It has been nearly five years since Josh Turner released an album and this fact is not lost on the country singer.
“Well, I definitely feel five years older,” he tells Sounds Like Nashville with a hearty laugh, settling into a chair inside the studio at Audio Productions off Music Row in Nashville.
In the midst of back-to-back interviews during a media day in support of his forthcoming album Deep South, Turner is his usual congenial self. Dressed in a red and blue plaid button down shirt and jeans, he discusses the long journey to releasing his sixth studio album. As Turner explains, he began writing for Deep South in January of 2013. Unbeknownst to him, the record would take several years to see the light of day.
“I don’t have to explain to anybody that life can throw you some curve balls and throw things at you that you don’t expect. You just have to roll with the punches and make lemonade out of lemons sometimes,” he reasons.
Turner says some unexpected moments throughout the recording process that delayed the project included switching producers, a label merger and the constantly changing state of country music. Turner himself had some health challenges, suffering and later recovering from a torn meniscus. Though these trials affected him, he says they also helped him mature as an artist and as a person. Additionally, Turner says his passion for music never wavered.
“The one thing that I’ve really learned from these last five years is that I was put on this earth to sing. I was born to sing. That’s what I feel best doing,” he says confidently in his booming baritone. “I feel like the Lord continues to remind me that’s my purpose here. I try to cling to that and try to do that as best I can. The things that are out of my control, I put into His hands. There’s been plenty of stuff out of my control that I try not to lose sleep over. I do things that I know that I can do [and] let everything else take care of itself.”
One thing Turner is in full control of is finding the best songs he can for his album. Deep South includes 11 tracks, four of which were written by Turner, while Frank Rogers, Kenny Greenberg and Ted Greene are listed as producers on several of the songs. The album took four year to put together and while some tracks were included on the earliest stage of the album, Turner said by the time Deep South was completed in December there were updates made on several of the songs as to reflect a cohesive project.
Included on Deep South is previous single “Lay Low,” which was released in September of 2014 and peaked on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart at 25. Meanwhile, new single “Hometown Girl” marks Turner’s highest charted single since his 2012 Top 5 hit “Time Is Love,” as it currently sits in the Top 15 of Billboard’s chart. Despite being away from radio for a few years, Turner says success at radio remains important.
I’ve tried to be a great husband, father, friend and brother as best I can [and to] make a difference in this screwed up world we’re living in.
“It always feels good to have a hit,” he says with a pause. “Trying to figure that out is the hard part. You never know what the fans are going to love. You never know what radio is going to play. You just have to go with your gut, go with your heart on these songs. That way, at least at the end of the day you can lay your head on the pillow with no regrets. ‘Hometown Girl’ was a surprise to me. I didn’t think that’s the kind of song that people would be going for. They obviously love it and I’m okay with that.”
Turner says it was the melody of “Hometown Girl” that initially hooked him. He shares that he couldn’t forget the melody upon hearing the song for the first time and it kept rolling through his head. Written by Marc Beeson and Daniel Tashian, “Hometown Girl” tells the story of the perfect girl next door who never forgets where she came from.
“Her mama’s mama was born right here / And her roots run deeper than that old town square / She’s a good girl but she’s not uptight / She can rise and shine and she can hang all night,” he sings.
“I knew it had the makings of a hit. I loved what it said. We went in with a new approach,” he shares of working with Greenberg in the studio to record the song. “It just felt great. It worked out like we wanted it to. It was us maintaining what my music is all about but at the same time, taking it to a new place and making it fresh, new and different.”
One of the most striking songs on Deep South is “Wonder,” which Turner co-wrote with Mark Narmore. A memorable ballad that has Turner’s deep baritone at the forefront, he sings of being curious about how things could have turned out if he and an ex never said goodbye. The nostalgic tale has him wondering “what if?”
“I wonder, do you think about me / Flyin’ down the highway, just you and the radio / I wonder if we were still together / If we would be happy / Like we were not that long ago,” he sings on the opening verse.
Turner says “Wonder” comes from a real place and is a song that both he and his wife can relate to. While the character in the song doesn’t know exactly what his former flame is thinking or where she is, it doesn’t stop him from wondering about her and her situation.
