|Growing up the son of a famous musician is not be as glamorous as others might imagine. That’s especially true if you want to become a musician yourself, as you’re forced to try to get out from the shadow of your world-renowned parent. But in the case of Justin Townes Earle, he’s had no trouble becoming a country and folk star in his own right.
Welcome to the good life
Earle was born on Jan. 4, 1982, in Nashville, Tennessee. His father is famed singer-songwriter Steve Earle, who has been a favorite of country fans since he first emerged in the mid-1970s. Not only that, but Justin is named after another celebrated musician, Townes van Zandt. Given his musical roots, Justin Earle started his musical career at a very young age. Some of his earliest work came by playing with other bands, including stints in his dad’s band the Dukes as well as the rock group The Distributors and the bluegrass collective The Swindlers. However, by the mid-2000s, Earle developed his own sound and released an EP entitled Yuma in early 2007. The following March, he joined forces with Bloodshot Records, a famed alt country label out of Chicago, to release his debut LP, The Good Life. That LP helped Earle kick open doors in the alt country and folk community.
Singing the blues
The next year, Earle continued his rather busy work schedule. Not only did he spend time on the road with fellow up-and-comers like Gillian Welch and The Felice Brothers, but he returned with his sophomore LP, Midnight at the Movies, almost a year to the day from his last LP. The 12-track collection was, in many ways, a big break for Earle, and it gained quite a groundswell of critical buzz. For that record, Earle was named Emerging Artist of the Year at the Americana Music Awards in September 2009. Almost exactly a year later, Earle returned with his third studio album, Harlem River Blues. Like its predecessor, the 11-track LP was critically lauded, with special praise for Earle’s emotional nuance and down-home rhythms. The title track later won the AMA’s Song of the Year award.
Mothers and fathers
Into 2011 and early 2012, Earle maintained a handful of projects. That included a cover of “Maybe Baby” for the tribute album Rave on Buddy Holly as well as an appearance on the hit HBO show “Treme.” In spring 2012, Earle unveiled album No. 4, Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now. The LP peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard folk charts. That same year, Earle produced Unfinished Business, an album of covers from country legend Wanda Jackson. Earle’s next records were part of a larger collective project. Single Mothers debuted in September 2014, with Absent Fathers hitting shelves shortly thereafter in January 2015. Both LPs saw Earle explore his childhood rather in-depth, including touching on personal issues with substance abuse. In the time since those albums, Earle has remained busy with touring, most recently with a string of shows in early 2017.
Even with a famous country star for a dad, there’s no denying the singular talent of Justin Townes Earle.