Josh Turner is best known as a double-platinum selling country artist, famous for songs like “Time Is Love,” “Your Man,” and “Firecracker,” and also one of the youngest members of the Grand Ole Opry. But along the road to building his career as an MCA Nashville recording artist, the devoted Christian examined his life and how its events shaped him, and came up with spiritual insights that he put to paper in Man Stuff: Thoughts on Faith, Family, and Fatherhood.
The opportunity to write a book appealed to Turner, who is working on the follow-up to 2012’s Punching Bag album, because it gave him a venue to say things that he hasn’t been able to say in any other medium in his career. Among those life lessons are Turner’s thoughts for men who want to have better relationships in their life, be better dads, husbands, and men of God.
eHarmony caught up with the father of four sons, the fourth was born this Sept. 4, with wife Jennifer, to talk about love, temptation, husbands “learning” their wives, the importance of face time as opposed to FaceTime, and more.
eH: You have a quote from Billy Graham in your book, “Don’t treat love casually.” What does that mean to you?
Josh Turner: I heard Billy Graham talking about how a lot of people treat love casually, they don’t treat it with respect, and they don’t have reverence for it. It just really struck a chord with me. You see a lot of people pushing marriage to the wayside and not really taking it through. It’s something that I feel is a problem in our society, and I would love to see that get better. I try to set a good example in my own life and in my own marriage and just try to let that be a witness to people.
eH: In Man Stuff, what message is it that you’re trying to get across to men in terms of dating and relationships?
JT: As far as dating and relationships, I think it’s just a matter of believing in yourself, being yourself, because I know a lot of times dating can be uncomfortable. It can be awkward. It can be really challenging. Sometimes you find yourself compromising your beliefs and what you feel strongly about — even down to your likes and dislikes just to please the person. I try to encourage men and women, too, for that matter, to not do that. Just be yourself because you want to know that the person that you’re with is going to love you for who you are, not for somebody that you’re not. So that’s one of the main things that I try to express in the book. But the book is not totally geared towards dating and relationships and all that kind of stuff; it’s more of a life book. I’ve tried to include a lot of different aspects of my life and my experiences that I’ve been through, and dating is one of those.
eH: You also write about temptation. What would you tell a friend who is thinking about being unfaithful?
JT: First of all, temptation can disguise itself in a really pretty package. My signature song, “Long Black Train,” speaks to that. It talks about this long, black, beautiful, shiny train that’s just roaring down these tracks. It’s painting this picture of something that just exudes power and strength and beauty, and it tricks you into thinking that it’s going to take you somewhere when in reality when you get on there, there’s just emptiness. It leads to a dead end, like I say, a lot of emptiness through the void, and you end up being let down. That’s true with any kind of temptation, whether it’s alcohol, drugs, pornography, unfaithfulness, even food. There are so many different things that people are tempted by, and that people are addicted to. They seem great at first, but it’s that whole the-grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side philosophy. Once you cross the fence, you realize that it’s either just as good, or a whole lot worse, than the situation you were already in.
So I would just encourage people to not be fooled by the exterior of what something looks like. Just really think about doing the right thing, because in the end you’ll be able to sleep better at night and be regret free. Being unfaithful can lead to a lot of heartache and hurt.
eH: One of the things you also say is that husbands learn your wives. Don’t just love them. What does that mean to you?
JT: For me, I don’t think you can truly love somebody until you learn about that person. You can call it love all you want, but until you really know the person and really learn about that person that’s when you truly fall in love with them.
It’s funny, I’ve been married for 11 years now, and, you hear people say this all the time, but you don’t really realize or understand what this is really about until you’ve been married for a while. I truly find myself falling in love deeper and deeper with my wife every year, and it’s all because I’m learning more about her. I’m getting to know her. We’re making memories together. We’re living our life together. We’re on an adventure together and it draws you closer and closer and closer. Sometimes you think you can’t get any closer, but, like I say, the more time you spend with a person, the more you learn about that person, the more you fall in love with that person.
eH: You also say it’s important to remember why you fell in love in the first place.
JT: Exactly. You have to fall in love for the right reasons. A lot of people get off on the wrong foot and they have to do a lot repair as they go along. For me and Jennifer, we were friends up front, and we had a lot of things that we had to work through. I think every husband and wife has things that you have to work through; things you have to meet in the middle with. It’s learning that what’s normal to her may not be normal to me and vice versa; so you just kind of have to have grace for each other.
eH: You say you’re a romantic. How does that express itself? Are you the kind of guy that brings flowers, or it is just helping out in the house, or…?
