Josh Turner Is Ready To Go Haywire

Blake Boldt | January 20th, 2010


With his first single, 2003’s “Long Black Train,” Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Josh Turner enthralled country fans with his distinctive voice and deeply-moving songs about real, rural life. Since then, he’s issued three albums, all of which have been certified gold or better. His fourth album, Haywire, furthers his reputation as one of the leading men in contemporary country, a true, traditional voice in an ever-changing Nashville scene. In this interview with The 9513, Turner speaks about the sources of inspiration for his new album, his views on the current country landscape and his plans for a standout 2010.

BLAKE BOLDT: Why Haywire as the title of your newest album?

josh-turner-02JOSH TURNER: The most obvious thing is there’s a song on the album called “Haywire.” It’s a song about this country girl that’s making me go haywire, you know, because she’s hot. It’s a pretty deep song. (Laughing) Other than that, with titling the record, judging from the titles of the songs on the record and getting away from the subject matter of the song, “Haywire” felt pretty relevant as to the world right now and my life, too. Last year I was making this record, I had my second child born in June, I was out on the road, I moved into a house and have been building a log cabin for me to write in. It was kinda haywire really. It kinda spoke to my life and also to what was happening in the world.

BB: What was your approach to songs this time around in terms of following that theme?

JT: If I had to sum it up, it would be energy, a lot of positive energy. It’s an album that’s full of songs that will make people dance. There’s a lot of passion there. Vocally, I stepped out of my box more; I let ‘er rip and you can hear that on a lot of different songs, whether it be a ballad or an uptempo. Basically, the theme of this record is taking people’s minds off the economy and all that.

BB: “Why Don’t We Just Dance” has firmly planted itself within the top ten. As your career rolls along, is it harder to find songs that will stick with country radio?

JT: Yeah, it’s changing every month, you know. You can kinda see the changes in the trends and what people are digging and what not. You never know what radio’s going to play. I mean, look at my career–every song that’s been a hit for me has been very different, from an old-timey, old-fashioned gospel country song to a real fast, bluegrass song to a fun song like “Firecracker.” You never know what’s going to work. You just follow your heart and go with your gut and you have to be in touch with your fans and listen to what they’re saying.

BB: The story of how your first single, “Long Black Train,” came about is a famous one. How do you keep the inspiration alive in terms of your songwriting?

JT: I’m in the process of building a log cabin on our property, strictly a place for me to write. It’s gonna be my little writer’s cottage and it’s extremely important to me, just for my music stuff and to have co-writers come over and for me to be away from the TV, the computer and the phone and allow myself to be musical and creative. It’s where I can let inspiration find me. That’s a big key for me in the near-future. When this writer’s cottage is finished, it should be a great atmosphere, with papers thrown everywhere. (laughs) I really don’t have that place right now to see it all through and think.

BB: Your songs stem from very specific experiences–your faith, family and love for rural living; How do you put new twists on old ways?

JT: Say it in a different way, I guess. Talk about these timeless concepts with new words. The great storytellers have done that throughout the years. I always think of Jerry Clower–he went out on stage, would take a real-life situation and told a story in a different way and made it funny. When I’m going in to make a record, I think “How can I make a traditional country record–one that 13, 14, 15 year-olds would be interested in?” When I write a song like “Eye Candy”–you know, that term wasn’t around ten years ago–this girl is extremely beautiful and how many songs have talked about beautiful girls? It’s finding a new way to say it.

BB: Your deep, rumbling baritone is one of country music’s finest instruments. How have you learned to use it in different ways since when you first started?

JT: I’m always trying to improve upon what I’ve done before. This time I decided to show off a different side of myself and my voice for this record. We had the songs that were going to allow me to do that, whether it be a gospel song, a love ballad, an uptempo song that makes you dance–it didn’t matter what kinda song it was. It challenged me; I’m not gonna say it was easy. I could’ve done these songs in a standard, unoriginal kinda way. I tried to match what the song was trying to say. There’s a song on here called “All Over Me” that’s so rhythmic, so different from the demo version. When I went in there, we had to reinvent the melody and allow my voice to work with it. It’s like trying to fit in gears in a transmission, right where they need be. I had to kinda really make it different.

BB: With almost ten years under your belt, are there any parts of your career that you would have done differently?

