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Josh Turner ‘Live Across America’ Is Cross-Country Journey

Gino DePinto, The Boot

For every Josh Turner fan who has left one of the singer’s concerts and thought, “I wish I could take that experience home and hear it again and again,” that wish has come true with the release of Josh Turner — Live Across America. Recorded live at Josh’s concerts throughout the country, the new CD will be available exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations starting Monday, Aug. 27.

“My manager came up with the idea of taking a Pro Tool rig out on the road to record every night and I thought it was a great idea,” Josh tells the Boot. “I felt like it would be good to record over a certain period of time and then take the best performances of that collection of recordings. It appealed to me that it wasn’t going to be from just one location. It was going to be from across America, so that’s why I wanted to name it Live Across America because that’s what it was.”

Sitting in the spacious conference room of his manager’s Nashville office, Josh is casually clad in jeans and a t-shirt. As he leans forward and smiles, he’s quick to point out he’s always been a fan of live records such as Johnny Cash‘s At San Quentin and Lyle Lovett’s Live From Texas. Josh had a chance to record his first live project in 2007, Live at the Ryman, which was also offered as a Cracker Barrel exclusive. Though he relished the opportunity to record a live project in one of country music’s most celebrated venues, he’s excited about taking the listener on a cross-country journey with the new album.

“It was us living the life that we live, waking up in a different town every morning and having to set it up and tear it down and play it for different crowds in different venues,” Josh explains. “It appealed to me because it was not a night or an event; it was a journey. It was moving from place to place. We were singing the same songs night after night, but it was a different experience because of the different crowds, venues and different energy that we would get from them. I feel like listening to this record is a journey because you start off in Biloxi, Miss., and you end up Atlantic City, N.J., so it’s cool. It will allow the listeners to go on the ride with us.”

Josh says recording a live album can be a challenge, but he’s pleased with the way his new project turned out.

“I’m such a perfectionist and I like to have everything just right,” he admits, “but at the same time I try to be as real and as genuine as I can be in my life and in my career. I feel like the live record thing is something that I’ve been getting used to as the years go by and with this being my second one, I’m continuing to learn what works and what doesn’t work. A live record is an example of that authenticity and that realness that you find in imperfection and you can hear that in this record. Obviously, we did a little doctoring here and there, but most of these tracks that we chose needed very little, if any, doctoring. We wanted to find those performances where the magic was just happening. We didn’t want to go in and change the original product, so a lot of this is as it happened. It’s fun to listen to it.”

The album spotlights some of Josh’s biggest hits. “All Over Me” was recorded in Biloxi, Miss., while “Firecracker” was captured in Lancaster, Pa., and “Your Man” was recorded at a show in Kansas City, Mo.

“Playing ‘Long Black Train’ in Austin, in a rodeo arena was kind of cool, and playing ‘Me and God’ in this different arrangement was cool for me, too,” he says of the tune recorded in Key Largo, Fla. “I wanted to do ‘Me and God’ on this record and we were going to do it more acoustically, but I didn’t want to do it the way we always do it. I really wanted to find a different way to perform it. I wanted it to be just as good as the original. So I kind of came up with this somewhat bluesy type arrangement and we had to write a different chart for it and everything. My guys had to use some different instruments here and there, so I was pretty proud of that song and the way it turned out.”

In addition to serving up some of his best-known hits, Josh also treats listeners to a special rendition of the Waylon Jennings song “America.”

“I’ve always loved that song,” Josh says. “When I was going through this record-making process, I wanted to include a song that summed up this whole concept and this whole experience in making this live record. I didn’t want to put ‘God Bless the USA,’ just a straight-up patriot song or anything like that. I wanted something that spoke to the journey that America itself has been through and I wanted to put my own stamp on it. The first song that came to my mind was this Waylon song because I felt like it kind of told that story in a simple way. I came up with my own arrangement and made it more intimate to where I was telling a story more than signing a song. I was pretty proud of how it turned out and I’m glad to have it on this record.”

See Our Exclusive Photo Shoot With Josh Turner

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Josh is happy to again be partnering with Cracker Barrel to take this new release to his fans, and the popular chain is also sponsoring the singer’s current tour.

“Cracker Barrel has always been great to work with,” he says. “It’s just been like an extended family and they really have a lot of the same goals that I have. They’re trying to sell music and they’re trying to just effect people in a positive way and trying to comfort people not only through their food, but through their atmosphere and through the music they’re playing throughout their stores. Their company motto is ‘Pleasing People’ and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do when I’m out on the road playing shows. I want to please my fans. I want to please every audience that I’m playing for and I want them to come back to the next show I do and I want them to buy the next record. That’s what Cracker Barrel tries to do. They try to please their customers to the point to where they want to come back, so those kinds of similarities make for a great partnership.”

When they’re out on the road, Josh and his family, band and crew can often be found enjoying a meal at Cracker Barrel.

“We go there as a family and nobody really bothers us,” he says. “We can go in and eat and just get a taste of home when we go to Cracker Barrel. It’s great to have them out there. There are 616 stores in 42 states now. They’ve really grown a lot since the first time I had a sponsorship with them. They’re expanding a lot and going to all different parts of the country.”

When Josh hits the road, it’s always a family affair. His wife, Jennifer, plays keyboards in his band and their three sons — Hampton, 5, Colby, 3, and Marion, 20 months — travel with them.
Hampton just started kindergarten, but the family has found a way to stay together on the road.

“Luckily, we found a school that was willing to work with our schedule,” Josh says. “We just did what was best for him and our schedule and our lifestyle.”

Though adjusting to school might be tough for some kids, little Hampton is embracing this new chapter in his life. “He loves it,” Josh says proudly. “He walks in and doesn’t look back.”

As for Dad, it was a different story. “That first day or two was pretty rough,” Josh admits. “I swore that it wouldn’t be, but it was. Driving away from the school was like the last five years of your life starts flashing before your eyes, so it’s hard to hold in.”

This summer in particular seems to have flown by and Josh has been especially busy. On June 12, MCA Records released his latest studio album, Punching Bag, and he’s been touring extensively.

“We haven’t done a whole lot of fun-related things,” he says. “That’s always the plan but it didn’t happen this year. We had one week off where we went to the beach, but it flew by. We did have fun, but other than that we’ve been on the road and working hard. We’d come in and unpack and repack and get back on the bus. It’s been one of those years.”

Though they haven’t had much time to relax this year, Josh and entire entourage will always have fond memories of the tour and they’ll have a wonderful album to commemorate this time in their lives.

“I’m happy for Jennifer and my whole band and my crew because they worked really hard on this and they have something to show for it,” he says of the new live album. “It’s tough being a road musician or a crew guy. You work these shows night after night after night and you don’t really have a whole lot to show for it. It’s kind of a thankless job, so when they get to be a part of a project like this it makes me feel good as a boss, because not only do they get paid for it, but they get a keepsake. They get to say to their children and grandchildren, ‘I played on this record.’”

To celebrate Josh Turner — Live Across America, Cracker Barrel is sponsoring a special sweepstakes. One lucky fan and a guest will win an all-expense paid trip to Nashville to meet Josh and see him perform at the Grand Ole Opry. Fans can enter now through Sept. 14. For details, click here.

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