Originally published in the May 5, 2014 issue of Country Weekly magazine.
Josh Turner shares life lessons and dispenses a touch of wisdom in his first book, aimed at everyday guys.
In an often undisciplined world, Josh Turner has held steadfast to his Christian principles and staunch Southern upbringing. He’s a church-attending family man who doesn’t drink, pursue the company of women other than his wife and believes that “integrity” is one’s most admirable trait. That can often be an anomaly in country music, which has been known to celebrate alcohol and other vices, harmless or not.
Nonetheless, Josh, in a most Tom Petty-ish way, won’t be backing down from those principles. “When I first got into this business,” Josh says with a smile, “everybody was like, ‘Wait a minute, you’re a Christian but you’re also a country singer?’ And my thing was always that, yes, I am a Christian but that doesn’t mean I can’t be cool or relevant.”
Josh has enjoyed a certainly relevant (and very cool) career, with No. 1 hits like “Your Man” and “Would You Go With Me.” He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 2007 and performs at the hallowed venue on a regular basis.
For all his success, though, he’s never forgotten the life lessons he learned from his grandparents, parents and mentors, which have served him admirably through the years. Josh is sharing those lessons, along with some timely and well-dispensed wisdom, in a book that he’s authored titled Man Stuff: Thoughts on Faith, Family and Fatherhood, set for release April 29. The insightful, entertaining book consists of short anecdotes, many just a page long, and, you might say, parables that range from topics like “A Man Needs Friends” to “Chasing My Dreams” and “Learning From Others.”
Josh will admit that he had no real longing to pen a full-fledged book, though he has written several of his own songs, including his debut smash “Long Black Train,” “Firecracker” and others. “The idea was presented to me by the [book] publishers,” Josh begins, seated in the office of his publicity company. “At first, it seemed a little scary, but the more I thought about it, it got me excited and motivated to tackle this. It really appealed to me because I viewed it as an opportunity to say some things that I’ve never had the chance to say. It was also a way for me to honor the people in my life that I’ve learned from, whether they’re my parents, grandparents or my heroes.”
Fans who know Josh mainly through his instantly recognizable deep bass voice and country radio hits will see the more personal side of the singer. Readers get the chance to learn about Josh’s family—his wife, Jennifer, and their three sons, Hampton, Colby and Marion—and how faith has shaped his life. That was Josh’s aim in writing the book, but actually putting the chapters together proved the most daunting of the many tasks.
“The stories are very similar to fables, I guess,” Josh says in an even tone. “Each one has a moral or a life lesson to it. They are very short and simple and that was by design. I didn’t want to bog the reader down in anything too heavy.” Josh was conscious in not making the stories sound “preachy” or overbearing to the reader. He also wanted to avoid writing in a superior tone, as if he alone has all the answers to life’s challenges.
“I definitely don’t have all the answers,” he says, laughing good-naturedly. “And I don’t claim to in this book. Some of the first things I submitted might have sounded that way or gone on a little long, but between the editors and my management, they helped me temper a lot of that. This is not a ‘tell-all’ book or a biography,” he adds by way of explanation. “It’s just presenting life lessons in a way that’s going to be easy to read.”
As far as choosing the topics, Josh relied on his memory and recollection of the smallest details. “If I didn’t remember enough about a certain story,” he says, “I decided I just wouldn’t talk about it. I really wanted every story to be straight from my mind, the way I remembered it.”
Not For Men Only
As you might deduce from the title, Man Stuff targets the male audience primarily (though not exclusively). Josh writes and muses on subjects that men aren’t always comfortable discussing, like vulnerability, friendship, sensitivity and living responsibly. “I think these are things that men would like to hear about,” Josh explains. “You know, we men don’t always spend a lot of time trying to improve upon ourselves or taking responsibility for our actions. And I know that men look at certain things like being sensitive toward others or being a good listener as signs of weakness. So I wanted this to be encouragement and guidance for men to take a step back and evaluate who they are and what their purpose in life is.”
In chapters such as “A Man Needs Friends,” Josh shares his own growing-up experiences to serve as a guidepost. He admits that he was often a loner as a youngster, but as he entered adulthood and became a husband and father, he realized the importance of friendship. He writes, [A man] needs other men who will hold him accountable, encourage him and lend a listening ear. God told Adam that it is not good for man to be alone. What we’ve learned since then is, it’s also not good for man to be a loner.
But Man Stuff isn’t strictly for the guys, Josh believes. Women who read the book just might come away with a better understanding of the male psyche. “I think it can help men and women, people from all walks of life,” Josh maintains. “The first person who read the book was my wife and she loved it. She told me she learned things about me that she never knew. I joked with her and said, ‘Well, let’s see the list.’ But she also liked it because it was short and simple and had lots of wisdom behind it.”
And, for sound reason, Jennifer is mighty proud of her husband-turned-author, as Josh happily relates. “I asked her not too long ago, ‘Can you believe I have a book out?’ And she said she could believe it,” Josh says. “And she thinks I have more in me.”
For Josh, whose previous writing consisted of penning three-minute songs, the broader canvas of a book gave him extra room for expression. “In some ways, it’s actually a little easier than writing a song. First of all, I didn’t have to make it rhyme,” he quips with a deadpan delivery. “But you can cover more ground, for sure. It’s very exciting for me to have all these stories and life lessons in a tangible book.” So, what’s next? “I don’t know, maybe a Civil War story set in South Carolina,” says the history buff, smiling. “I think that would be a fun project. So, we’ll see.” CW
Josh’s Strong Faith Even Applies To the Tour Bus
In Josh’s book, Man Stuff: Thoughts on Faith, Family and Fatherhood, he includes a chapter titled “Play by the Rules.” In this particular instance, Josh is relating a story about the rules and regulations for band members aboard Josh’s tour bus. For musicians especially, Josh’s rules may seem unrealistic, but as the singer succinctly puts it, “It’s my bus.”
And herewith are a few of Josh’s rules:
- No women on the bus unless they’re family.
- No alcohol, drugs or smoking.
- Clean up after yourself.
- We play country music and we dress the part.
OK, so maybe No. 4 isn’t so demanding. But Josh’s point for including the chapter was to recall how his rules were often ridiculed. Another artist’s band member even got hold of them and posted them at the Grand Ole Opry, in essence mocking Josh’s principles. “There was a big fuss over those rules,” Josh agrees. “It wasn’t hard to make them, but it was hard to answer the people who didn’t like them or didn’t understand them. They were just a symbol of the standards that I held for my corporation and the guys who were out there with me. Some looked at them as handcuffs.” But Josh was not about to relent or relax his standards in any way.
“These are my beliefs,” he says. “And I can tell you that the guys who really want to work for me have no problem with them. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten compliments from venue people and promoters who tell me how professional my company is and what a pleasure it is to work with my band members and crew, because they are so nice and polite. That makes me feel great.”