It had been three days and a few hundred tears since the death of Charlie Daniels, and Josh Turner was still dealing with the pain that comes when a legend suddenly passes from this earth.
“Charlie Daniels’ love for music just exuded from him in such a contagious way,” recalls the multi-platinum-selling country music star of Daniels, who passed away last month at the age of 83. “He’s such a good example for artists like me.”
Turner’s deep voice suddenly cracks.
“That’s something I have really struggled with as I have gotten older,” he quietly admits. “I see the artists that I grew up listening to and idolized through the years get sick or pass away and suddenly I realize that I’m getting closer and closer to becoming the old guard, so to speak.”
Granted, if there was ever anyone who deserved the duty of taking country music into the future, it is a certain Mr. Josh Turner. Best known for hits such as “Your Man,” “Time Is Love” and “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” Turner and his iconic tone has long supported the roots of traditional country throughout a career that has now spanned almost twenty years.
And on his new album Country State of Mind, which is set for release August 21, the South Carolina native does it again.
“My manager and I had kicked this idea around for awhile, and you never know if the label will go for it, but they loved it from the start,” says Turner of the album, which includes 12 tracks that celebrate some of country music’s most iconic artists. “The chance to bring in artists that I respect and admire was just so cool. And in terms of picking the songs, I was very familiar with them because I had spent most of my life listening to them, so that part of it was easy.”
Indeed, from renditions of Johnny Cash’s “The Caretaker” to Hank Williams “Alone and Forsaken,” Turner delved into a catalog of music spanning more than half a century of classic country music, many of which hold deep personal meaning for the country music hit maker.
“I couldn’t wait to modernize ‘I Can Tell by The Way You Dance,’ for example,” Turner says of the Vern Gosdin classic. “There were pieces of that song that were timeless but the production on it was really stuck in the eighties. I’ve always believed in that song, and actually it was my first pick for songs to do on this album.”
The album also allowed Turner the opportunity to formally invite his idol Randy Travis back into the recording studio for the first time since his stroke back in 2013.
“I could have chosen any Randy Travis song, but I had seen him live at certain events with other artists singing ‘Forever and Ever, Amen’ and when he would sing that last ‘amen,’ he would just bring the crowd to their feet,” recalls Turner. “It was just so cool to press record on that considering the condition he’s in right now. We made history on that one.”
But as much as Turner says he wanted to use this album to collaborate with artists that have already reached legendary status such as Kris Kristofferson (“Why Me”) and John Anderson (“I’ve Got It Made”), he also wanted to use it to shine a bright light on the genre’s future.
“That might have been the hardest part for me, because I really wanted to choose artists in the new class that I knew would still deliver on the tradition and the integrity and the heritage of country music and what these songs represent,” says Turner, who recruited artists such as Chris Janson (“Country State of Mind”), Maddie & Tae (“Desperately”) and Runaway June (“You Don’t Seem to Miss Me”) for the album. “I’ve shared the stage with all of them and I have gotten to see not only how talented they were, but how genuine they were as people. I knew that they would get this project and contribute to it in the proper way and they did just that.”
Granted, at the age of 42 years old, don’t think for a second that Turner is looking to add the role of ‘old guard’ to his country music resume anytime soon.
That someday is still a way off.
“I still have a passion for what I do and I still feel young in many ways,” chuckles Turner, who counts Country State of Mind as the first time he has not only lent background vocals to his own album, but also the first time he played the guitar on his own album. “I’m still trying to push the envelope and present traditional country music in a modern and fresh way.”
Turner says he plans to do that in one way or another on his next project, no matter what that project ends up to be. Having spent much of the pandemic rebuilding his house (‘we had to move out because of mold’) Turner says he is in the process of ‘shaking the rust off’ his songwriting.
“This whole pandemic thing has really been a double edged sword,” he says quietly. “Not touring for this long has been a major adjustment. I have never taken more than a month off since I got my record deal in 2001. Its been a lifestyle change. And then there is the financial strain of it. People are struggling.”
But then, he thinks aloud what Charlie would do or what Johnny would do or heck, what Hank would do.
And then, he just keeps going.
Pre-order or pre-save the new tunes from Josh. Here is a smartlink!