JT: In the end, looking back I’m fine with the way things are. There are always going to be little things, but I hope I can teach somebody else about how they should go about certain situations. One of my mentors is John Anderson; I’d always been a fan of his and we struck up a friendship. We’ve gone and written together, sung together, eaten together, shot guns together. During that time he’s been able to share with me a lot of things. John’s the epitome of an artist; he has not received the credit he deserves as a singer and he’s written or co-written so many of his songs. He’s had highs and lows and he’s seen it all. It helps keep certain things in perspective.

I won’t ever forget when “Everything Is Fine” stalled on the chart. I was so bummed because I just knew that song had potential to be a #1 song. Soon after that, I went and wrote with him and I was still talking about it. He said that you have to remember–there’s still a lot of people that have heard that song. He was absolutely right. I went out on the road pretty soon after and from the first line of song crowd would go applauding for it. I don’t know if I just heard them because John had said that, but they were enjoying it. So it doesn’t mean that a song isn’t heard by the people just because it went to #20 on the charts. It was good wisdom.

BB: I asked you to look back into the past, and now I want you to look into the future? What’s your primary goal moving forward?

JT: This year I wanna get a new start. I wanna get this new music out there and go and play for some new fans. I wanna get this writer’s cottage ready and start stockpiling my songs for the future. I wanna get in the good graces of radio and gatekeepers and the decision-makers. Most important, I’ve kinda come to the point where I’m going to make a conscious effort to do it (music) because I love it. There are so many people out there that wish they were doing what I was doing and I’m very grateful.

BB: Does country music’s progression more towards the mainstream concern you?

JT: Yes and no. I have mixed feelings about that. I think the youthful part is a good thing because that’s the future of our business, the future of our industry. Those fans will be looking back into their past and saying “When I was growing up, I loved Josh Turner,” and hopefully they’re saying, “I still love Josh Turner.” (Laughs) The youthful side is a good thing. I think some of the things you hear on the radio in terms of song selections or some of the singers you hear–I’m not exactly convinced most of these songs will be around 20-30 years from now and I’m not sure the singers have what it takes to have a long career. And I think fans can figure out who’s going to last and they’re quick to forget about those who won’t. Certain artists out there have that understanding and others, well, they’re there for the party, they think they’re greater than they are. But you can find people like that all around the world. I think the fans understand who’s real and who’s not and that’s OK. Like Grandma said, it takes all kinds in this world.

BB: On country radio, what singers make you stop and listen?

JT: Alan Jackson is one. He’s a traditional country artist and he’s not only putting out traditional country music but he’s writing it, too. He’s kind of a lighthouse for a lot of us country artists. There’s a song I heard on the radio last night–it was Ashton Shephard. She’s not tearing up the airwaves but I think as new artists are concerned, as a singer, writer and artist she’s unique and unapologetic about her love for country music. You know, next to her, she makes me look like Bing Crosby.

BB: You’re the youngest male Opry member; what do you think about the Opry’s place in country music in the present-day?

JT: I think they’re doing a great job with maintaining the traditional side. Opry has always been about tradition; they’ve done a great job with moving into the future and making newer artists members, artist who appreciate traditional country music. They’ve found a way to continue to sell tickets, to promote country music, by thinking outside the box and using all of the tools they have. They really have given fans an experience. You go to the Opry and you never know who you’re gonna hear. I was there not too long ago and I heard Blind Boys of Alabama. It’s just a great place to go and play. The people at Opry treat you like family.

BB: What is country music?

Country music is an art form that comes from the heart of America. Originally it came from the American South. I still think it comes from that Southern way of thinking. It’s an art form that comes from that place that speaks to blue-collar, everyday Americans who work hard for a living, that believe in their country, that fight for their country, that know how to have a good time. It’s a form of music that makes you feel warm and fuzzy when everything is screaming and up in your face. It makes you feel good about who you are and what you’re doing. It’s something that I feel is the lifeblood of America. It’s that music that we play on our way to church, at home cooking supper, in our car heading to work or at work or having a party and having a good time.

