Josh Turner: Overcoming Challenges to Fulfill His Calling
By Tim Branson
The 700 Club
CBN.com -Josh Turner is one of country music’s hottest stars. Since his debut album Long Black Train was released in 2003, he’s sold more than 5 million records and has had 4 number one hits. Reporter Tim Branson caught up with him backstage at the Ryman Auditorium, with the sounds of the Grand Ole Opry drifting through the halls. Josh said he believes his work is about much more than making hits
Tim Branson: “You’ve actually referred to it as a calling.”
Josh Turner: “Oh yeah. I’ve known from a very early age that singing was what I was supposed to do. There was this unmistaken, undeniable passion within me to sing country music.”
He grew up in the small town of Hannah, South Carolina. He says while he got his start singing in church, his calling came when he was a teenager out riding his four-wheeler.
Josh: “I was just asking God, ‘Can I do it? What do I have to do to get there?’ Once I got through praying I just kinda took time to be quiet and listen and and that was then it was that still, small voice that came to me and spoke to me and just basically said, ‘If you want this, I’ll make it happen. But I ask one thing of you, you just have to trust Me, no matter what.’ And the only other thing He said was, ‘I’m creating your own path for you.’”
Josh believed that path would lead to Nashville, so he planned on going to Belmont University to study vocal performance. But soon after he graduated high school, he lost his voice.
Josh: “It just physically hurt to utter any kind of sound, whether it was talking, singing, whatever. I had developed a lesion on my right vocal cord that just sent me spiraling downward and it was a shock because I remember the day that He told me that He was going to make it happen. And so I was like, well, the only thing He asked of me was to trust Him. And so I trusted Him.”
After a year of vocal therapy and training, his voice came back - even stronger. Meanwhile he had enrolled at Belmont where he wrote his first hit song. It came from a vision he had about a long black train.
Josh: “This train was just absolutely beautiful, and I could see people standing out to the side of the track watching this train go by and they were just, you know, mesmerized by it and they were caught up in this decision of ‘Do I get on it? Do I not?’ Because people knew deep down that this train would take them nowhere. And so it dawned on me that this train was a physical metaphor for temptation.”
He talked his way into performing Long Black Train at the Ryman Auditorium – the original site of the Grand Ole Opry - where he received two standing ovations.
Josh: “The thing that I think made that night so special was the fact that nobody knew me. It was strictly the music. It was the song, you know? It wasn’t name power.”
Tim: “Well, what was it then, if it wasn’t name power? You say it’s the song, but where did the power of that song come from?”
Josh: “I’ve always felt like this song was a gift from God, and I feel like it continues to resonate with people. I mean, I’ve gotten story after story after story of people being moved by this song, and sometimes I feel like it’s a heavy responsibility for me, you know, to sing this song, knowing how powerful it is, because back then I didn’t realize it.”
Long Black Train, the title track of Josh’s debut album, went gold. But all was not perfect. Now Josh had to learn the ropes of the music business. Sometimes that meant having to take a strong stance on his convictions, even when it wasn’t popular.
Josh: “I’ve been mocked a lot. I’ve been made fun of, you know, of the standards that I keep out, and that I hold out on the road and the way I conduct my business and myself and the way I behave in this business.”
Tim: “Are these things based on your strong stance in your faith?”
Josh: “Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just stuff like, no drinking on the bus, or on the road period, no bringing women on the bus and that kind of stuff. I care about my reputation. I care about my legacy that I’m leaving, not only for my fans, but for my wife and my children and my grandchildren. I want them to look back and say, ‘He did it right and he stood up for what is right.’”
Josh stuck to his guns and now, his legacy includes 2 Grammy award nominations, multiplatinum albums, and a coveted membership into the Grand Ole Opry. And he’s not slowing down. This past summer, he released two albums, one was a live compiltaion called Live Across America. He also released an album and single called Punching Bag, which is a reflection of life’s hard knocks.
Josh: “The song, Punching Bag, the album title all that came from this one day that nothing was going right. I felt like a punching bag. I felt like I was being beat up by life. We all have those days. A lady came through a meet-and-greet here just recently she said that she had just been diagnosed with cancer. And she said, ‘Thank you for inspiring me, because I’m not going to let this defeat me.’”
Tim: “What does that mean to you when somebody comes up and says, ‘That song touched my heart and maybe changed my life?’”
Josh: “It means that what I wrote and the time that it took writing it and recording it and putting it on a record and all that was not in vain. It was worth it.”
Josh says at the end of the day the things that matter are his relationships with his wife and three children, his friends and most importantly, with God.
Tim: “If you were able to tell people one thing about Josh Turner that you wanted them to know without a doubt, what would it be?”
“I love Jesus Christ with all my heart and everything He stands for. I think that sums up everything that I want for my life, everything I want for my family, everything I want for my career. I want it to be entertaining. I want people to smile and tap their toes, but I want it to be meaningful when the day is done.”
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