Nashville star Josh Turner loves bringing his brand of country music to Atlantic City.
“It’s a long way for us, but a great place to go and play,” says Turner, who performs 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, at Harrah’s Resort.
“There are a lot of great country music fans there. They’re excited to see us — we don’t get there too often.”
In fact, Turner chose to include a live version of “Why Don’t We Just Dance” recorded at a previous show in A.C. for “Live Across America,” his 2012 album distributed for Cracker Barrel.
Very much a force in contemporary Nashville, Turner is touring behind last year’s studio release, “Punching Bag” (MCA Nashville), whose single “Time Is Love” got the most plays on country radio in 2012.
His latest music continues a decade of success that began with his 2003 debut record “Long Black Train.” Turner has since released a quartet of hit albums, charted four No. 1 country singles and joined the Grand Ole Opry.
Despite this enviable track record, he can’t quite explain his radio success.
“I wish there were an easy answer,” Turner says. “I have to do what I feel right about in my heart and cut songs I love. At the same time, I try to pay attention to what’s going on out there. Whether I like it or not is a whole other issue.
“I have to start asking myself, ‘How can I make my kind of music fit into that mold, and how can I continue to appeal to audiences without compromising who I am with my integrity and who I am as an artist?’
“It’s not an easy answer. I try to make sure I cut songs that I know I’m going to be fine with singing years from now.”
His first big hit, the title track from his “Long Black Train,” album helped set the standard for him to do this own thing.
“I thought they were crazy picking an old-timey gospel song that’s had some success (at local performances),” he recalls. “I didn’t know how it would fly on commercial radio. I had to work at it pretty hard.
“When it started being played, the fans really gravitated toward it. It changed a lot of people’s lives, and even saved some people’s lives. It’s a signature song for sure and definitely a song we have to play every night.”
But the South Carolina native’s career almost didn’t get off the ground because of vocal problems in his late teens. Turner had to rest his voice for a year due to a lesion on his right vocal cord. Today, he takes care to use proper vocal techniques, get plenty of rest and keep himself well-hydrated.
“My voice takes a little while to warm up,” he says. “When I do get it warmed up, it’s something I can do a lot with. I can’t take it for granted. I have to work at it. I have to take care of it. In some ways, I go about it as an athlete would. Your vocal chords are muscles. You have to work them. You have to warm them up. You have to stretch them.”
Another constant for Turner has been his wife Jennifer Ford, who plays keyboards in his band and sings backup vocals. The two met while studying at Nashville’s Belmont University. Ford continues to tour with him, and now brings in tow their three young sons.
“I can’t imagine doing it any other way,” Turner says. “My wife has a talent — she wants to use that. We love going on the road, getting on the bus and traveling to new places and seeing new people. We try to make it a fun trip when we’re out there. We’re not the kind to stay on the bus all the time. We try to get out and have fun.”
Turner’s country music ‘Mount Rushmore’
Tradition is important to country singer Josh Turner, who recognizes his place in Nashville as part of a long line of male singers with rich baritone voices.
While Turner professes to admire everyone from George Jones and Merle Haggard to Marty Robbins and Alan Jackson, there are five others who stand out as his personal “Mount Rushmore of country music.” These personal idols are Randy Travis, Johnny Cash, left, John Anderson, Vern Gosdin and Hank Williams
“Those five guys really made a huge impact on me vocally, as a songwriter, as an artist and as a person,” Turner says. “Any time you listen to any one of my songs you can hear little bits and pieces of any of those five guys.”
With the Grand Ole Opry playing a key role in his early career, Turner was thrilled to be invited to join a few years ago.
“No other genre of music has a radio show that’s been running that long and that continuously. It’s become a mother church and a flagship for our style of music. To be an official member of that family is a huge honor and a huge responsibility.”