The common perception is that diving into an industry in which your father is famous is both a blessing and a curse. For Justin Townes Earle, son of Steve Earle, that perception holds true, though he's not too concerned with the latter.
“I've got worse curses in my life,” Justin says. “I'm a recovering f—ing heroin addict.”
The heroin addiction is the curse that derailed his early music career. When he was using, his performances would be “hit or miss,” and ultimately drugs, among “other things,” cost him his job playing in his father's band.
Thus it is that Justin says he now pursues a career in music, not because of his father, nor because of his namesake, Townes Van Zandt, nor because he practically grew up at the Grand Ole Opry, but instead “because I was a better musician than I was a drug dealer.”
Four years ago, he cleaned up and now has his life, and career, on track. He just released his first album, The Good Life, and is about to embark on a prolonged promotional tour — that includes a stop at Arlington's IOTA Club and Cafe, Thursday, April 10.
You won't find any tales of Earle's troubled past on the album however.
“That's something that's very personal and not something I'm supposed to advertise,” says Earle, who goes on to note his loathing for what he sees as an endless stream of singer-songwriters singing about their feelings. “By the end of those songs, all you get out of them is that they're sad and aren't a very good boyfriend or girlfriend.”
Instead of Earle's self-reflections, The Good Life is filled with a narrative-based collection of works successfully set to a mix of music ranging from folk (“Who Am I To Say?”) to straight-up Nashville country (“The Good Life”). The collection has already earned praise from Pitchfork, reinforcing what Earle already knew.
“It is such a myth that you need to be f—ed up and tortured to write,” he says. “I'm 10 times the performer now than I used to be.”