Whether with his full band or by himself, Justin Townes Earle always puts heart and soul into his performance and tonight’s gig in Ferndale, MI was no different.

Justin Townes Earle (JTE) has lived a lifetime’s worth of experiences in a short 32-year period. He was born the son of hardcore American country icon Steve Earle, says he was abusing hard drugs by the time he was 12 years old, played in a rock band called the Distributors, a ragtime and bluegrass combo called the Swindlers, spent time as guitarist and keyboardist for his father’s touring band the Dukes, released an EP and four critically acclaimed full-length albums as a solo artist, did multiple stints in rehab, constant touring, a new found sobriety, a recent signing and feud with Communion Records (co-owned by Mumford & Sons keyboardist Ben Lovett), everyday life, moved to the heart of New York City, a recent marriage, and new-found freedom in his new record label Vagrant Records. It’s safe to say that JTE has a lot of stories to build his songs around.

JTE was born on January 4th, 1982, and grew up in South Nashville, Tennessee. His father says he gave Justin his middle name in honor of his mentor and Justin’s God-Father Townes Van Zandt.

Having spent time playing with the Distributors, the Swindlers, and the Dukes helped JTE develop his unique hybrid musical style of mixing country, folk, and blues. He has five releases through Bloodshot Records (one-time home of Ryan Adams, the Old 97’s, Neko Case, and Whitey Morgan); Yuma EP (2007), The Good Life (2008), Midnight at the Movies (2009), Harlem River Blues (2010), and Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now (2012).

JTE made an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion, received an AMA (American Music Award) for New and Emerging Artist of the Year for 2009, was named by GQ magazine as one of The 25 Most Stylish Men in the World in 2010, and received an AMA in 2011 for Song of the Year for his song Harlem River Blues (whose album of the same name debuted at #47 on the Billboard Top 200 chart).

JTE also appeared in an episode of the HBO television series Treme with his father and Rolling Stone listed his Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now album at #37 in their top 50 albums of 2012, saying “The son of country-rock renegade Steve Earle has grown into a songwriter to rival his dad.”

For several years now, JTE has had a whirlwind touring schedule which has included him playing several important venues and festivals; that which has included the Grand Ole Opry, Pickathon Festival, Daytrotter Studios, Historical WSM, South By Southwest, Beacon Theater, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Codfish Hollow Barnstormer, Hangout Music Festival, Bumbershoot, Newport Folk Festival, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival, the Bowery Ballroom, the Mountain Stage, World Café, and the Nelsonville Music Festival.

JTE spent a night in jail and a month in an alcohol rehabilitation center following a fight he had with an Indianapolis club owner in 2010. The fight was said to have been over a broken mirror and his band’s pay. JTE has remained sober, since then, and got married in 2013.

After completing the terms of his contract with Bloodshot Records, JTE became a free agent in 2012 and planned on releasing his next album with Communion Records. This past December, his relationship with Communion seems to have soured as JTE took to Twitter vocalizing his disputes with them. After a few follow-up tweets, JTE remained silent on the issue leading fans to believe that it might be a long wait for his next album to arrive.

Well? Wait no more! After two and a half years since his last release, JTE is set to release his next album, Single Mothers, on September 9th, 2014. The album is being released on Vagrant Records instead of Communion Records. Vagrant Records, which counts the Eels, Band of Skulls, PJ Harvey, The 1975, and Pete Yorn as members of its roster, has already added JTE to the label’s website.

According to a press release, “What he’s created is an album that’s raw, honest and personal in a way he hasn’t touched upon since his debut EP, Yuma” and “As a recently married, sober man JTE writes from a point of maturity and content we’ve not seen before on past records.”

JTE is considered a forefather of Contemporary Americana and, reflecting on his past life and newly found clarity, stated “One day I just realized it’s not cool to die young, and it’s even less cool to die after 30.”

