A train of memories

Singer Josh Turner frequently has saluted his personal and expanded Mount Rushmore of country music: Randy Travis, John Anderson, Johnny Cash, Vern Gosdin and Hank Williams. But he saves one deep bow toward at least one other legendary artist who brought pioneering tunes and major artists to Brown County’s hills and hollers: bluegrass icon Bill Monroe.

“Oh, absolutely,” Turner said, speaking by phone from his home in College Grove, Tennessee. “I grew up (in South Carolina) a big fan of the old-timey bluegrass stuff. I was a big Stanley Brothers fan, and a big fan of Bill Monroe and those guys.

“I still base a lot of my music on what they did.”

Heck, Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys even played once at his parents’ rural South Carolina elementary school years ago.

The 46-year-old Turner will bring Monroe’s influences and more to a show at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at Brown County Music Center in Nashville. Though the performer’s deep, rich, baritone voice is as certain as the sunrise, his latest set list has yet to be formed from a career that has spawned five No. 1 singles — they include “Why Don’t We Just Dance” and “Your Man” — while selling 8.5 million units amid 4.8 billion global streams.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Turner said. “Because years ago, I was always having to fill my sets with covers that I knew we could really get the crowd going with. But now that I’ve had a lot of hits, it’s a little easier.

“We play a lot of the same songs over and over, but we also get really creative about changing them up in order to bring something different.”

Except for his first giant hit that forms the name of this latest outing: “The 20th Anniversary Tour: Long Black Train.”

“That one’s still pretty true to its original form,” Turner said of the song about temptation that he wrote as a 21-year-old at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. That’s where he met wife Jennifer Ford, who traveled with him as the band’s keyboard player for years, even as the couple had four children in tow on the tour bus, including a toddler.

He laughed when asked their secret for harmony especially with the past stresses of working together.

“I didn’t marry her just because I love her,” Turner said. “I married her also because I like her.

“And we’ve always been better together.”

The artist has long possessed a sensibility of helping others travel the entertainment road that he found challenging. In 2008, he established the Josh Turner Scholarship Fund for the Arts for those pursuing arts-related careers. Initially, it was exclusively for students from his South Carolina High School.

“But we have watched it grow exponentially over the years,” Turner said, adding that it grew to encompass the whole state of South Carolina and now encompasses all of the southeastern United States. “The ultimate goal is to expand it to the whole nation.”

The man whose career long ago went worldwide understands continued growth.

With that in mind, when Turner looks to his distant future, he faces the question of how long he might continue touring in a music industry in which many artists are still doing successful live shows well into their 70s — or, like his friend the late Charlie Daniels, into their 80s — with a continuing commitment to quality. (Daniels at age 78 in 2015 attracted 6,000 people in Columbus’ Mill Race Park after he had recovered from a stroke and performed in fine fashion to strong applause).

“I see things like that with artists who are 30 years older than me, and then I sit here and I try to assess what might be age-appropriate for me,” he said with a chuckle.

For now, that might seem a long, black train trip from today.

About the concert

Who: Grammy-nominated country singer Josh Turner.

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9.

Where: Brown County Music Center, 200 Maple Leaf Drive, Nashville.

Tickets: browncountymusiccenter.com