The Human Factor
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Justin Townes Earle’s music is informed by his experiences – good and bad, as BEN WATERWORTH reports.
WITH so many different stories to tell from a very eventful life, Justin Townes Earle is always focused on adding a human element to his music and shows.
The American singer-songwriter is returning to Hobart this weekend off the back of two album releases and a wedding in the past 12 months, and will ensure his passionate and emotional music will connect with Hobart audiences in a way that might have people leaving the show with a different mindset than when they entered it.
‘I’m a lot more aggressive than your average solo acoustic performer,” Earle explains. ‘If you want to spend [your night] easily, than my show is probably not the best place for you to be. But I do find that I [can] offend and p— off all the right people.”
The 33-year-old Nashville native has always been around music and, as the son of legendary country artist Steve Earle, there was always going to be a career in the arts for him.
But things haven’t always been smooth sailing. Raised by his mother alone, Earle found himself involved in drugs from 12 years old and throughout his life has had constant battles that have had him make several appearances in rehab.
Since 2010 however he has managed to stay sober, produce four highly acclaimed albums and tour the world, and still reflects his experiences both good and bad in his music.
‘I write from a backlog,” he said. ‘I add the conventional wisdom of the time into it that draw from situations and draw from the very most human aspects of everything I went through. Not all the extraordinary deep dark drug stuff but just the human aspect of all that, the feelings that we all have and all those things. It makes a big difference.”
In 2014 he released Single Mothers which was originally planned as a double album but instead was turned into two separate albums. The second part, Absent Fathers was released in January this year.
The decision to split the albums in two was an easy one to make, according to Earle.
‘It was a decision mainly based upon attention span,” he explained. ‘I can’t expect anybody else to have any better of an attention span than I do. I know I don’t have an attention span and I haven’t found a single double record in a long time that has intrigued my attention span to sit down and listen to the whole thing.”
Both albums received rave reviews and charted in the top 10 on the US folk charts.
‘So far everything seems to be going good,” he said. ‘The fans seem to like it. I’m having fun playing the songs. Those are the most important two things, bringing them in and keeping yourself in which can be a challenge sometimes.”
Earle last toured Hobart in 2010 and is excited that he is able to return.
‘It’s definitely a place that I wanted to come back to. The response we had the first time was encouraging enough to come back and whenever you can get an encouraging response from a population that live in a beautiful and intriguing place you want to follow it up.”
He also recalled fond memories of Hobart during a period in his life when he was just entering sobriety.
‘The one time I was there I had a very strangely memorable time that at this stage in my life wouldn’t be as acceptable as it was back then,” he recalled. ‘A guy who owned a club who decided that he liked it closed with the people he wanted in it and you know what happens in clubs when they are closed down and everyone is hanging out with a full bar and all those strange things!”
With his musical career going strong, Earle says he has reached a point where getting feedback on his music from his dad isn’t required.
‘We talk about music now and then. I don’t even know if he has heard the newest record – I don’t think I’ve sent it to him! I think it’s important to have the praise of those we look up to but I [also] think that the silence of those we look up to as they stand beside us and see what we do is worth so much more.”
Earle will perform at the Franklin Bar & Restuarant this Sunday.
Tickets have sold out.
This article was originally written for The Mercury