Yes, Josh Turner is a country star, but he wants to make sure he continues to be known as a songwriter, as well. Even with a new album, Haywire, due Tuesday (Feb. 9), the South Carolina native is in the process of building a 1,700-square-foot log cabin on his property to use as a songwriter’s cottage, and he’s hoping he can keep it free of TVs, computers and other distractions.
“When I first started out in this business, it was easy because nobody wanted anything from me,” he says. “But now everyone wants something from me, so it’s hard to break away and just be a songwriter.
“I remember those days right after I graduated from college. All I had to do was wake up in the morning and think about writing songs. It’s not like that anymore, needless to say. When you get married and have children, and you start having hits and success and your business starts growing, there’s less and less time for songwriting. So you have to start making time for it. It’s something that I have to carve out time for.”
In the first part of this two-part interview with CMT Insider‘s Allison DeMarcus, Turner discusses his different approach to making Haywire, the overwhelming emotion of writing “The Answer” and keeping it clean on “Eye Candy.”
DeMarcus: Tell me what you did to make Haywire different from the other albums you’ve had and yet still stay true to yourself and your fans.
Turner: I look at this album, as a whole, having a lot more energy and having just a lot more emotion from song to song. And it’s funny, I was telling somebody today how the word “haywire” represents this album musically because every song is different from the other. I’m all across the board on this album. You go from this dreamier, conceptual love song like “As Fast as I Could” to “Why Don’t We Just Dance,” this dancin’ song, to “I’ll Be There,” which is a father-child relationship song, to “Loving You on My Mind,” which is an old school R&B type song. Then you’ve got “The Answer” and “Friday Paycheck.” I mean, all these songs are just completely different from the others, so I think that’s one aspect as to why it’s different. The other thing is I just poured a lot more of myself vocally into these songs than normal, so I think that’s one thing you’ll notice with this album. There’s a lot more energy, a lot more emotion and a lot more heart in it.
You wrote “The Answer,” which is very inspirational, a very moving song. Tell us about that song and why you thought it was so important to have on the album.
I had written down the title, “Jesus Is the Answer,” and I was scheduled to write with one of my good buddies, Mark Narmore. He came in, and I threw the title at him, and we started talking about it and talked about the direction we wanted to go in for this song. We felt like it could be a strong song. We wrote it that day, and the second verse gave us a hard time, but we figured it out. We had written a bridge for it, and even after we had finished the song, I felt like the bridge was a little unoriginal or cliché or whatever. So I said, “I’m not going to be happy with this. We need to go back and change the bridge.” So we went back and changed the bridge, and after that, I was just extremely proud of Mark and myself for writing this song.
But I didn’t know that the best was yet to come because, at that time, when it was just a guitar-piano vocal, it sounded more like a sad Vern Gosdin song than a full-blown gospel song. But when we went in and cut the track in the studio, I started noticing that, OK, we’re going in a more appropriate direction with this song now. … From the time I wrote it to when we tracked it, and in between the tracking session and me doing the vocal on it and really trying to familiarize myself with the track, all throughout that time, I felt like I was going to have to sing it in a way that I probably normally wouldn’t sing a song. When I went in, I really put 110 percent of my singing talent into the song, and I felt like the song was ready to bust lose. Like I said, I gave it all I had.
Then the next time I heard it was after my vocal had been completed, all the overdubs had been done and the choir had been put on it. It had been mixed, and when I heard it, I was in my car at night listening to this song, and I started crying because I couldn’t believe that I had written that song. It sounded so great. To this day, I still can’t believe I had a hand in writing it. But I felt very strongly about it being a part of the record because I felt like it was a powerful song. It stood right up next to the other songs we had on the record. I felt like it would really mean a lot to a lot of people.
While that’s a very moving and beautiful song, “Eye Candy” is a really fun song. I think your fans who loved “Firecracker” will love “Eye Candy,” as well. Tell me what you loved about that song.
“Firecracker” was such a fun song to write and to perform. We did a video and all this stuff. I wrote it with Pat McLaughlin and Shawn Camp, and that was the first song we had ever written together. Then I had come up with this title, “Eye Candy,” and I’d never really heard a song called “Eye Candy.” I got to thinking about what a great job we did on “Firecracker,” and I was thinking, “I’ve gotta write ‘Eye Candy’ with these two guys.” They came in, and we had a ball writing that song. The hardest part was keeping it clean, but it was a fun day, needless to say.Read the second part of the interview with Josh Turner.