justin townes earle

by rick grant
Modern troubadour, Justin Townes Earle travels the long road of gaining acceptance as an independent artist, defining his own sound and identity. Although Steve Earle is Justin’s father, he grew up with his mother, and only decided to become a musician at age 14. So all the ballyhoo about Justin overcoming the shadow of his father is not really relevant.
In his teens, Justin was exposed to many influences but made his own contacts and musical friends in the biz. Now in his mid-20s, Justin has carved out a niche for himself as an original singer/songwriter who has melded his earlier music into a sound that is both old and new–simultaneously. His album The Good Life is a feast of old time country, ragtime, and moody ballads, impeccably recorded with Justin’s voice out front in the mix.
After a bout with drug addiction, Justin cleaned up and got serious about his songwriting talent. Now clean and sober, Justin tours either solo or with his duo partner, Cory Younts on banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, harmonica, and keyboards. The Good Life is a memorable ten song collection that introduces Justin to listening room audiences.
To find out more about this rising young artist , I called Justin at his new home outside of Nashville.
“As you said, its rough out on the road with the problems with the economy. Basically, I’m a Southern man who was raised by my mother and didn’t have much to do with my father until my late teens. I did play in my dad’s band but that didn’t work out. So, all that stuff in the press about me overcoming my dad’s shadow doesn’t apply to me. Still, I recognize that I have two famous singer/songwriters in my name: ‘Townes’ as in Townes Van Zandt and ‘Earle’ as in my dad, Steve Earle. But it doesn’t put me under any pressure. I’ve always gone my own way.”
“I just write my songs and they come out with my original sound, which is modern country blues with ragtime influences. I just completed my new album, Midnight at The Movies, which is darker, injecting ragtime rhythm with blues. It’s completely different from The Good Life. I didn’t want to make an album like my last record. I want to move on. When I play with Cory as a duo, my songs sound different because Cory may decide to play mandolin or pedal steel, giving each song a new sound.”
“In The Good Life, I intended to represent my songs the best I could. I picked a group of musicians who were my friends and who I was confident would deliver what I wanted. It came out really well. But live, I like playing solo or with Cory as a duo. It keeps the expenses down and it’s easier to setup. But don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have my recording band with me, but that’s not possible right now. Of course, the economy has severely limited my touring schedule.”
“I’m excited about going to Australia. My record has done well over there so it will be interesting to get the Aussie fans’ point of view. Lately, I’ve been going out on weekends and going home because of the drop in bookings during the week. So, perhaps I’ll do better in Australia than the States.”
“As for my heritage thing, I’m proud of my family. I don’t deny my connections to my father. I respect him but I’ve always done my own thing. I do have the satisfaction of getting sober and moving on with my own career. I’m blessed that I don’t crave drugs or alcohol anymore, so I feel positive about the future.”
That ended our enjoyable chat. Justin is a fine young man who is blazing his own trail in music. Justin will be performing live at Mojo’s Blues Kitchen on November 12th. It is located off Beach Blvd. at the light just past Adventure Landing. He hasn’t yet decided whether to perform solo or with Cory as a duo at Mojos.