Q&A: Justin Townes Earle Talks Style, Westerberg and The Food at The Granada.

Justin Townes Earle
Justin Townes Earle

As if being Steve Earle's son wasn't difficult enough, Justin Townes Earle decided to follow his father's footsteps into the difficult world of music.

So far, though, the younger Earle has done just fine. In fact, Justin's most recent record, Midnight at the Movies, may well be his best effort to date.

Speaking from his home in Manhattan, Earle took some time to chat with us and reflect on his new record, his style of dress and even the food available at the local venue where he'll be performing this Saturday.

One of the best songs on the new album is the autobiographical "Mama's Eyes." Was that a difficult song to write?

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I think it was one that I was thinking about writing for years. I hadn't actually worked on it, but I had the idea. I think I just chose the right time for the song to come out. That's something I am very cognizant of as a writer, when something's ready to be done. You only get so many ideas and they seem to come when they want to. With that song, it took me a while to figure out what I was going to do, but by the time I sat down with it, it was pretty easy to finish.

Why is now the right time for a song with the lyrics "I'm just like my father/I don't know when to shut up"?

I think that's the kind of song where a person has to grow up before they can write it. It takes men a long time to come to terms with the fact that they are going to turn into their fathers.

Midnight at the Movies has received the best reviews of any album you've ever done. Amazon named it the No. 8 best country record of the year. What makes the new effort special?

It felt different recording this one. The sound and the songs themselves are not different from what I've done in the past, but on the whole, the project came together in a special way. Maybe it's just now that people are listening to me as someone other than the son of Steve Earle.

Your sound is not that dissimilar to your father's, though. Do you worry about that?

I grew up listening to what my parents listened to and that meant a lot of country and folk. I don't try to sound like my dad, nor do I shy away from the type of music he plays. If my music gets compared to his, I take that as a compliment.

One the new album you cover The Replacements' song "Can't Hardly Wait." Is Paul Westerberg one of your favorite songwriters?

I always loved The Replacements. To me, they just seemed like the quintessential American band. But I also love artists like Springsteen and Tom Petty for the same reason. A lot of people do not know who Paul Westerberg is, and that is a shame.

You have played Dallas several times over the past couple of years. What are your impressions of the city?

Dallas gets a bad rap when it's compared to Austin. When I come here, I usually only see the venue where I am playing, but that has always been a great experience. I can tell you that musicians don't always get the kind of food like they serve at The Granada. Dallas is a corporate town. It always has been. Lots of cover bands. But I also lived in Nashville where I think they have five tribute bands to fucking Bon Jovi.

Is it true that you were named one of GQ's best dressers?

Well, those who know me know that I like nice clothes. I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

Is the Yep Roc Bloodshot label the perfect company to put out your music?

I think, for right now, at this point in my career, Yep Roc Bloodshot is perfect. It's been a great place to really get everything rolling in the right direction.

Last year you played over 175 shows. Are you on the road too much?

These days, you have to hit the road to make ends meet. With the way music is being marketed and sold, the live show is how you make a living. It gets weary sometimes, but I love to play. I don't complain about it very often. 

Justin Townes Earle performs with Chris Knight on Saturday, February 6, at the Granada Theater.


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