SCOTT SIMON, host:
(Soundbite of music)
SIMON: Blender Magazine has called Josh Turner a country Barry White. What do you think?
(Soundbite of song, Why Dont We Just Dance)
Mr. JOSH TURNER (Singer): (Singing) Baby, why dont you just turn that TV off, 315 channels of nothing but bad news on
SIMON: Thats his hit single Why Dont We Just Dance, by Josh Turner - his new CD is called Haywire. He joins us now from the studios of WBEZ in Chicago. Mr. Turner, thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. TURNER: Oh, good to be with you.
SIMON: Its one love song after another.
Mr. TURNER: Yeah.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: For people who think country music also has to be about longing and loss, nope, this is one love song after one another.
Mr. TURNER: Yeah, and its funny how timing works sometimes. Obviously, you know, it came out five days before Valentines Day, which we didnt plan. But I dont know, going into this record, I was just attracted to those songs and they just so happened to be love songs.
(Soundbite of song, Your Smile)
Mr. TURNER: (Singing) Your smile will always be one of my favorite things, like backyard barbecues and front porch swings, an evening breeze through a window screen
SIMON: You grew up in South Carolina and as Ive heard the story, you were 14 when you sang at a church fundraiser.
Mr. TURNER: Mm-hmm.
SIMON: Im just going to guess that with a voice as notably rich and deep and staggering as yours is when did you begin to notice that people were noticing your voice?
Mr. TURNER: Really from that time, you know, 13, 14 years old when I started singing, I think people that I had known my whole life - I dont know, it just kind of caught their ear and they realized that I had a talent for singing. Now, I had to go through some tough times before everything got good. What I mean by that is back in 1996, I had encountered some vocal problems that almost ruined all of the chances of me going to Nashville and getting a record deal.
I had what the doctors called, for lack of a better word, a lesion on my right vocal chord. And it was quite a humbling process. I thought that I would never be able to sing again, but it was actually a blessing in disguise because through that process, I actually learned how to use my voice properly. I didnt know there was a proper way to sing, and theres so many ways that you can maintain your voice and take care of it.
(Soundbite of song, The Answer)
Mr. TURNER: (Singing) If youre lookin for somebody you can talk to, when the heartache and the troubles overcome you
SIMON: Tell us about the influence of your grandmother, Dora Turner.
Mr. TURNER: I called her granny and she was just a great lady, and she loved music, she loved country music and gospel music and bluegrass music. And I dont think she would have ever guessed what kind of influence she was having on me because I ended up getting a record deal long after she passed away. She died of breast cancer back in 1987, the day before my 10th birthday.
SIMON: What do you remember from her collection?
Mr. TURNER: Some of the records that had a big impact on me were the gospel records that the Osborne Brothers did and even the Stanley Brothers; there was a record called "Good Old Camp Meeting Songs." So, it was cool for me to be able to get a record deal, start having some success. And then when when it came time for me to do my sophomore record, Your Man, I was able to get Dr. Ralph Stanley in on that record and have him sing a song called Me And God that I wrote by myself. You know, for me, it was a dream come true because here I was with a man that I grew up listening to in Grannys house years ago. And thats one thing that she never got to see or hear on Earth, but I know she's up there watching.
(Soundbite of song, Me And God)
Mr. TURNER and Dr. RALPH STANLEY (Singer): (Singing) I am weak and he is strong, me and God, he forgives me when Im wrong, me and God. Hes the one I lean on when life gets hard, me and God
SIMON: Were talking to Josh Turner about his new CD, Haywire. The impact of Long Black Train, which was your debut record in 2003 - this was a huge hit.
(Soundbite of song, Long Black Train)
Mr. TURNER: (Singing) Theres a long, black train coming down the line. Feeding off the souls that are lost and crying.
SIMON: It touched your life in ways that are hard to appreciate from the outside, too.
Mr. TURNER: Yeah, absolutely. This song has touched me in a way thats made me realize that the power of music is almost understated because, you know, you have to kind of walk in my shoes, really, to understand. You know, the one story that I always tell - its been the most powerful one to date - I was down in North Alabama doing a radio show, and this lady pulled me off to the side after the show, and basically told me that she had been suffering from depression and a lot of family problems and just she was just ready to end it all.
And so she had planned on taking a whole bottle of pills - would have killed her if she had taken the whole bottle, and she in the process, she had heard my song come on the radio. And it completely changed her way of thinking, basically influenced her to take that bottle of pills and throw it down the toilet.
She realized that she was making the wrong decision, and that she would be hurting a lot of people that she loved by doing that. And so she owed that change of heart to Long Black Train.
(Soundbite of song, Long Black Train)
Mr. TURNER: (Singing) I said cling to the father and his holy name. And dont go riding on that long, black train.
SIMON: Ive been told that I dont have to twist your arm to get you to talk about your children.
Mr. TURNER: Right, yeah, absolutely.
SIMON: You have two children?
Mr. TURNER: Yeah, two boys. The oldest is 3 and a half; his name is Hampton. And the youngest is 7 months now - or 7 and a half months. And his name is Colby. And the youngest is seven months now or seven and a half months. And his name is Colby. Theyre such a joy. They know how to make us laugh and entertain us, and its just so fun being able to see life through their eyes.
SIMON: Lets listen to a song from this new CD that, I gather, is for them. Its called Ill Be There.
(Soundbite of song, Ill Be There)
Mr. TURNER: (Singing) When you need a coach or you need a fan, need a castle built out of ocean sand. A rainbow chaser, Im your man. Ill be there. Ill be a tear dryer, a paper airplane flyer, a monster runner.
SIMON: Mr. Turner, theyve got to turn down that that wonderful song in the control room because my eyes are just burning with tears.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: Oh, I can't listen to this. Its so beautiful.
Mr. TURNER: Yeah, its a pretty powerful song. It was written by Steven Dale Jones and Philip White, and I could definitely relate to it. As a father and as a parent to a child, you have to be, you have to wear so many hats, and you have to be so many different things. And they depend on you for so many different things. And so I feel like that song really kind of expressed that message and that concept in a great way.
SIMON: Do you ever ask yourself what you hope your sons might eventually take away from watching you on stage, night after night?
Mr. TURNER: Thats a great question. And this is actually the first time I've thought about this. You just brought it to my mind. But I got to thinking about Granny and her just trying to nurture me and be a good influence, and be a good example to me, and just take care of me and just love on me. And thats kind of what Im doing for my sons. But I may not ever know, you know, what kind of effect I might have on my sons, you know, in the same way that Granny probably never knew what kind effect she was having on me.
SIMON: Mr. Turner, thanks for wonderful Valentines Day visit - almost Valentine's Day visit. Thanks so much.
Mr. TURNER: Youre quite welcome. Thank you.
SIMON: Josh Turner, joining us from the studios of WBEZ in Chicago. His new album: Haywire.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.
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