On the evening of October 19, 2019, Josh Turner ’15 was preparing to step onto the stage of Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London to perform a tribute show to Paul Simon’s album Graceland. He, along with a six-piece band and a full South African Cultural Choir, would join the guestbook of major artists who had performed on the stage before, from Charlie Chaplin to David Bowie.
Waiting to hear the show was a nearly packed house and the London theatre press. The pressure was high, and in Turner’s words, “it was so scary.” Despite the nerves, Turner now identifies the show as a highlight of his career because halfway through the second set, the audience stood up and started dancing. For the rest of the night, the concert was a party.
For the Butler University graduate, that moment was the culmination of years of dedication and exciting opportunities—from performing on Good Morning America to touring with a tribute show called the Simon and Garfunkel Story. Music was always important in Turner’s life, especially on the internet. Starting in middle school, Turner had a YouTube channel dedicated to his musical journey, with a focus on singing and guitar. Since then, his channel has significantly expanded. In addition to an ongoing solo career, he is now in the musical group The Other Favorites, which may be best known for their performances on YouTube. Along with millions of video views, The Other Favorites have successfully created a virtual touring experience, which gives fans the opportunity to tune in to monthly live-streamed performances.
However, Turners’ journey to finding his way through the professional musical world was not without uncertainty. He outlines his success with three pieces of advice.
“Following what you are passionate about is step one to being successful.”
Like many students at Butler, Turner’s educational journey was not a straight line. Though music was always his passion—he started singing when he was 9 years old—he wasn’t ready to officially pursue music as a first-year student. He worried that if he decided to study music, he might lose some of his passion for the art, so he initially chose a major in Digital Media (now called Creative Media and Entertainment). Turner also wondered if he was good enough to make a career out of music. But through taking classes outside of his major, he was always able to keep music in his life and class schedule.
Eventually, taking classes such as Music History and Aural Skills proved that Turner’s relationship to music wouldn’t change just because he was graded on it.
“The more classes I took,” he says, “the more I realized that wasn’t the case. Everyone is best served if I am doing something that I am really engaged in and I am motivated to work hard toward.”
With that mindset, Turner fully dove into the world of music, declaring a major in Music during his sophomore year. He graduated in 2015 to pursue a professional career in performing, writing, and producing music in nearly every genre. His music ranges from folk, to jazz, to R&B, to bluegrass-infused renditions of popular Backstreet Boys songs.
Now, living in New York, creating music every day, and performing around the world (or, during the pandemic, via livestream), Turner says he still feels the moments of self-doubt he felt in school. He still wonders if he has “made it.” But he combats these feelings by reminding himself that “comparing yourself to other people is, at the end of the day, not helpful.” He stresses how important it has been for him to learn his worth and walk the line between being confident without getting arrogant, and feeling motivated without getting down on himself.
Be “constantly in the process of ‘making it.’”
While enjoying every exciting opportunity, Turner says he has kept the mindset that he is “constantly in the process of making it.” He has never relied on one big break to be successful. Turner has continued to invest in himself, stay flexible in the mediums he uses to provide content to his fans, and know that he is “as prepared as he can be” for every performance. Right now, being flexible as a performer looks like providing online content through live streams.
“Be a good person.”
For Turner, the final step to achieving success has been to just be a good person. He says that in a competitive job market, you can really be set apart from all the other talented people by “being the person who isn’t judgmental, who returns calls, and who does the little things.”
Turner has found the most satisfaction in his music by trying to create joy. He recognizes that the internet can be a platform that creates division, but he says his favorite part of his job is the feeling that he is contributing to “the part of the internet that actually brings people together.”
Turner certainly follows his words with action, and the evidence lies in the example he sets for those around him. Most recently, he demonstrated his commitment to making the world a better place by speaking at Butler’s virtual School of Music Convocation in September 2020. During the Zoom call, he talked about investing in yourself as a musician and a professional, harnessing social media to build an audience, and expanding interests outside of your major. The more time you can spend away from music, he told the students, the more you’ll love it when you come back.