3 Pings

  1. [...] and brighten my day. I am happy to be a passionate fan of the most popular singer in country music. ● - – Comment on Josh Turner interview fails to explain how releasing two editions of an album [...]
  2. [...] behaviors often featured in country music, best look someplace else, Debbie Downer. As he said in his interview with Blake Boldt last month, “Basically, the theme of this record is taking people’s minds off the economy and all [...]
  3. [...] behaviors often featured in country music, best look someplace else, Debbie Downer. As he said in his interview with Blake Boldt last month, “Basically, the theme of this record is taking people’s minds off the economy and all [...]
  1. Nicolas
    January 20, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    Great interview! I can’t wait for his new album to come out =)

  2. Jon G.
    January 20, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve already pre-ordered the album. I’m very excited it; hopefully, it will even outdo Everything is Fine in terms of quality.

  3. Leeann Ward
    January 20, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Turner said about the album: “I tried to match what the song was trying to say.”

    It’s funny that he’d say that, since my biggest complaint about “Why Don’t We Just Dance” is that his performance lacked the energy that the song seemed to be trying to convey.

    I’m hopeful for this album, since I was underwhelmed by the last one. I usually give an artist two albums before I officially take them off my “favorites list.” Keith Urban has already been bumped off after his last two albums and Dierks Bentley and Turner are on notice.

  4. Rick
    January 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Josh Turner’s vocals need a “passionectemy”! Josh seems like such a naturally laid back person but he needs to put more emotional spark into his singing and it sounds like he’s tried this go round. As good as Josh’s voice is he is not Don Williams! More vocal performances like “Loretta Lynn’s Lincoln” would be much appreciated.

  5. Leeann Ward
    January 20, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    “Loretta Lynn’s Lincoln” is a delightful gem.

  6. Steve M.
    January 20, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    I like him a lot more after knowing he sees John Anderson as a mentor. Not a bad person to learn country music from.

  7. Mayor JoBob
    January 20, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    I thought “Baby, I Go Crazy” was a highlight from his last album. The rest of the album just whizzes by. No offense if Josh is reading this :)

  8. Jon G.
    January 20, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    I really enjoyed his “Everything is Fine” album. I thought that “Firecracker,” “Another Try,” “The Longer the Waiting,” “Nowhere Fast,” and “So Not My Baby,” as well as the title track and his version of “One Woman Man” were all very good. However, I kind of think the remaining tracks were throwaways.

  9. Nicolas
    January 20, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    I also thought Everything Is Fine was a pretty good album; I really loved the title track especially, its probably my favorite song of his

  10. Sara
    January 20, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    I have enjoyed all of Josh’s albums and I am sure this one will be no different. Josh is a outstanding artist who sings real country music. I agree with him on the ‘country music’ of today, it is good because it could bring new listeners to other country artists, but is it really that good when a lot of it is also played on pop radio, where the real country artists obviously do not get promoted?

  11. Josh
    January 21, 2010 at 9:23 am

    I tip my hat (yes, this is a Tracy Byrd line) to JT for his interview and his thoughts. That boy certainly has the feel of country in his bones, so I’m not too worried. However, his latest CD has me mixed a bit since I’d say half of the songs there were not that great and the other half were purely gold. I hope he does more of the gold part this time around. I’m also welcoming a change of vocal styles from him as long as it moves me and does a great job at it. Good luck JT and God bless you for the vocals you’ve been given.

  12. SallyDoom
    January 21, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Fantastic interview! Josh is a REAL country artist that will be around for a very long time & his songs will always get played. Long Black Train is already becoming a classic.

  13. Jake
    January 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Great interview! I’ve only listened to the Josh Turner songs that get plaid on the radio but reading this has got me thinking of picking up an album.

  14. Grizzly Adam
    January 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I really liked the last album quite a bit. The album cuts were what really stood out for me rather than the singles, maybe because I heard them too many times. Nowhere Fast and The Longer the Waiting were both realy standouts for me, and I hope he continues to take chances with songs like those.

  15. jen
    January 21, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Great interview. I have all Josh’s albums and Everything Is Fine is by far my favorite. I still listen to it on a regular basis. I love “Why Don’t We Just Dance” and think he does it wonderfully. I’ve also heard clips of six songs off the new album and can’t wait to hear the whole album. So far I think “As Fast As I Could” is my favorite. I hope Josh continues to make the music that his fans want to hear. We have enough singers that sound exactly alike and sing the type of pop fluff that radio loves.

