. But so far I have been ok and everyone seems to like what I am doing.
- Do you consider video an important part in promoting and marketing your music and where can fans find your latest releases?
JUNIOR TURNER: I do but unfortunately in the world we live in piracy rules and this is not healthy for the music industry and artists in it let alone indie artists with only their own bank accounts to support them. Releasing a video with the full song then people use these websites to strip the mp3 from the video and they don’t bother going over to a digital music distribution website and pay very little to help support the artist continue to make more music. It is sad so now my own structure is to release a snippet but enough for the listener to judge what the track is about and hopefully in turn want more enough to go and buy the full track when it is released. Then once the track is starting to grow old a few weeks after release then release the full video. It is sad I know but this is why musicians and labels are dropping like flies currently. People can check out my videos at www.youtube.com/junior271102
- Studio recordings or performing live in front of an audience, which of these do you prefer most and why?
JUNIOR TURNER: Live performance is always the best as you have a crowd and the adrenaline and this is something that has taken me a while to try and recreate in the studio to ensure that 110% of me comes out and into the recordings.
- Tell us something about your lyrics and music production on your releases. Do you write and compose all of them, and do you work with other writers and composers?
JUNIOR TURNER: I write all of my own lyrics, I am not musically gifted in terms of playing music so I mainly write, record an acapella version of the track send it to producers I know for maybe 3 or 4 different music ideas then start from their get the track and then into the studio. god bless the power of the internet. But sometimes I also go into the studio, Broadwater studios, here in Newcastle, UK and they have some guys there Gav Richards, Paul Worthington who have their own band and are multi instrument gifted musically and sometimes we start from scratch and build a track that way. So I am very fortunate that I can score the goals but I have someone to pass me the ball ha ha.
- On which of your songs do you think you delivered your personal best performance so far, from an emotional and technical point of view?
JUNIOR TURNER: ‘Different Worlds’ the latest release followed closely by ‘Save Me’. Different Worlds was written and recorded while the story of the song was still happening in my life. So normally I write retrospectively about a subject and record it but here I was writing it and recording it and still going through this whole scenario. But this lent itself to make the song so much more as I was able to encapsulate the raw feelings and emotion without having to search within myself for them. Also the same lent itself technically to the song as the sad parts were genuinely sad and the angry parts likewise, so yes Different Worlds just wins that one
- Which ingredient do you think makes you special and unique as a performing artist in a genre overflowing with new faces and ideas?
JUNIOR TURNER: I write from the heart, I write in open tense so the listener can relate and adopt the song to make it feel its them the song is talking about and more so I always like to have a hook melody in there that is easy to remember and not leave you for days after first hearing the song.
- If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
JUNIOR TURNER: Desire to know that there is something there that I know from looking at the competition I can take and I am not taking it until I have it. I am not too sure what it is but I am sure there will be a feeling of self-gratification the day it arrives then I will walk away but until then I am fighting every day to find it. But also you have to be thick skinned and willing to listen, learn and adjust to remain in this race too.
- Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
JUNIOR TURNER: I love writing and recording it is a spiritual experience of sole euphoria in a moment of madness ha ha. Getting a release of something or someone from your mind that no matter how many conversations or other methods of trying to deal with eradicate it fails, then music comes along and ‘poof’ gone. The discouraging part is trying to get people to sit up and listen without coming across as self-sure and cocky because of it. Self-confidence is one thing but when magnified too far can become a weapon of self-destruction. Also the UK radio format annoys me immensely, we have playlists formatted by companies or individuals who choose to play the same 10 or 11 tracks over and over and leave no room or desire to even want to introduce let alone listen to indie artists and bands. The day radio playlists are destroyed then then the people on these FM mainstream stations can then call themselves DJ’s as until then they are button pushers paying songs they are forced to play so how do they have a unique identity as a DJ whilst playing music that primarily would not be their own desired choices.
- Tell us something about your songwriting process. What usually comes first the lyrics or the beats?
JUNIOR TURNER: Lyrics every time, whether in the car looking out of the window on a day out to being in a store you may see something or hear something and the mind goes like a train building this jigsaw in the mind next thing the phone is out recording ideas using the voice recorder app. but I love to indulge also into other peoples worlds, conversations, memories, personalities, clever things they may say then use them in songs. The same goes for reading books they hold many great lyric ideas.
- You music has top class productions. How do you achieve your sound? Do you work from a home recording environment or do you use a professional sound studio?
JUNIOR TURNER: Broadwater studios, Newcastle UK. They are my 2nd family Dez, Gav and Paul are amazing people, multi versatile talented musicians. But more so I trust them implicitly with my music they never guide me wrong and always have my best interests at heart. We work together until we are all happy not just one of us. But we seem to all be on the same page with every project which again makes it a smooth process. It is a wonderful relaxing place and I think again that helps to make the music so much more when there is no pressure from the environment where you can just be yourself.