According to his bio, “The album was recorded live with his four-piece touring band with only days of rehearsal leading up to recording to keep the ideas fresh. No overdubs, no other singers, no additional players- just a real, heartfelt performance capturing the moment.”

JTE says he doesn’t really even know what Americana means anymore. He says it’s not a slant on Americana, just that it has become an unclassifiable genre, which has gone seemingly pop. Even though JTE lives in New York, he says his heart and soul are still rooted in Nashville. According to JTE, “As I’ve gotten older my anger comes from a very different place. It’s more rational and mature. I guess that comes with clarity.”

JTE’s bio says, “Single Mothers finds Justin dealing with past struggles and anger with more ease than ever before. Creating a nostalgic feeling with the return to his signature sound, JTE takes listeners on a journey through some of his most personal stories yet on what can only be described as an authentic country record.”

The album’s first single, White Gardenias, has been released and is already receiving rave reviews.

True to his ever touring schedule, JTE has already hit the road In support of the album’s upcoming release. Our photographer, Tim Meeks, was on-hand at the Pig & Whiskey Festival on July 20, 2014, in Ferndale, MI to catch JTE’s incredible live performance. Here are Tim’s images from that night.

Justin Townes Earle:
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Tour Dates:
Aug. 07 – Bowling Green, KY @The Warehouse at Mt. Victor
Aug. 08 – St. Louis, MO @open Highway Festival Off Broadway
Aug. 16 – Valdosta, GA @Ashley Street Station
Aug. 18/19 – Mobile, AL @Callaghan’s
Sep. 05 – Chattanooga, TN @Track 29
Sep. 06 – Cincinnati, OH @Ohio River Throwdown
Sep. 07 – Columbus, OH @Bluestone
Sep. 09 – New York, NY @Stage 48
Sep. 10 – Boston, MA @Royale
Sep. 11 – Ardmore, PA @Ardmore Music Hall
Sep. 12 – Rocky Mount, VA @Harvester
Sep. 13 – Durham, NC @Carolina Theatre
Sep. 14 – Charlottesville, VA @Jefferson Theatre
Sep. 16/17 – Alexandria, VA @The Birchmere
Sep. 18 – Pittsburgh, PA @Mr. Smalls
Sep. 19 – Rochester, NY @Water Street Music Hall
Sep. 20 – Cleveland, OH @House of Blues
Sep. 21 – Detroit, MI @Majestic Theatre
Sep. 23 – Chicago, IL @The Vic
Sep. 24 – Madison, WI @Barrymore Theatre
Sep. 25 – Minneapolis, MN @First Avenue
Sep. 26 – Lincoln, NE @Bourbon Theater
Sep. 27 – Boulder, CO @Fox Theatre
Sep. 28 – Salt Lake City, UT @The State Room
Sep. 30 – Portland, OR @Wonder Ballroom
Oct. 01 – Seattle, WA @The Neptune
Oct. 05 – Napa, CA @City Winery Napa
Oct. 06 – Los Angeles, CA @El Rey Theatre
Oct. 07 – Solana Beach, CA @Belly Up
Oct. 18 – Melbourne, Australia @Out On The Weekend Festival


About The Author

My hunger for music began at an early age. In high school, I was the co-host of the underground metal show the Social Mutilation Hour, on 89.5 WAHS, under the name of Neurotik Erik. During this period of my life, I independently promoted shows (under the name of Ding Dong Ditch Productions). I would rent out local VFW Halls, use space at Oakland Community College Auburn Hills Campus, or simply throw basement parties around the Detroit area! While at college at Ferris State University, I became head of the student run organization, Entertainment Unlimited, and continued to promote shows, but on a larger scale. I also helped start an underground zine, 'Outpunk', where I interviewed bands and wrote music reviews. Additionally, I joined on with the staff at the Ferris State University Torch and wrote on a larger scale. When I left college, in the mid 90’s, I went to work in the “real world”. Promoting shows and writing fell to the wayside, until NOW…