Interview: Josh Turner Talks About Life On The Road And His New Album
The deep-voiced crooner chats with C&I about 'Punching Bag' and more before a packed concert at Billy Bob's Texas.
Photo by George Holz
It’s a late-March afternoon at Billy Bob’s Texas, and there aren’t many folks inside the historic and huge Fort Worth honky-tonk just yet. I’m sitting alone in the music hall area, watching 34-year-old country star Josh Turner and his band kick off soundcheck for that evening’s show.
“Chp chp chp; psp psp psp. … Hey hey; ho ho.”
Dressed casual in jeans and work boots, Turner tests his microphone a few times and mills about the stage, chatting with his keyboard-playing wife, Jennifer, and other band members. Eventually, he grabs a guitar, and the band launches into “All Over Me,” the endlessly catchy summer jam from 2010’s Haywire. His bass-to-baritone voice is in top form, and the players behind him are already at studio quality – on the first soundcheck song. I proceed to surrender disbelief, and pretend I’m getting a private concert from one of country music’s most talented and prolific young traditionalists.
The next one they run through is “Time Is Love,” a sweet, mandolin-tinged new single from Turner’s upcoming fifth album Punching Bag (out June 12 on MCA Nashville). They nail it. Same goes for the final test run, the female-form-worshiping barn burner “Eye Candy.”
The singer, post-soundcheck at Billy Bob's
• Listen to our playlist of Josh Turner's best tunes on Spotify by clicking here.
• Find a tour date near you by visiting Turner's website.
Fifteen minutes later, I’m ushered to a stark backstage waiting room to chat with the singer.
Up close – honestly? – he looks a little tired. That much, he confirms.
“Exhausted. In the last few days we played the Austin rodeo, then played two shows in San Antonio, then Bossier City, then here.”
Like many country stars, Turner spends much of his life on a tour bus. Unlike many country stars, he brings his three young boys along for the ride.
Q: What do the kids think of all this craziness?
Turner: They’re pretty flexible, with the things we put them through and the places we drag them to. We’re in a different place every day. There are so many different things to do, so many types of people to be around. In some ways it’s great, because they get to see the country we live in with their own eyes -- things a lot of children experience only in textbooks. So that’s great, plus there’s the fact that we’re together. But I guess the negative side is that we get run down.
By the way, his speaking voice is even deeper than his singing voice. I’m surprised it doesn’t rattle my recorder. And, for much of his already wildly successful career, that ability to go lower than everyone else has been Turner’s money-maker. It’s not only how low he can go, but what he can do when he gets there.
In four albums released since 2003, the South Carolina native has tackled soulful bedroom seductions (the monster hit “Your Man,” the Don Williams cover “I Wouldn’t Be A Man”), honky-tonk ditties (“Why Don’t We Just Dance,” “One Woman Man”), humorous story songs (“Loretta Lynn’s Lincoln”), and modern bluegrass (“Would You Go With Me”) with equal aplomb. It’s traditional, often spiritual country, though, that’s won him endless acclaim.
His first single, the haunting religious tune “Long Black Train,” got him standing ovations and encores at his Grand Ole Opry debut in 2001. He’s now one of the youngest members of the Opry.
Certainly willing to discuss the past accomplishments, Turner perks up more when talking about the present. He and his band have been gradually adding songs from the new record to their live list, kicking off sets with the instantly familiar title track about the punches life can throw.
Turner: We want to give fans a little taste, but not too much of a taste [before the June release]. Luckily, we don’t have to rush around and learn everything at once. That’s what we had to do for Haywire because the record was about to drop – we hadn’t had time to rehearse, so we went to a hall in Nashville, and I think we learned … good gracious, I think it was eight or nine songs at once. We had to figure out where they were going in the set, the video, the lights, the whole kit and caboodle.
Q: Tell me about writing the songs on ‘Punching Bag.’ I know you wrote or co-wrote most of them.
Turner: I have a log cabin on my property that I built. I call it my writer’s cottage, because that’s basically what it is. … It’s just a place where I keep all my music stuff. It’s where I do all my writin’, where I go to get inspired. It took two full years to build, from start to finish. Very stressful time.
Q: What was so stressful about it?