Justin Townes Earle On Living With His Father’s Legacy And Creating His Own

Pop Music Critic

Justin Townes Earle knows what a legacy feels like. As the son of cult alt-country legend Steve Earle, and namesake for his dad’s own hero Townes Van Zandt, it’s no surprise that Justin eventually opted to become a country troubadour himself, pursuing a sound that rides directly between the lines of those two iconic figures. After growing up raised by his single mother in the working-class neighborhoods of East Nashville, and battling through his own bout of struggles with the demons of addiction, Earle began touring and writing music when he was in high school, quickly ditching the confines of the classroom for a life on the road.

In 2007 he released his debut, a six-song EP called Yuma for Bloodshot Records, and proceeded to put out four more records for the Chicago-based label, steadily developing a graceful, silvery take on country songwriting that is wholly his own. After a pair of albums for Vagrant Records interrogating the struggles facing parents on Single Mothers (2014) and Absent Fathers (2015), Earle has signed with New West Records for his latest, finest record to date, Kids In The Street. For this album Earle is also working with an outside producer for the first time ever; he enlisted Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Jenny Lewis) to provide finishing touches and little polishes to help refine his sound.

Now eight albums into his own career, and on the cusp of starting a family of his own, Earle has managed to mix an approximation of folk, blues, country and rock into a legacy of his own. In the spirit of love, family, and honoring history, we’re premiering a tender, classic country ballad off his record called “Faded Valentine.” Earle explained to me that after scoffing at the idea of a song tied to that holiday, he ended up writing one anyway, and did his best Lucinda Williams impression to sell the thing — consider it sold. Listen below and read more of our conversation about the changing landscape of his hometown of Nashville, growing up with a country musician as a father, and living up to his namesake.

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