Sunday, October 11, 2009
Justin Townes Earle
Age and experience are two things that are often thought to go together, along with wisdom. I have come to learn that they have little correlation in general, and I was further reminded of this last night when I saw Justin Townes Earle play at Bodega.
Being the child of someone famous has to be pretty tough, especially if your dad is Steve Earle, the rock-country singer-song writer known (according to Wikipedia) as the "the hardcore troubadour" for his drug and law troubles, and political viewpoints. Not only that, but you’re also named after Townes Van Zandt, a cult singer-songwriter who meet his demise at the hands on drugs and alcohol in the 1990s. Now Justin Townes Earle is making a name for himself as a musician and every damned interviewer seems to be concerned about the relationship with his father, but he copes with it well.
“There’s nothing about my relationship with my father that you can’t find out with Google… Our lives and our relationship are, have been, and always will be public, because people are always going to want to figure out the psychology between singer/songwriter father and son…You just let it happen.” Justin Townes Earle.
He even put it into a song- Mama’s Eyes, reminding us that it was actually his mother who raised him. “I am my father's son/we don't see eye to eye” and “I've got my mama's eyes/her long thin frame and her smile/and I still see wrong from right”
Not only that but Justin headed down a path of drug abuse (following in Steve’s footsteps) from before his 12th birthday. He was sent off to live with his dad at 14, who hardly felt up to the task: “I was a year clean when I got handed an out-of-control 14-year-old. I’ve been dealing with him ever since”. It seems he was quite a little shit. As a consequence he was booted out of his dad’s band and several others (one band had to fold because Justin kept selling all the instruments and equipment to fuel his habit). According to this extensive article, at the age of 21 he was hospitalised and nearly died, then sometime later he stopped the hard drugs. Realising that music was the only thing he felt he could do well, Justin began performing again and recording. Now he’s touring on the back of his third album Midnight At The Movies.
Putting aside his great music (which I won’t cover here) it was while he was playing onstage last night it occurred to me that he has this worldliness about him, which struck me more considering he’s only three months younger than myself. He’s experienced and wise and his lyrics- mostly on love, places and late nights- appear to me to reflect on a life lived very fast. You’d almost expect someone of 50 to be writing them. I don’t feel nearly as worldly. He embraced the stage with charisma, humour and comfort. He dealt with the drunken idiots and entertained us all.
While I like a lot of music, there are not as many musicians whom I haven’t met that gain my respect, but Justin Townes Earle definitely does.