The jacket of Josh Turner's new book features a photo – originally shot for a 2011 issue of PEOPLE Country's Hottest Guys issue – of the singer draped with his boys Hampton, now 7½, Colby, almost 5, and Marion, who just turned 3. His wide grin, deep dimple and rough scruff no doubt caught plenty of admiring eyes, but his designation as Hottest Dad and thoughts on fatherhood also piqued the interest of religious publisher Thomas Nelson.
"That story got them interested in me, my lifestyle and how I live my life and faith," the rural South Carolina native, who grew up attending the Union Baptist Church in Hannah, S.C., three times a week, tells PEOPLE. "It appealed to me, and got me excited because it allowed me to open up and share stories and lessons that I probably wouldn't have otherwise shared."
Turner says writing the chapters for the book "was a lot easier than writing a song. You don't have to rhyme it! You don't have to worry about phrasing or bridges. Being hunched over a guitar and singing requires so much more energy than just sitting and expressing your thoughts on a subject you think you know something about."
Each of the 89 chapters begins with a verse of scripture which sets the tone for a story, anecdote or piece of advice, among them "Play by the Rules," "What's Right and Smart," 'Stick With What You Love" and "A Prayer for My Sons."
And while several chapters are devoted to his marriage, his wife and bandmate Jennifer was in the dark about the book's content until he wrote the final chapter.
"I didn't let her see or read anything about the book until it was finished. I even found all the photos myself. I wanted it to be a surprise. She knew I was working on it and I talked to her about certain things, but I wanted it to be new and fresh when she saw it and read it for the first time."
Man Stuff: Thoughts on Faith, Family and Fatherhood – with a forward written by Duck Dynasty's Jase Robertson – is out Tueday, April 29. Which means that now, Turner can turn his focus back to making music.
"I'm almost finished with my new album. It's been a long process. I started working toward this record in January of last year and wrote close to 60 songs but it wasn't until I got to about the 40th that I knew what I was trying to say. We're about nine songs in and hoping to have a single out in May or June. It's been a long hard road. I'll need to get counseling when it's done!"