For Josh Turner, his new album, Deep Southis a true labor of love. His first album release since 2012's Punching Bag, Turner admits he had some doubts about whether or not the new project would actually come to fruition.

"It was kind of a trying process and it was a long journey from when I started writing for this record [in Jan. 2013]," Turner tells Taste of Country. "There's a lot of stuff that went on during that time as I was working towards getting this record together, and there were some moments where I was really kind of scratching my head, wondering if this thing was ever going to happen."

The country singer says he wasn't anticipating such a gap between album releases, but he had a lot happen in between. "Life throws you some curve balls sometimes, and sometimes you swing and hit them, and sometimes you swing and miss. And so there was a little of all of that in the last four years. A lot of life has been lived," he says, citing changes in the music business, country radio and shifts at his record label as just some of the elements that impacted the process. But that all contributed to Turner's growth as an artist.

“I feel older,” he says with a laugh. "I feel like I’ve gotten smarter, kind of tougher, and I don’t really want to say I’ve gotten it figured out -- I don’t think anybody ever does -- but I definitely know what to avoid and what to go after.”

I think the fans will be able to recognize there’s a good mixture here of your typical Josh Turner record, but there’s an air of freshness and newness on here.

Turner wrote a whopping 80 songs for the album, with 11 making the cut, four of which he wrote. He calls the selection process a creative one, learning about the business side of things, including publishing. When listening to Deep South, fans will hear the traditional country sound, but with some fresh elements. The album finds Turner experimenting with some new sounds, incorporating a more contemporary vibe than his previous works, with the singer calling "Hometown Girl,” “All About You” and “Southern Drawl” some of the fresher cuts on the project.

"I definitely know that I’ve grown and I feel like I’ve been more established as a songwriter," he says. “I made a concerted effort to get out of the rut that I was in, changing things up. But I think the fans will be able to recognize there’s a good mixture here of your typical Josh Turner record, but there’s an air of freshness and newness on here.”

"Hometown Girl," the album's lead single, is a strong example of that. Turner describes the song as one that tells the story of a small town girl who has the potential to accomplish anything she puts her mind to, but hasn't forgotten her humble roots. The singer was drawn to it immediately. "The melody was something that just stuck in my head, and that was a good sign, and then I really started listening to the lyrics. I loved what it said, and I felt like it would relate to the bulk of my female fan base," Turner says of the track that's currently in the Top 15 on the country charts. "So far I’ve been right.”

With this blend of new and traditional, Turner relays that while it's not identical to his past projects, there is enough of variety on Deep South that fans are sure to find a song they gravitate to. "I think it still has that honesty, that heart," Turner says of the project. "I'm still sticking to that formula of finding songs that relate to a broad range of people, and that's still me coming from my perspective. So I think it's a good balance of all of that."

Deep South is available on Friday (March 10). It's available for pre-order at iTunes.

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