No choice but to stay busy for Justin Townes Earle

Let’s just get this out of the way right away…

Yes – Justin Townes Earle is the son of the one and only Steve Earle. Following his father’s footsteps into a career in music shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone. And while there is no question to the trail his father blazed for the resurgence in country music in the 80’s and early 90’s, Justin has become one of America’s best singer-songwriters in his own right.

He is a restless music soul for whom sticking to one genre of music doesn’t seem to be on the agenda. His 2009 sophomore record Midnight At The Movies showed how mixing musical styles but making the finished product sound remarkably coherent is still a possibility. 

From the desolate feel of the album’s track to the bluegrass slant of “Halfway to Jackson” and “They Killed John Henry”, Midnight At The Movies is an enthralling and compelling listen for fans of his father as well as classic country pioneers such as Hank Williams Sr.

By Earle’s standards, he is taking it easy this summer while the opportunity for downtime presents itself. Included among the 12 shows on his tour schedule between now and the end of August, Earle will be playing shows alongside the Court Yard Hounds, Levon Helm and The Avett Brothers among many others. His lone Canadian date this summer is slated for July 10 in Saint John, New Brunswick.

But with the release of a new record pencilled in for September, Earle anticipates he will return to the 5-6 shows per week breakneck pace he has largely maintained over the past few years.

“I do have a good amount of time off this summer,” Earle says with his thick southern drawl. “We are only doing festivals and weekend runs through the summer because once September hits, it will be full-on touring again. The state of the music business these days doesn’t allow much for taking time off.”

Earle says that his new 10-track record, recorded over a lightning fast six days last month is along the same lines as Midnight At The Movies but is far from being a carbon copy of that record.

“With this new album, I tried to tap into different influences. I enjoy such a wide range of music that I am always trying to tap different levels of music that has influenced me. This upcoming record will actually be the first of mine to feature electric guitar.”

Now before you think that it was inevitable that Earle would get around to using electric guitar, he clarifies that fans should manage their expectations of what they are going to hear on this new record.

“It’s not a screaming, wild electric guitar sound at all,” he says. “Jason Isobel (ex-Drive By Truckers) plays electric guitar on the new record and with him, we were more interested in capturing a Buddy Holly, pop music guitar sound than anything else.”

Broadening his sound and horizons with his upcoming record is the result of the success he has been afforded to date. With success comes perks such as larger recording budgets and, as such, the leniency to add instruments such as horns and strings that might not have been a possibilitywith his last record.

Aside from expecting to tour throughout his native US this fall, tours are also being booked for the UK and Australia. Earle is quick to credit the latter for having on of his best followings of anywhere on the globe.

“We sell more tickets in Australia than anywhere else in the world,” Earle remarks. “We can regularly play to 1000+ people a night in Australia. They really love their roots music and have been very kind and generous with their support.

“Ultimately though, we don’t want to ignore any market. I’m blessed with the fact that I do well enough through touring the United States that I can make a living off of doing what I do. A lot of others aren’t that lucky and that isn’t lost on me.”