Josh Turner Talks Getting Randy Travis Back in the Studio for New Album Country State of Mind

"We've been through a lot of tough stuff the past year," the country star tells PEOPLE

Josh Turner
Josh Turner. Photo: David McClister

Josh Turner is ready for brighter days.

In a new interview with PEOPLE, the country singer opens up about the tragic September 2019 accident that saw his longtime sound engineer David Turner killed when his tour bus went off a California highway.

"It's something I don't wish on anybody," Turner, 42, says of the devastating crash, which also saw seven other passengers injured. "I still have guys that are still struggling physically, emotionally, you name it."

He continues: "It's been pretty tough on all of us, but I've learned what all of those guys are made of, in the wake of that accident and I'm proud of most of my guys for how they've dealt with it."

2020 brought fresh challenges and heartbreak as well. Turner's live concerts have been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

At the same time, he and his wife Jennifer — along with their four sons: Hampton, 13, Colby, 11, Marion, 9, and Hawke, 5 — were forced to move out of their home and into a smaller cottage on the family property in Nashville, Tennessee, when they discovered a mold problem.

"We've been through a lot of tough stuff the past year, including the financial strain of having to rebuild our house during a time when I can't even go out on the road … it was a gut-punch," Turner tells PEOPLE.

Still, the South Carolina native is determined to end the year on a high note. His new album, Country State of Mind, is out Friday, with covers and features honoring the roots of country music. Below, Turner opens up about new music, homeschooling and life in quarantine.

Josh Turner
Josh Turner's Country State of Mind. David McClister

PEOPLE: How are all the kids doing? What have you and your family been up to the past couple months?

TURNER: They're good! They've been busier than I've been, just about. They're all growing up and eating everything in the house. We've spent a lot of time together since March and I was forced to come off the food. We've visited family and done a lot of things that we normally wouldn’t have had time for during this time of year, so it’s actually been food. The kids started school recently, too. We homeschool them. The only thing I really do is help with math every so often and geography, beyond that, Jennifer carries the bulk of it.

PEOPLE: Walk me through the process of putting together and recording an album remotely — how did you do it?

TURNER: It was a very fun project. All these songs have a special place in my heart. I think it'll really resonate with people now, especially because of everything we're going through in the world today, because it'll bring back good memories of a simpler time. It provides an escape from a world full of worry, uncertainty and fear. I had all of my recording done before the pandemic hit. We had a few of the guest artists that still needed to record their part, which was somewhat of a challenge with the pandemic's restrictions. Jennifer Wayne from Runaway June, actually, was one of the first people I knew that actually came down with the virus.

But she fought it off and got back on her feet and we managed to get everybody in the same room and get it done and all that. Technology too, allows us to get things done that we probably wouldn't have been able to years ago. Maddie & Tae did theirs remotely at their own place, and Chris Janson actually did it at his home studio before the pandemic even came along, so I tell people that he was social distancing before social distancing was cool.

PEOPLE: What was your favorite part of putting Country State of Mind together? Any difficulties?

TURNER: This was the first record that I had played guitar on and this is the first record that I ever sung harmony vocals on, and I owe that to my producer, Peter Greenberg. Actually getting in there and playing guitar was probably the hardest part for me because I don't really consider myself a guitar player. But for the two songs that I played on it, it made sense and I think it adds something special to the record. But outside of that, it was just a lot of fun, to be able to go in and give these songs a rebirth and some new life.

Recording with Randy Travis for his first recording session since his stroke in 2013 was good. Randy's been a hero of mine for a long, long time, and he's been a friend of mine for a long time. The record wouldn't have been complete without him. But we got him in the vocal booth and he's taking the first couple passes at it — I'm standing beside his wife [Mary], and I look over and she's got tears streaming down her cheeks.

I put my arm around her and I said, "Is this the first time that Randy's been in the studio since the stroke?" And she was like, "Yeah." I just gave her a big hug, and that was when I realized how big of a moment that was. It was pretty cool to be able to be the one to get him back in the studio after everything he's been through.

PEOPLE: Has your family listened to the album yet? What do they think?

TURNER: Oh yeah. My 9-year-old, Marion, loves "Desperately." Everybody's a big fan of the record. Jennifer's not so much a fan of "The Caretaker," but like I say, everybody's entitled to their own opinion.

PEOPLE: How have you been holding up in quarantine? Have you picked up any new skills?

TURNER: There's been a lot of good things about it, but I'm ready to get back to work. I learned a lot of things about contracting, plumbing and electricity that I didn't really care to learn while we were rebuilding the house. I actually installed an exhaust fan in our bathroom. It literally took me eight hours to do, and I just about lost my religion!

PEOPLE: What are you looking forward to in 2021?

TURNER: Just playing my shows, and making money again. That'd be nice!

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