Turner tells us about his new album of classic covers and offers up six signed vinyl copies to C&I readers.
If there is one modern artist who can interpret bona fide country classics with the perfect balance of reverence and originality, it’s Josh Turner.
The popular Carolina crooner with the deep, deep voice does just that on his new collection, Country State of Mind. And even if you’re of the mind that songs like “Forever And Ever, Amen” and “I’m No Stranger To The Rain” shouldn’t be touched, you ought to press play on this one and reconsider. Turner’s vocal prowess is on the level with any of the artists he covers on the new record – several of whom he says are part of his own “country music Mount Rushmore.”
We’re talking Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Vern Gosdin, and two living legends who duet with Turner on fresh versions of their own hits – Randy Travis and John Anderson.
Keep reading for some of Turner’s thoughts on his just-released collection. We spoke with him by phone recently after he graciously agreed to sign vinyl copies of Country State of Mind for six lucky C&I readers. Enter that drawing down below (Update: the giveaway has ended), but not before you take in some of Turner’s thoughts and listen to a few of the tunes on the record.
Cowboys & Indians: You've always done covers, and you've always been very respectful to the people who influenced you. But I think this is your first studio project that consists of all covers. What was right about the timing of this, and how long had you been wanting to do it?
Josh Turner: I think it was God's timing. March of last year, we were forced to move out of our house because of mold, and we basically had to rebuild our house and rebuild our driveway and all kinds of great stuff. It was a nightmare, but everything is good at this point. Because of that, we were kind of forced to move into my writer's cottage, and I'm thankful that we had a place to live, but because of that I didn't really have a place to write. I wasn't able to create any original music. And so the next thing you know, we're kicking around this idea of doing this record of the country classics. And when the label got on board with it, it was like, Wow, here I am not able to write, but I've been afforded the opportunity to go in and do a record that doesn't require original music. And the timing couldn't have been more perfect in that now here we are with the record about the come out during a time where a lot of people can't work, they're scared to leave their house, it's just a lot of uncertainty going around with the pandemic stuff. And everything I've heard from people about this record is that it's really provided them a lot of comfort during a time that's not very comforting. It's bringing back good memories of their childhood and their grandparents and their parents and different things that were going on in their life when they first heard these songs.
C&I: There's nostalgia in there, but you've done such a good job of refreshing them enough that they feel like they could be on the radio today. Did that go into your selection of the songs? Did it start with a list of artists?
Turner: I had to consider a lot of things. I wanted it to have commercial appeal, but I also wanted it to be a pretty diverse record. I wanted it to have those recognizable hits and I also wanted it to have some deeper, more obscure stuff on there to kind of introduce fans to either an artist that they might not be familiar with or just a deeper catalog song that they hadn't heard from a certain artist. It started with what I refer to as my Mount Rushmore of country music: Randy Travis, John Anderson, Vern Gosdin, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams. So I had to do songs from those five guys. They really taught me how to be the artist that I am. The first song that really came to mind when we got clearence to do this record was an old Vern song, “I Can Tell By The Way You Dance.” And it turned out great. I feel like it could be a hit today.
C&I: What about these guys specifically have really spoken to you your entire life?
Turner: You know, I can say the main thing I learned from them was how to be Josh Turner, because each and every one of those artists is iconic in the way they look and the way they sound and the way they approach their songs and the way they write. … And just the way they carry themselves and the way they treat their fans and all that. There's just a lot of admirable qualities about them. But I've also said in the past, too, that I haven't just learned from their success and the things that they did right — I also learned from their mistakes.
C&I: You're friends with a couple of them. You've spent time with Randy Travis, who has a very special moment on the record. John Anderson, as well. Have they been open about things that have tripped them up in their careers? And have they offered advice throughout the years with you?
Turner: They've been not just heroes and friends, they've been mentors to me and they've warned me about certain things. They'll be the first to admit the times that they've probably been hard to deal with or done things that they probably shouldn't have or made bad decisions. … For instance, I had a song on the chart that didn't get very high up the chart, it was my third single, technically, and it died. And I'm sitting here thinking, Man, this is the third single off this record, I'm a young artist and I don't know if the label is going to give me another chance. And so I called up John Anderson and was kind of moaning and groaning to him and he listened to me for a while and then he said, "You can't focus on that single that you lost. You have to focus on your next song because you never know how great it can do." And so my next single that we put out to radio was “Your Man.”
C&I: I'd say that was a good rebound. One thing about country fans is they connect with material just as much as they do with artists. You can have so many more chances to connect with them no matter where you are in your career or how much the radio plays you. Has that been your experience?
Turner: Country music fans have just been so unbelievable to me since I've started. They know that, yeah, I'm a well-known singer and some people view me as being a celebrity and all this, but my real fans, they also know that I'm a real person. I'm a husband, I'm a father, I'm a human being. And life doesn't exactly treat me any differently than it treats them. We all go through tough times. They've been very supportive and very understanding to me. They love the songs. They're very honest, too. They'll let you know when they don't like something. And I can't tell you how many times some lady has come through and told me how much they want me to shave. Some fans don't hold anything back.
Visit Josh Turner’s official website for more info on Country State of Mind.