JT: For me, it’s helping out in the house, bringing flowers when she’s had a rough day — just being there and being conscious of what’s going on in her life. I think without that, there’s no way you can be romantic. I learned that from my momma’s daddy. He was very much a romantic. He was always tending to the people in his life, the women in his life, and that just set a great example for me that I’ve tried to implement in my own life for my wife. It’s even more important for me because I have four sons. I’m setting an example for them, and I want them to learn that lesson.
eH: For the dog lovers out there, you said that your bloodhound Moses taught you to be a better husband and father. Can you give a little bit more information on how he did that, or what he taught you?
JT: I didn’t really know that that was happening when I had him. I grew up wanting a bloodhound, but I never was really in a position to get one until I bought my first house and got married. That was when I decided that I was going to go and buy my dream dog. So I went and found a breeder, picked out the puppy, and named him Moses. I just fell in love with him and, to this day, he’s still the best pet I’ve ever had. He had such a good heart, such a good spirit, and he never tried to bite anybody, he never tried to hurt anybody. He was about 100 pounds or so, but he acted like he was 10 pounds. He’d always try to get up in your lap. He would sing for me. He was just my buddy.
There were times where, especially during the puppy stage, when he’d kind of test my patience that I lost my patience with him. I probably disciplined him a little harder than I should have and I lost my temper with him. So he taught me a lot of patience, he taught me forgiveness, he taught me loyalty and understanding and a lot of things that are required of you as a father and as a parent. I didn’t really realize that until the time came for me to welcome my first child into the world how important having Moses was.
eH: Do you believe there’s one soul mate for each person, or are there multiple matches out there?
JT: That’s an interesting question. I always used to think that there was one, and I do think that there is one in a certain aspect. This is a little bit hard for me to explain because I learned this lesson back when my grandmomma, my daddy’s momma, died. She actually died the day before my 10th birthday and she was the most incredible woman that I had ever met at that time. I loved her dearly. She taught me a lot about life, the Lord, family, and just being positive in life. I learned a lot of great lessons from her.
So when she died, my granddaddy started dating. Being his grandson, that was so uncomfortable and awkward to see a man you’ve known your whole life married to your grandma just go out and start dating and bringing all these strange women into the fold. So he dated several women until he finally ended up marrying one of them. I specifically remember complaining to my daddy, I was like, “How can he say he loves her when he and granny were soul mates?” I just didn’t understand that and he said, “No, I truly think he does love her.” He said, “When they said their vows, they said , ‘Until death do we part,’ and granny is gone now. They’re parted, at least, here on earth. He needed a companion. He needed someone to lean on, so that is what happened.” So I think in that context it totally makes sense to have more than one soul mate. But I don’t think you can have more than one soul mate at a time.
JT: Honestly for me, from a personal standpoint, it just takes a lot of prayer. I would say spend some face-to-face time with that person because we live in such a technological world that you kind of lose out on that real relationship. There’s a lot of people talking back and forth through the Internet, through phones, and through this, that, and the other. In order to develop that true relationship, and to really find the person that you’re meant to be with, you have to spend some face-to-face time. You need to know what they smell like. You need to know all those kinds of things, those human elements of them, and really just kind of see what they’re like on a daily basis. I’ve talked about learning your wife; you have to learn your dating partner, too, to see if you’re compatible, to see if this is a person that you can spend the rest of your life with, to see if you’re going to have similar interests, and if you’re really going to get each other. I don’t think you really learn that through texting and chatting and all that kind of stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s times where FaceTime and Skype comes in handy when there’s long distance relationships going on. I’ve been in long distance relationships and I’ve been thankful for technology, but, I think, to really, truly find whether or not you’re compatible with a person, you have to spend some time together physically.
eH: Is there something in your career that you want to achieve that you haven’t done yet? Or something in your life perhaps?
JT: As far as short term goals, I don’t think there’s anything specific other than just continuing to make great music and continue to evolve as a singer, and as an artist. Doing this book that came out earlier this year was kind of a surprise to me as that wasn’t something that I was out there looking for. It kind of fell in my lap, and I was very humbled and honored that it came my way. I always welcome those kinds of opportunities — the things I’m not looking for.
Photo credit: George Holz