Josh Turner Reflects On ‘Long Black Train’ On Its Milestone 20th Anniversary

“I never would’ve dreamt of the doors that that song opened for me going forward,” the singer shared.

By

Madeleine O’Connell

| Posted on

May 30, 2023

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Josh Turner; Photo Provided

When Josh Turner first unveiled his second single and title track to his debut album, Long Black Train, the country singer was still a budding artist trying to break into the music industry while attending Nashville’s Belmont University. Now, 20 years later, he’s commemorating the success of his ghostly track by releasing the project on vinyl for the very first time.

On the heels of this momentous milestone, the country star sat down with Country Now and other media outlets to reflect on the impact Long Black Train has had on his life and career since its 2003 release. 

Josh Turner Vinyl
Josh Turner Vinyl

When the song was originally penned, Turner wasn’t writing with the intention of building a record. In fact, he didn’t have a publishing deal or a record deal at the time. However, the tune changed all of that for him as both the song and the album ended up being certified Platinum by the RIAA with nearly 1.5M album sales. 

“You know, I was lucky to just pass my classes and make good grades at that point. And I was overcoming my vocal injury at the time, and so it was kind of an innocent time in my life where, you know, I didn’t know how to write towards a record cause I’d never had a record deal. ‘Long Black Train’ came out of that time where I didn’t really know what my future held,” Turner explained. “I never would’ve dreamt of the doors that that song opened for me going forward. Cause even at literally the moment that I finished writing it, I’m thinking, nobody’s ever gonna wanna hear this. This is just so out outdated. But you know, it’s got a lot of those timeless qualities and it’s got a very strong, clear message, and I think it’s something that people relate to and they continue to relate to it.”

Just four months after graduating with a degree from Belmont, Turner made his Grand Ole Opry on December 21st, 2001. Stepping into the legendary circle, he showcased “Long Black Train” in front of the packed audience. This song earned him two standing ovations plus an encore, making for a moment he will never forget. 

“It took me years to realize the significance of my Opry debut because it was so overwhelming, so emotional. It was hard to wrap my head around, back then in those days. Then finally, one day, it just kind of clicked with me. It’s like, wait a minute, nobody in that crowd knew who Josh Turner was, yet I got two standard ovations in an encore. Like that’s unheard of,” the singer/songwriter shared. “That’s why everybody was making such a big deal over it. It’s like I was the last one to figure it out, but it was just kinda wild to think about it in that way because I practically had to beg my way onto that stage. Then after that response happened, Pete Fisher, who was the general manager of the Opry at the time, he comes up to my dressing room and says, ‘you know what? You can come back anytime.’”

Following “Long Black Train,” the South Carolina native strived to step outside the bounds of this gospel track to showcase his diverse range of talent. This led to him dropping another game-changing single, “Your Man.” Not only did this song show off his famed baritone vocals, but it also allowed people to see him as more than just a gospel artist and further immersed him into the industry as a true country artist with captivating stories to tell. 

“When it came to that point where it was time to release another single, we had already been experiencing the deal where a lot of people had tried to pigeonhole me as one type of artist based on ‘Long Black Train.’ And so we knew we had to kind of break out of that,” Turner explained. “Once I had recorded ‘Your Man,’ we knew that that was the song that was gonna help us kind of go in a different direction and show fans and radio and industry people that, ‘Hey, you know, I’m not just this one-dimensional type artist. I can do something completely different.’ And so that kind of took us, you know, almost a 180 from ‘Long Black Train.’”

He continued, “That really kind of helped establish me as a credible artist in my mind because like I say, there was so many people that just thought, ‘oh, well, you know, he’s the ‘Long Black Train’ guy, he’s the gospel type, you know, whatever.’ So ‘Your Man’ really kind of broke me out of that and it became my first number one. So, we obviously made the right choice.”

As Turner approaches 25 years in the industry, he’s come to realize that among all his accomplishments, some of the biggest have been seeing how his music influenced so many artists to follow him. This includes Scotty McCreery, who auditioned for American Idol back in 2011 using Turner’s, “Your Man.”

YouTube video

“Well, I’ve realized that that’s one of the biggest accomplishments that you can have in this business, is to see younger artists coming up and referencing you or your music, or sighting it as an influence,” he shared. “I think the first time I felt that was when Scotty McCreery had sung ‘Your Man’ and was talking about me on American Idol. At the time I was thinking, ‘I’m too young for this, you know, why is it happening so soon?’ But yeah, I mean it’s an honor to have these younger artists looking up to me as an influence, it’s still a little weird cause in a lot of ways I still feel young.”

On top of having an impact on the rising artists looking for an opportunity to stand out from the pool of talent, Turner has also had the chance to show his own kids a glimpse into the music industry. He and his wife, Jennifer, and their four sons, Hampton, Colby, Marion, Hawke, have often come together to sing both in the studio and live on stage. 

“It’s always fun to have them on stage. It’s funny, as much as they’ve been on stage, the ironic thing is that Jennifer and I have always tried to keep them out of the spotlight. But the last, you know, the gospel record and the Christmas record, it just felt appropriate to include them. It was a chance and an opportunity for them to kind of show their talent and express that. And it was kind of a family treasure and keepsake and memory too, which I think, you know, those moments and those pieces of product, the DVD and all that, the live TV specials that we did, I think as, as the days and the years go by, I think they’ve become more and more special. I look back at the gospel record thing that we did up at the Gaither Studios back in 2018, and I mean, our children are two and three times bigger than they were then, and it’s just unbelievable how time flies. So, I’m glad we had the opportunity to do that when they were little and young.”

Turner has spent many years on the road with his family, but now that they are each growing up and discovering their own passions in life, it seems as though they may not be joining him on stage for his current run, the Long Black Train 20th Anniversary Tour.

“As far as this tour, there’s no plans for them to be out on stage with me this year, but like I say, Jennifer was a part of my band for over 10 years, and my three oldest children, they practically grew up on the road. So that’s all they really knew from an early age,” he shared. “It’s interesting, I can see how that’s benefited them. They’ve never met a stranger, you know, they’re very flexible and adaptable to different environments and different settings and so, you know, that part of it has been cool to see.”

The singer/songwriter went on to share that school is the main focus for his kids at the moment, as they continue to grow before his eyes. 

“They’re definitely growing. My 13-year-old is almost looking me in the eyes, so that’s kind of wild. My oldest has always been tall, but my three youngest are starting. It’s like, what’s, what’s happening? And I’m gonna have a yet another teenager in December, so I’m gonna have three teenagers, which is just mind-boggling.”

Josh Turner’s Long Black Train 20th Anniversary Tour was named in honor of the 20th anniversary of Turner’s hit album. This trek kicked off March 4 in Dothan, AL and continue across the U.S before wrapping up in Columbus, MN on September 23. Additionally, he will return to the UK this summer, following his triumphant inaugural tour over there in 2019.

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Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.