  16. David
    January 22, 2010 at 12:01 am

    Finally on February 9, 2010 we can all go Haywire with Josh. To satisfy the public demand for this CD, Josh has released a Standard and a Delux version. Yes Haywire has been radiating an excitement rarely seen in country music for months. Once again Josh, your songs inspire me and brighten my day. I am happy to be a passionate fan of the most popular singer in country music.

  17. Brady Vercher
    January 22, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Good interview, Blake. I really like Josh Turner, but he doesn’t strike me as someone who has a whole lot to say in his own songs. Eye Candy? Why not just randomly pick a word from Urban Dictionary to write a song about?

    I reckon there’s nothing wrong with releasing a record to keep people’s mind off the economy, but it’s not exactly a novel idea. And if everything is always about escapism can it continue to be said that country music is about real life? When every form of entertainment is attempting to do nothing more than make people forget about life, how are they supposed to deal with reality? Look at the stars, they’re all happy and the economy isn’t affecting them…what’s wrong with all of us? It’s answers like that that lend validation to the idea that mainstream country is nothing more than musical Prozac.

    In the future, if someone were to try to get a grasp on the national mood based on the popular music of the time, would they have any clue that our economy is in the dumps right now?

    Which songs everyone thinks will be around in 20-30 years would be an good Your Take discussion. From Turner, “Long Black Train” is one, but how well do his songs compare to his own measuring stick? I’m not sure many of the others have that kind of longevity.

    It’s also interesting to me that Turner would invite comparisons to Don Williams by covering him. How do y’all think he matches up?

  18. Leeann Ward
    January 22, 2010 at 10:07 am

    He didn’t match up at all. That’s where the vocal dispassion comes to play. I haven’t liked any of his covers so far. It doesn’t sound like he’s connected to them.

    Good point about the escapism and mainstream country music not reflecting the reality of what’s going on right now. I don’t need every song to be gloomy, but I don’t like the historical ramification of all the feel good music that really paints the opposite picture of how things truly are for many people right now.

  19. Jon
    January 22, 2010 at 10:16 am

    Yeah, what we really need are more harsh, gritty, realistic songs about tough economic times, like what Bob WIlls recorded back in the 30s. Or like what mainstream country was all about in the early 80s.

    Turner brought up a really interesting question that was a prime candidate for follow-up: ““How can I make a traditional country record–one that 13, 14, 15 year-olds would be interested in?”

  20. Brady Vercher
    January 22, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Yeah, what we really need are more harsh, gritty, realistic songs about tough economic times…

    Yeah, because harsh and gritty are the only kinds of songs that can reflect reality.

  21. Steve M.
    January 22, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Why do we even want to market country to 13-17 year olds? What happened to country being music for adults?

  22. SallyDoom
    January 22, 2010 at 11:05 am

    ” but he doesn’t strike me as someone who has a whole lot to say in his own songs”…..????

    Have u heard Long Black Train,The Way he was Raised,Me and God&on his new cd Haywire “The Answer” What about Another Try,Soulmate,& Angels fall sometimes.

  23. Brady Vercher
    January 22, 2010 at 11:33 am

    Yes, I’ve heard all those, SallyDoom and I did mention that I thought “Long Black Train” was a classic. Maybe that particular criticism was a bit unfair or when you lead with a song like he did, it’s hard to live up to it, but I’ve been hoping for a bit more from him.

  24. Jon
    January 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    “Yeah, what we really need are more harsh, gritty, realistic songs about tough economic times…”
    Yeah, because harsh and gritty are the only kinds of songs that can reflect reality.

    Well, hell, Brady,, you’re the one who brought up the lousy economy. But country songs that deal directly with stuff like that have always been the exception rather than the rule, so knocking Turner for not loading up on them seems a little unfair. “Escapism,” whether by having a good time dancing and cutting up (cf. Wills) or by keeping your eye on the next life, has been the dominant mode of response to economic woes in the country field for a long, long time.

    @Steve M. Who is this “we” you’re speaking for?

  25. Steve M.
    January 22, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    The royal “we.” Just finished talking about George III and was feeling imperial.

