Josh Turner anticipates the day his log cabin is finished on his 40-acre spread south of Nashville.
“It’s pretty secluded and private out here,” he says of the homestead he shares with wife, Jennifer, and their two boys, Hampton, three years old, and Colby, just seven months.
The compound is the fruit of a career ignited on December 21, 2001, when the then-unknown-singer brought the Grand Ole Opry crowd to its feet with his “Long Black Train” tale of redemption, showcasing his talents as a singer and as a songwriter. But the demands and joys of multi-platinum success and thriving family have made it difficult for Turner to find the right time and place to write, which is why he decided to have the 1,700-square-foot cabin built. “We’re calling it the Writer’s Cottage,” Turner says. “It’s going to be my lair, my little hole in the wall, where I can go in and write and think, and not have any TV or computers, or phones or whatever, where I can get distracted.”
Even without that cabin, the 32-year-old from Hannah, South Carolina, found time to write the title track and co-write four others on his new album Haywire, his fourth and, he believes, most energetic album. “Whether it would be an up-tempo, positive song, a love ballad, a story song or a gospel song, I feel a lot more energy in this record. I put a lot of passion in it and I think it really shows from song to song,” he says, of the album that kicks off with the hit “Why Don’t We Just Dance.”
He also stretched his most-acclaimed tool, the baritone voice that had Blender magazine calling him “a country Barry White.” “My vocals [on this album] have surpassed everything I’ve done so far. I made a conscious effort to step outside of the box, to stretch myself to do more, to do bigger and better vocals.”
While Haywire is filled with rollicking and romantic, radio-friendly tales of good times, it closes with “The Answer,” a nod to the convictions that sprang from his “Long Black Train” breakthrough.
During a writing session, he and Mark Narmore began with the phrase “‘Jesus is the Answer,” adding, “We just started playing around on the piano and the guitar and it started falling out. For us, it’s a message of hope for people who seem to be struggling with something, floundering around, wandering through life.”
Turner delights in delivering his spiritual songs when he takes the stage. “If I don’t get out there and give them some sort of hope or peace, or joy or comfort, through my music that is a God-given talent, then why should they spend their money and come out to a show, if they’ll feel just as empty leaving as when they came in?”
Fans know they also can count on him for fun, like the new album’s “Eye Candy,” whose heroine’s “kisses… ain’t nutritious, but they’re delicious,” or “Haywire,” with its “hotter than fire” girl teaching “the definition of love.” “I let Jennifer think that all of those songs are about her,” he says, with a laugh.
As a backup singer and pianist, Jennifer not only hears, but participates, as Turner’s songs of lust and the Lord mingle on set lists.
One benefit of success is that Turner’s got a tour bus just for his family: “We’re all out there seeing the world together.”
His hankering for solitude comes when he’s off the road and in need of time and space to write his next hit or inspirational song. That’s why he’s excited about the cabin, where he can enjoy the solo process of creating songs. “It’s just me. All the pressure is off. It’s really raw and there’s a lot of room for error. It’s kind of like a musical laboratory. You get to experiment with different rhythms, chords and melodies. You get to see songs being born in the musical delivery room and I get to cut the cord. I get to see my musical babies being born, and I get to see them grow up as they go into the studio and to the record, and to when people start buying them.”