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Previewing Rodeo Austin's mainstage entertainment

Brian T. Atkinson

Josh Turner's lively "Haywire," released in 2010, tempers sacred ("The Answer") and secular ("Why Don't We Just Dance") with a sideways smile ("Eye Candy"). The 34-year-old country hit maker seems eager to support the collection locally.

"I'm looking forward to being in Austin, period," Turner says. "We always have a great time down there. You'll probably find me at Rudy's Barbecue." The South Carolina native performs March 21 at Rodeo Austin.

American-Statesman: Explain how `Haywire' took shape.

Josh Turner: We got started on that sooner than I had anticipated, mainly because the songs started coming at me pretty early. "Why Don't We Just Dance," "Your Smile" and "Lovin' You on My Mind" were the first three songs that came and really got me excited.

When did you write `The Answer'?

That one came a bit later. My buddy (co-writer) Mark Narmore and I got together that day and I had this title idea, "Jesus Is the Answer." We really liked the title (and) started like we were writing for a Vern Gosdin album, but it turned into so much more than that. The song became really, really powerful as we went into the studio and put background vocalists on it.

Have you purposely made faith a recurrent lyrical theme?

I try to include songs that are going to express different sides of me and my personality and my character. My faith and my spirituality (are) a huge part of who I am. That governs all the decisions I make personally and professionally. I feel like if I don't include a song on my record that speaks to that, I'm doing a disservice to my fans.

Does spirituality factor into your creative process?

Absolutely. Songwriting, whether anybody wants to admit it or not, is really a spiritual thing. I always say the best songs write themselves. That's what happened with "Long Black Train." It's such an incredible feeling when you sit down with an idea and a song just comes out so effortlessly. I wish all of the songs I write could be that way (laughs).

How do you choose songs written by others to cut?

If I hear an outside song that I really like, the first question I ask myself is, `Is this something that I could've written myself?' If it's not, I'm really going to be intrigued and interested to see how my vocal wraps around it. If I'm going to stretch myself with outside material, it needs to be something that I probably would've never dreamed of writing.

Did you know (the 2006 No. 1) `Would You Go With Me' would be a hit?

"Would You Go with Me" was one of those songs that from the first time I heard it I knew it had hit potential. When we first heard it, all it had was four verses, no chorus. My producer Frank Rogers was like, "We'll cut it if you get the writers to write a chorus." Sure enough, Shawn Camp and John Scott Sherrill sent it back with a big hit chorus.

You've cut several of Shawn's songs. What's most compelling about his writing?

Shawn has a great understanding of country music. He has a great understanding of my voice and what I like and don't like to sing. At the same time, he knows how to make it sound new and fresh. He's a fun guy to write with, and it's fun to sit down and listen to the songs that he's written.

Rodeo Austin

The rodeo is March 9-24, with the main stage entertainment kicking off March 10. Shows are at 7 p.m. at the Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker Lane. $20-$175.

The popular Cowboy Breakfast is 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Friday at Auditorium Shores, 920 W. Riverside Drive. See the full schedule for that event, which includes live music, at rodeo

austin.com. Call 919-3000 for more information.

The main stage lineup:

March 10

Eli Young Band shoots skyward with "Life at Best" (2011) and three Academy of Country Music nods next month (including Song of the Year for "Crazy Girl").

March 11

"Nashville Star" winner Chris Young marks his fifth consecutive No. 1 with the rosy single "You" and boasts his own pair of ACM nominations ("Tomorrow").

March 12

Nineties chart topper Clay Walker ("What's It To You") recently illuminated ABC's "The Bachelor" with the heartening "Like We Never Said Goodbye."

March 13

Disney actress Demi Lovato's ethereal power pop equally empowers youthful determination ("Skyscraper") and drive ("Give Your Heart a Break").

March 14

Jake Owen's "Barefoot Blue Jean Night" (2011) pits city ("Alone with You") against country ("Apple Pie Moonshine") and includes the chart topping title track.

March 15

The Band Perry's self-titled debut (2010) produced singularly effortless ("You Lie") and elegant hits ("If I Die Young") with momentum enough to go platinum.

March 16

Nashville superstar Sara Evans ended a six-year hiatus last year with "Stronger" and energized fans with its buoyant hit "A Little Bit Stronger."

March 17

Josh Abbott Band's "She's Like Texas" (2010) spotlights Lone Star pride (the title track) and punch ("My Texas" with Pat Green) with unwavering aim.

March 18

Glen Campbell enlivens his farewell tour with greatest hits ("Wichita Lineman") and peaks ("A Better Place") from his final album "Ghost on the Canvas."

March 19

Eighties country hit makers the Bellamy Brothers ("Redneck Girl," "I Need More of You") roll strong three decades after their first greatest hits collection.

March 20

Gavin DeGraw ("One Tree Hill" theme "I Don't Want to Be") notched his second Top 10 record with last fall's "Sweeter" and its KGSR staple "Not Over You."

March 21

Country star Josh Turner is comfortable with both the scared and the secular (see interview).

March 22

Roadhouse rocker Stoney LaRue's "Velvet" (2011) frequently fortifies infinite motion ("Travelin' Kind") with unforeseen insight ("Look at Me Fly").

March 23

Expect "Celebrity Apprentice" winner Bret Michaels to mix Poison hits ("Every Rose Has Its Thorn") with beefy new tunes ("Get Your Rock On").

March 24

Lone Star favorite Kevin Fowler's new "Chippin' Away" boasts playful ("That Girl") and potent tunes ("Hell Yeah, I Like Beer") that fit perfectly Saturday night.

- Brian T. Atkinson