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Josh Turner Talks New Music, Speeding Home for Church and the Good and Bad in Meeting Your Heroes

Josh Turner
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

2012 will be Josh Turner‘s 10th year in the music business. His next album will be his fifth. Few are surprised he’s made it this far, because it was clear from the moment ‘Long Black Train’ debuted in 2003 that Turner wasn’t just another newcomer swimming around lost in a sea of identities. He was confident in his voice, his songs and his faith from the moment he arrived in Nashville.

It’s clear he’s as driven today as he was then. Three sons and a wife haven’t stole his focus from the music; he’s just found more time to be the best father, husband, songwriter and singer God will allow. Turner tells Taste of Country he’s halfway through his fifth album, and that he’s trying new ways to write and record in an effort to keep fans interested. He’s only 33, after all — far too young to hang up his guitar and aviator sunglasses to retire as a stay-at-home dad.

This Saturday you’re playing with Josh Thompson at WKDQ/WBKR’s Taste of Country concert in Henderson, Kentucky. On the surface you couldn’t find two guys more different, but have you found artists like that who you’ve come to actually have a lot in common with?
Yeah, I was on the Alan Jackson ‘Freight Train’ tour with Chris Young, and he and I got to know each other a little bit. He came across one way, and then when I got to know him he seemed very down to earth and fun and had a great sense of humor … When he first started, first came out, it was the whole ‘Nashville Star’ thing and I didn’t really know what to think of that. But he’s really come a long way and really done a great job in this business, and continues just to play country music. He’s just a good guy and treats his fans really well. And we had some fun playing basketball out on the road, too.

Your duet with Randy Travis on his 25th anniversary album was a highlight on a very good album. How did that come together?
I had heard that Randy was in the process of doing a duet record, and I hadn’t heard anything from them and my management. They kept asking me, “Do you want us to pursue this?” And I said, “Absolutely not. I want them to come to me [laughs].”

We waited it out, and luckily enough Randy asked for me to be on there. And come to find out I was actually one of the first ones they called. What was funny about it was I had just finished making my ‘Haywire’ record and there was a song that had been pitched to me called ‘T.I.M.E.,’ and we already finished my record and I loved the song but … I had to let it go. So that was hard for me to do. When I got asked to do the Randy project they started throwing some songs at me and the second song they sent my way was ‘T.I.M.E.’

It was just an honor and a dream come true for me to be on that record because obviously Randy is a big hero of mine and a friend of mine.

How has meeting your heroes shaped how you treat fans and young artists who now look to you as the hero?
Meeting my heroes obviously has been one of the highlights of my career, just because they’re very responsible for me being here. They’re the ones who inspired me and motivated me to leave everything I knew to come to a town where I didn’t know anything and didn’t know anybody. If was definitely a career highlight for me to meet guys like Randy Travis and John Anderson and Johnny Cash, and even Vern Gosdin.

They’ve been what I expected and more because they’re just very humble, very down to earth and just real people. And I’ve seen how they treat people and that’s obviously been an example to me. I’ve always tried to treat people with respect, but when I see my heroes doing the same thing it just makes me realize why they’ve been around for so long.

Have there been any of your heroes who you’ve met and the experience wasn’t as good as you’d hoped?
Oh, absolutely. There’s been quite a few [laughs]. And that’s been another thing that set an example for me. It makes me realize how I don’t want to be and how I don’t ever want to treat my fans or other artists or whatever. It’s surprising, too, when I meet artists like that — I get to thinking, “How in the world are they having success? Why do people like them?”

Is there someone you have lined up or in mind for a duet on your next album?
I don’t have any true duets planned for my next record, but we do have some interesting collaborations.

Can you share any details or give us an idea of what to expect?
I can’t give a whole lot of details, but I will say that it’s right down the middle of what you would expect from a Josh Turner record. I’ve done a lot of songwriting for this record. I spent the whole first half of the year this year working toward creating material for it. And that part of it has been really fun for me. I’ve tried to branch out and write some different stuff and even write with different people just to try to continue to explore that side of me. That’s probably the most I can share at the moment, but like I say, we don’t even have a timeline right now on the first single or anything.

Would you ever consider a duet or collaboration with your wife on an album?
We’ve thought about it, but we don’t feel like right now is the time for that.

What has parenting three boys taught you to appreciate about how your parents raised you?
How much of a sacrifice they made in their life and how much responsibility they have. And how much you learn from your children. I’ve heard people say that you learn more from your children than they learn from you, and that’s very true.

It’s definitely good to have that perspective and to have them around still too for me to be able to ask, “Was I like this when I was that age?” [laughs].

As a songwriter, is it difficult to accept that someone else’s songs may be a better fit for your record than you’re own?
Sometimes, but I’ve always been of the mindset that I’m gonna choose the best songs, regardless of who wrote ‘em. I think it’s very important that my record has songs on it that I did write because to me I feel like that’s the way for fans to really see and hear who I am and what I’m about — especially those songs that I write by myself. I think those are very essential to my records. In some ways it’s kind of a window to my soul.

Is there someone you can trust as an outside opinion who’ll tell you, “Josh, maybe you need to work on that song a little more” or “Maybe that song is not quite all you think it is?
Yeah, my producer Frank Rogers has always been very honest with me about stuff like that. There’s been a time or two we’ve had some knock-down, drag-outs, but we’re very honest with each other. And a lot of times he’s right and I really listen to him because he comes at it with a fresh perspective and he’s not emotionally attached to it like I am.

When you’re on the road on Sunday mornings, how do you work church into your schedule?
Sometimes we don’t. But I’ve gotten to the point in my career now where we try to make sure we have Sundays open so we can get home in time for church … Sometimes that takes some, uh … driving skills on behalf of my driver [laughs] to get us home in time, but yeah, we actually made it home in time this past Sunday. It was the first time we’d been in a little while.

Would you ever find a church on the road to visit?
We’ve talked about that for 10 years and it just never has felt right. Especially doing what I do. It would be a little awkward, especially knowing that I have to do a show that night.

Watch the Josh Turner ‘I Wouldn’t Be a Man’ Video

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