Because his father is singer-songwriting hellion Steve Earle, Justin Townes Earle says that “a lot of people expected me to come out with growling guitars and stuff like that, ‘cause my dad does.” But that’s not the case with the younger Earle’s debut, “The Good Life.”
Instead, the 25-year-old Nashville native takes “a more smooth approach to my music” that hearkens back to Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie — but was actually inspired by a more contemporary source.
“I quit going to school around the time they put out that Nirvana ‘Unplugged’ album,” Earle says. “I always loved Kurt Cobain’s lyrics, but they were always marred by too much noise to me. Hearing that album got me back to Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, all the people who came up in that era.
“It was a much cleaner approach, which I’ve always liked. That’s apparent to this day in my music.”
The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree in one regard, however. After falling to substance addictions like his father — in this case opium, followed by crack cocaine — the younger Earle suffered the ignomy of being booted out of his dad’s band when he was younger, though he says that was for the best.
“I needed to be fired,” he says now. “I was completely strung out and out of my mind and had been for years. But it’s an accomplishment, especially being a member of the Earle family. We’re one of those, ‘I can say anything I want about him but you better not’ kind of families. We really watch out for our own.
“So if you’re an Earle it’s hard to get thrown out of anything that involves an Earle — and if you do, the rest of the Earles will give you undying (grief). But it’s OK now.”
Justin Townes Earle performs at 8 p.m. Thursday (May 22) at Callahan’s Bar & Grill, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills. Tickets are $10. Call (248) 858-9508 or visit www.atcallahans.com.
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