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Interview:
Steve Earle at The Fillmore, 5 Things To Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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Steve Earle isn’t a full circle kind of guy.

The maverick Americana songwriter is use to moving forward, are at least side to side as he shifts between musical styles from country to bluegrass to folk to rock. But Earle considers his latest album, “So You Wanna Be An Outlaw,” to be the spiritual of philosophical -- both his words -- companion to “Guitar Town,” his gold-certified 1986 debut.

The similarities are obvious; Both straddle the rock-country divide and deal with topics personally deeper and politically headier than the usual country fare, at least. That “...Outlaw” comes along 20 albums later in Earle’s career is an opportunity to witness his growth as well as how much has stayed the same in his dogged, sometimes cantankerous approach to making quality music...

• Earle, 62, says by phone from Seattle that “...Outlaw” was inspired by touring during 2016 to commemorating the 30th anniversary of “Guitar Town.” “I was in that mindset, in that zone,” Earle acknowledges. “Once I started writing to purpose, I knew what this record was going to be. I wrote (the title track) and I wrote the second verse for Willie Nelson to sing hoping I’d get him to do it. He said yes and that was the beginning of everything. We just went from there.”

• Celebrating “Guitar Town,” however, did remind Earle of the resistance he faced from the country establishment at the start of his career. “It pissed me off when people told me what I wasn’t doing was country when I had the No. 1 country album,” he recalls. “I had that one moment where as far as I was concerned I defined what country was. There was about 30 seconds around the time I left Texas and arrived in Nashville when the inmates were pretty much in charge of that asylum, but there was even a lot of s*** on country radio back then. I was never coming from a very mainstream place.”

• Earle did have to do some “major surgery” on “...Outlaw’s” lyrics, however, after the presidential election last November. “I was resigned to Hillary Clinton being president. I “wrote maybe half of this record believing it,” says Earle, who supported Bernie Sanders. After Donald Trump’s victory in the general election, Earle said that he “thought about scuttling maybe a third of the record or half the record and writing some political stuff.” But then he thought differently and decided to leave it as it was. Y’know, I made this record for a reason. I’m really proud of these songs. Things I’ve done as a songwriter in various other areas I’ve dabbled in come to bear on this album. As a writer I’m really proud of these songs, so as a writer I decided to let it live the way I intended it to be.”

• One thing Earle does like about “...Outlaw” is the growth and maturity it shows 31 years later. “If you listen to ‘Guitar Town’ and ‘Exit O’ and all my (early) albums, my voice sounds a lot more one-dimensional,” he notes. “I’m just a lot better of singer now than I was then, a better player, too. Playing a lot of acoustic guitar and no electric guitar for several years helped. I’ve owned this ‘55 (Fender) Telecaster for years, mainly as a collector’s piece. I played it maybe on one track on another record and tended towards my way more friendly and forgiving electric guitars that didn’t show my sins as clearly. But this time I used that guitar and made myself play it the right way.”

• Earle won’t guarantee he’ll stay in this lane next time out, however. “I’ve got this incredible...country-rock band now,” he says. “I’ll probably take some time during this tour to start writing songs, and the next record will probably be just as country as this one and way more political and probably more interesting record to make. I’m just going to travel around the country in the way that I do and try to listen instead of talk and just write some songs from that. It’ll be interesting to see where they go.”



If You Go:

• Steve Earle & the Dukes and the Mastersons

• Thursday, Sept. 21. Doors open at 7 p.m.

• The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.

• Tickets are $12.50-$65.

• Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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