“I think we all get nostalgic from time to time and wonder what things might have been like had we taken another turn. I feel like we got something really special when we wrote that,” he admits.
He says “Wonder” is the most honest song on the album and adds that it’s one of his wife’s favorite tracks as well.
“She loves the song. Anybody who has been through something like that can relate to that. I know for a fact that she’s sat around at times and wondered what things would have been like had she married the guy that she was dating before me,” he says of his wife. “It’s interesting to see how life takes its twists and turns and where we end up. I think most of the time, if we have our heads screwed on straight and we’re sensible about things, things end up the way that they’re supposed to.”
Turner is the epitome of a Southern gentleman and a family man through and through. When he talks about his wife of 13 years, Jennifer, and his four sons, a big smile encroaches on his face and his blue eyes light up. The protective father doesn’t reveal too much about his family life, though. While he maintains his family’s privacy in interviews and on social media, occasionally posting a Halloween photo or family picture, upon talking with Turner it is evident that he is a proud father.
Since his last album release with 2012’s Punching Bag, Turner and his wife have welcomed their fourth son into the family. Samuel Hawke was born in 2014 and joins older brothers Marion Crawford, Colby Lynch and Hampton Otis. While his wife’s time on the road with him is few and far between these days, Turner says she’s hoping to rejoin the band when the boys get older and return to her role as keyboard player and backing vocalist.
While country music has been seeing its fair share of male-female duets as of late with Carrie Underwood joining forces with Keith Urban on “The Fighter” and Elle King and Dierks Bentley with “Different For Girls,” fans shouldn’t expect a duet from Turner and his wife anytime soon.
“That’s not something that she is really after. She doesn’t really want to be in the spotlight,” he explains. “She’s totally fine with me being there.”
Music seems to run in the family at the Turner household as the singer says his sons also love music and are all good at it. However, he’s not sure if they will be following in his footsteps. “Whether or not it’s a passion or a dream of theirs, time will tell,” he reasons.
So how does Turner manage to juggle his music career and being a father to four sons? He says he takes it one day at a time. Admitting that sometimes he doesn’t quite know how to do it all, he makes it work the best he can.
The South Carolina native never wavers from his roots and says that the album’s title track summarizes what makes him who he is as a person. He penned the song by himself and “Deep South” discusses his faith, family, hobbies, food and culture of growing up in the South. He confesses that he never imagined the song would even make the album.
“It was a song I wrote sitting around having fun one day. I wanted to write about these little snapshots of things that I experienced and things that I did growing up in the deep South. I wanted to paint that picture of life growing up in the South and the simplicity of it, the culture of it, the closeness of community and church, high school sports, hunting, fishing and food. Ancestry, that pride and that heritage,” he explains. “The song is the title track because I felt like out of all the songs on this record, ‘Deep South’ was the one that summed it up the most. It encapsulates who I am and where I came from.”
“You say you’re from the planet where the tea ain’t sweet / You’ve never seen a chicken that’s fried / You’ve never been up in a big ol’ live oak tree / You’ve never heard of Charley Pride / I’m feelin’ sorry for ya ‘cause you been missin’ out / You made me realize how good my life is / Thank the Lord I’m from the Deep South,” he sings.
Turner’s Deep South is available today (March 10), and he admits that it feels like he’s promoting his first record again, explaining that a lot of time, effort, heart and soul goes into making an album.
The one thing that I’ve really learned from these last five years is that I was put on this earth to sing.
“It’s a pretty incredible feeling to know that people anywhere in the world can buy it and listen to it and make it a part of their life,” he says.
Turner plans to continue making a positive difference in people’s lives through his platform in country music. While music and singing is his obvious calling, he says he hopes to be remembered first and foremost for his faith.
“I want people to know that my faith in Jesus is my number one priority. Beyond that, my purpose was to sing and is to sing country music. I take what I do seriously but I have a lot of fun with it at the same time,” he concedes. “I’ve tried to be a great husband, father, friend and brother as best I can [and to] make a difference in this screwed up world we’re living in.”
Fans can purchase Deep South on iTunes now.