  26. Jon G.
    January 22, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    I actually really like Turner’s versions of “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive,” and “One Woman Man.” Of course, they’re not quite as good as the originals, but I thought that they stood fine by themselves. It’s not that Turner does a bad job on them; to the contrary, I think he provides different, very good, (NOT dis)passionate vocal takes to classic country songs. The problem is really that these songs were perfect the first (and or more, as is the case of “One Woman Man”) time around that it makes it seem that Turner isn’t doing something right.

  27. Steve M.
    January 22, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Trent Summar and the New Mob Row did a cover of “he Stopped Loving Her Today” that was a mixture of classic country and punk rock. I always get a kick out it.

  28. Tara Seetharam
    January 22, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    “And if everything is always about escapism can it continue to be said that country music is about real life? When every form of entertainment is attempting to do nothing more than make people forget about life, how are they supposed to deal with reality?”

    While I agree that there’s a lack of reflection of our times in mainstream country music, I can’t really get behind the idea that everything that doesn’t fall in this bucket is then categorized as escapism. Songs that have little to do with the current landscape of the nation can still reflect real life via real, raw, universal emotion.

  29. Brady Vercher
    January 22, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    @Jon: Actually, Turner is the one that brought up the economy. Nor did I knock him for not “loading up” on them, but if his album has nothing to do with the economy, then why even bring it up? My criticism was him (and mainstream country) actively choosing to ignore less than ideal realities faced by “blue-collar, everyday Americans who work hard for a living.”

    Even so, songs about something as dire as our current economy don’t have to be harsh and gritty. Songs can be fun and serious and don’t have to be dramatic to address somber topics (see “Poor Boy Workin’ Blues”).

  30. Leeann Ward
    January 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    I agree that a balance is better than going just one way or another. But I think Turner was referring to escapism when he said “Basically, the theme of this record is taking people’s minds off the economy and all that.”

  31. Leeann Ward
    January 22, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Or “Lord Have Mercy on the Workin’ Man”

  32. Brady Vercher
    January 22, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    I agree, Leeann. Balance or even acknowledgment is all I’m talking about. Just listen to the first verse of first single “Why Don’t We Just Dance” and that pretty much defines escapism.

  33. Steve M.
    January 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    In the Depression, you had both grim and escapist songs being popular. While “Happy Days here again” was one of the biggest hits of the 1930s, Woody Guthrie’s anthems offered barbed comments on the economic reality. “This is Your Land” was a biting response to what he saw as the hypocrisy of Kate Smith’s “God Bless America.”

  34. Kelly
    January 22, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    “Yeah, what we really need are more harsh, gritty, realistic songs about tough economic times…”

    I guess I am not hearing all of those songs. I didnt realize we were being inundated with such material, especially when compared to the amount of “escapism” currently being peddled. I agree with Jon on the need for Wills-style hell-raising and boot stopmin’, but lets not act like the marketplace has been flooded with country versions of early 1980’s U2 albums…

  35. Dan Milliken
    January 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I’m so with Leeann and Brady on this thread, especially the earlier point about Turner’s music mostly not living up to “Long Black Train.” “Would You Go With Me”, “Loretta Lynn’s Lincoln”, “The Longer the Waiting” and “Nowhere Fast” are all pretty awesome, but those glimpses of brilliance feel so far between this long into his career.

  36. Leeann Ward
    January 22, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Ditto to Trent Summar.

  37. Jon
    January 22, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    I agree, Leeann. Balance or even acknowledgment is all I’m talking about. Just listen to the first verse of first single “Why Don’t We Just Dance” and that pretty much defines escapism.

    No more so than “Miss Molly.” Or any of about a million other Bob Wills songs. Generally speaking, in country songs economic conditions serve as context rather than as subject. Sure, there are exceptions, but their number is dwarfed by the number of songs that serve up “escapism,” either in having-a-good-time or keeping-an-eye-on-heaven form, and also by the number in which it doesn’t even serve as context.

  38. Thomas
    January 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    …great idea this writer’s cabin of his. i just hope the roof’s going to leak and he gets so pissed off that he finally puts some noticeable emotions into his songs. or he drowns and one can safely quit hoping for a change. to rick: don’t even think of getting started.

  39. Damien
    January 3, 2011 at 5:02 am

    I like the song Haywire. At times this song could be soundtrack to my life lol. I wish I had my own little college to write very cool.

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