Josh Turner may not be the most recognizable name in Nashville’s country music industry. But the same can’t be said for many of the singer-songwriter’s tunes.
The Grammy-nominated vocalist penned and recorded the song, “Time Is Love,” which was the most-played country song of 2012, according to Billboard’s Year-End chart. In fact, the 38-year-old husband and father of four sons has been turning out hits since the release of “Long Black Train” in 2003. Charting songs include “Your Man,” “Would You Go With Me,” “Firecracker,” “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” “All Over Me,” “Find Me a Baby” and “Me and God.”
Turner will bring his rich, baritone voice and collection of hit songs at 8 p.m. May 27 to the Silver Legacy Resort’s Grande Exposition Hall. He’s excited to be bringing a new song, “Hometown Girl,” to the stage as well.
“It’s always fun to have something new and fresh out there that you can promote,” Turner said. “Fans are always looking for a new product and in a world where there’s just so much entertainment out there, it’s always good to have something to offer and be part of that game.”
Recipe for success
“Hometown Girl” was released for sale May 13 and will hit the radio on May 31. It’s the first single Turner has had since “Lay Low” was released in late 2014 to less-than-hopeful results, he said.
“My label (MCA Nashville) had undergone a merger, so a lot of people were let go and a lot of new people came in,” Turner said. “I’ve been through a few of these, and it’s always a setback, regardless of people’s intentions or how big a fan they are of you. You lose traction, and there’s nothing really that you can do about it.”
Turner said he and his team went back to the studio to rework some tunes and record a few new ones, including “Hometown Girl.” Turner expects to release an album of new songs this year, although he said he isn’t sure of a date and isn’t at liberty to announce the album’s title.
“As long as nothing crazy happens, it should come out this year,” he said, chuckling.
Turner’s success can be boiled down to less than a handful of fine points: His understanding of writing a good country song; his ability to remain true to himself and his faith; and a strong work ethic.
“Any good song has to have a catchy melody,” Turner said. “Something that you feel you can sing along to. And beyond that, I think it has to have a message that a broad range of people can relate to. It doesn’t matter what genre it comes from. I think if you have those ingredients, that’s a recipe for success.”
Telling a story
Turner, who grew up singing gospel songs in church in his birth state of South Carolina, often turns to his deep faith as a Christian for inspiration to his song’s lyrics. But the word “Christian” isn’t an adjective needed to describe his music, Turner said.
“Describing myself, yes, I’m definitely a Christian and that’s not something I’m ashamed of by any means,” he said. “That’s who I am. That’s what I am. But when it comes to my music, it’s country music. That’s what I fell in love with a lot of years ago. I feel like I was called into the country music industry and I just happen to be a Christian that does it.
“Some of my songs have a Christian message and faith-based message, but the majority of it is country music that tells a story and has a country feel to it and just fits right into that genre. What I love the most about country music is it allows me the freedom to sing about anything.”
It also gave Turner the platform to write about his faith-based life in another medium: in book form. Turner became a book author in 2014 when he wrote “Man Stuff: Thoughts on Faith, Family, and Fatherhood.”
“When (Thomas Nelson Publishing) asked me about writing a book, I was scared to death about it,” Turner said. “But then I got excited because it allowed me the opportunity to just sit back and tell stories and reflect on things I had learned from in my life, the mistakes I had made and the advice I had gotten from my heroes, my parents, my grandparents and different people in my life.
“It was an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, here’s the things that make me the man that I am.’ Hopefully, the people who read this will be able to see these experiences and read about the lessons and mistakes I’ve made and hopefully that will save them a lot of heartache in their own lives.”
As it turns out, writing a book came easier to Turner than writing a song.
“I didn’t have to make anything rhyme,” he said. “I didn’t have a time limit and I wasn’t hunched over a guitar and blowing my voice out all day. It was just me sitting back telling stories. It was fun. It was a way not only to help people, but also a way to honor the people that I learned from.”
Turner and his wife, Jennifer, who have four sons — Hampton, Colby, Marion and Samuel — also help out young musicians through the Josh Turner Scholarship Fund, which helps less-fortunate students who have a passion for music and arts.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t have the opportunity that a lot of people in other schools had because my school was so small and didn’t have a lot of funds for music or art programs,” he said. “I had this passion for music and I went to college to pursue that musical education, but when I got there, I realized I was behind everybody else. I had to take a lot of self-paced individual lessons to try to catch up to everyone and it was difficult.
“So, when I got my record deal and started having success, it made me realize that I could probably help a lot of those students in those smaller schools. I knew I probably couldn’t implement music programs in the high schools but I could probably at least help those students monetarily who have a passion for music and arts to pursue their education. So, that’s what Jennifer and I did in 2005, and we’ve just watched it grow from there. We’ve been able to help quite a few people. It’s a great feeling.”