- The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
JUNIOR TURNER: Be yourself, go with your instinct and let the rest take care of itself was once told to me and I put into practice when earlier this year the label that I was with were trying to get me to release a standard pop song that had no real connection to me and I on the other hand was sitting there with ‘Save Me’ written and was adamant it would work and take me to the next level in my career …went with my instinct …… won the award in Hollywood …enough said. The one bit of advice given to me that I didn’t take was a few years ago when first starting out as a professional recording artist someone told me ‘there will be many knives sharpened using your spine be careful who you trust, they put themselves first and eventually you will see that’. I have seen it many times now with so called labels and producers taking many pounds from my pocket that now could have been spent otherwise and may have put me a little further forward sooner, but then again its like life ….no mistakes just lessons to learn from and move forward.
- How Did the ‘BBC’s Children in Need’ and ‘Help for Heroes’ projects come about and what effects have they had on your career?
JUNIOR TURNER: BBC was by accident really I was on a radio show for a local BBC station and was mentioned to me. I did as asked handed in a demo and then the next thing I am on a video shoot with Pudsey Bear and talking and meeting people that I never dreamt was possible prior to it happening. The time I was given by them for the studio was more than enough and I decided to ask to record some demo tracks that I had written. In time whilst promoting the BBC track we were handing out the demos too and one fell into the hands of the war veterans charity ‘Help for Heroes’. Then again as soon as the BBC project ended I was back on a video shoot and promoting this song to the nation which was unreal. I think overall they helped me build a wonderful bio to allow me to stay in this world of professional music and let me a learn a lot at a very early stage which doesn’t happen to many. So for that I am forever grateful
- Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
JUNIOR TURNER: I am very open minded when it comes to ‘other artists’ as for me if you have the talent to even step on a stage in karaoke then you have my respect for being there and making the effort it takes a lot to do. So again whether or not I like their music or don’t like it I do not deserve an opinion for they have the confidence to be there and the desire to want to be heard which for me deserves applause and credit. Social media has allowed for Indie artists to be heard and given them a platform from which to make or break it but again it takes effort and desire. I think there is only so long you can survive being a copy and paste artist you need to be real and let people in a little to see you aren’t a robot just there to bore them with sales propaganda. The strong survive for me and that’s what matters
- How did you get about working with Robbie Williams guitarist, Neil Taylor?
JUNIOR TURNER: The blessing that is social media believe it or not. I just took it upon myself to be courteous and upon him accepting my friend request I messaged him to thank him and tell him I was a fan of not only him being in Robbie’s band but I had heard some of his solo stuff and was very impressed. The conversation then took place and I told him of my music and he asked me to send over some demo tracks for which I did. He automatically came back and said ‘Hurt’ was a track he could hear Robbie singing and asked if I minded him laying down some guitars for it for which I was like ‘really ?!?!?!?!’ next thing was in the studio recording Hurt with Neil Taylor on guitar wow !!!
- It’s hard to disguise the fact that your amazing voice does have a very similar sound and tone, to that of Robbie Williams. Do you consider this as an advantage or as a disadvantage for your musical career?
JUNIOR TURNER: It is a compliment to be compared to someone who sold out knebworth to thousands of people has had several number 1’s and is worth millions. If he is doing something right and I am being compared to him then that suits me tenfold. But I am still me and Robbie is Robbie, I don’t go chasing that compliment I do my days work put it out there and then it is up to the listener. I have a lot of my friendlies on social media follow me because of the track with Neil Taylor and they are massive Robbie fans and they have mentioned it and they dig my music for me which works too and I love it.
- You have now won many indie music awards. What do you think is the biggest barrier you still have to face and overcome as an indie artist, in your quest to achieve your goals and wider spread success?
JUNIOR TURNER: Errrrr it would have been to achieve success in the UK in some fashion but for now the rest of the world is more open in terms of not having formatted playlists so there is greater opportunities out there and it seems to come with its rewards and awards so as long as that is the case then that is the areas where I will choose to trade. To achieve the award in Hollywood was mind blowing and now I have several more nominations which I am a mix of excited, nervous and hopeful about and as long as I am in them pots of names when they come around year in year out and the fan base and area of awareness for my music grows and people want the music then I will be around and happy to accept that as a form of success that fulfills my own need and desire.
- What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do EVER, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
JUNIOR TURNER: Sell my soul and music for a shot of full time worldwide fame. I was on a reality tv show last year and made it to what was the next round would have been tv finals. At which point the tv producers showed me a contract and said before we film you need to sign this and briefly told me it was a tv release disclosure and such. I asked for time to view it and again they tried to jokingly reassure me that all was fine and just to sign it and I was going to make it for sure and I was delaying this happening. I again asked for time and contacted a legal friend to whom I photographed the document using my phone and sent it over for him to check. Basically I was signing over my back catalogue of songs for any of the judges to use if they wished with me having no claim to it, my rights to perform thereafter were handed to the show as well as several other factors that made me no more than a circus animal dancing to their tune. Lesson well and truly learnt even when they guaranteed me a place on tv with what they called ‘an excellent chance’ of winning the whole show.
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