DARKE COUNTY — Country music artists Josh Turner and Jo Dee Messina both shared enthusiastic comments about performing at the Great Darke County Fair.
“I have a huge fanbase in Ohio,” said Messina, “so we try to make it through there as much as possible. I’m excited to get back and reconnect with those fans.”
Messina found fame after the release of her second album in 1998. Among other songs, the album contained her first two hit singles, “Bye, Bye” and “I’m Alright.” Since then, she’s released nine albums and been honored by the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. Her latest tour has taken her throughout the South and the Midwest, with stops including Mount Orab, Ohio and, of course, Greenville.
A busy life has kept Messina away from the Buckeye State for the last few years, but the singer said fans could look forward to hearing some stories about the lessons she’s learned along the way during her performance on August 20.
“We have a few new songs, and some stories behind them, and we like to share that with the crowd,” Messina said. “I kind of introduce these songs and tell what inspired me to write them.”
Among the harder life lessons Messina has learned is that fame sometimes brings fair weather friends.
“I was at a crucial point in my life when my mother had become ill, where I needed friends, and the closest people to me were unavailable at that time,” said Messina. “ I always compare it to athletes: you’ve got a million friends when you’re out on the field, but once you’re retired your phone doesn’t ring as much.”
Most of all, however, Messina stressed that she was excited to perform at the county fair.
“We do tons of county fairs,” she said. “There’s a million counties in the United States. The majority of our work comes from the county fairs. And they’re always fun: it’s a great mixture of crowds, there’s no age limit. And people are there because they just really wanna see the show.”
Fair headliner Josh Turner echoed many of Messina’s statements.
“Ohio, for some reason, just has some of the best country music fans anywhere,” Turner said. “No matter what part of the state you’re in, they’re always very excited, and that makes my job a lot easier as a performer, because I don’t have to try and draw that joy and enthusiasm out of a lukewarm audience.”
This is Turner’s second time performing at the Great Darke County Fair. He performed in 2014 with fellow country music star and American Idol Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery.
Turner made his debut performance at the Grand Ole Opry in 2001, and has since released six albums, been nominated for two Grammys, and won six Inspirational Country Music Awards. His latest album, “Deep South,” was released in March of this year.
Turner spoke about his musical influences, calling country staples Randy Travis, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, John Anderson, and Vern Gosdin “my Mt. Rushmore.”
“The biggest thing I learned from them was how to be myself,” Turner said. “How to be Josh Turner.”
He also talked about lessons learned from working in the industry, citing the need as a performer to be his own boss, and surround himself with a team that shares his goals and understands what he’s trying to accomplish.
“Fans know me as the singer, the songwriter, the performer,” said Turner. “They don’t know me as the business guy.”
Finally, Turner shared Messina’s enthusiasm about the county fair.
“Playing the fairs in the summer is our bread and butter,” said Turner. “It’s where most of our business comes from. There’s always a big family atmosphere, and the fans range from young to old.”
Turner’s message for those fans in Darke County was simple.
“Just be prepared to have a good time,” he said.