Justin Townes Earle

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Justin Townes Earle
Earle in 2010
Earle in 2010
Background information
Born(1982-01-04)January 4, 1982
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedAugust 20, 2020(2020-08-20) (aged 38)[1]
Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.
  • Singer-songwriter
  • musician
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Earle on stage at Evanston SPACE in 2014

Justin Townes Earle (January 4, 1982 – August 20, 2020) was an American singer-songwriter and musician. After his debut, EP Yuma (2007), he released eight full-length albums. He was recognized with an Americana Music Award for Emerging Artist of the Year in 2009 and for Song of the Year in 2011 for "Harlem River Blues". His father is alternative country artist Steve Earle.

Early life[edit]

Earle grew up in South Nashville, Tennessee, with his mother, Carol Ann Hunter Earle. His father, Steve Earle, gave him his middle name in honor of his own mentor, singer and songwriter Townes Van Zandt.[2] When Justin was two, his father left his family, but after Steve Earle became sober in 1994 he returned.[3] Justin dropped out of school, occasionally touring with and working for his father, eventually moving to eastern Tennessee with other songwriters.[4] Like his father, Earle battled addiction beginning in his early teens.[5]


Earle played in two Nashville bands: the rock band the Distributors and the ragtime and bluegrass combo the Swindlers.[6] He spent some time as guitarist and keyboardist for his father's touring band the Dukes.[6] He developed a hybrid style of music mixing folk, blues and country.[6]


In 2007, Earle released a six-song EP called Yuma.[6] He signed a contract with Chicago's Bloodshot Records and released an album called The Good Life in 2008.[6] In 2009, he released the album Midnight at the Movies.[6] In 2010, he released the album Harlem River Blues, followed by the album Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now in 2012.[6] From 2014 to 2017, Earle released a "family trilogy" of albums, comprising Single Mothers (2014), Absent Fathers (2015), and Kids in the Street (2017). His last album, The Saint of Lost Causes, was released in May 2019. Earle produced Wanda Jackson's album Unfinished Business in 2012.[7]


Earle played the Grand Ole Opry in 2008, Historical WSM, South By Southwest (2008–2010, 2012), the historic Beacon Theatre (May 2009), Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion (September 2009), Bonnaroo (2009) Bumbershoot (2010), the East Coast Blues & Roots Music Festival (Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia) in 2012, the Bowery Ballroom (March 2010), the Winnipeg Folk Festival (July 2008), and the Nelsonville Music Festival (2008 and 2011).[8][9]

In 2009, Earle co-billed The Big Surprise Tour with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Old Crow Medicine Show, and The Felice Brothers.[10]

In 2012, he appeared in an episode of the HBO television series Treme with his father.[11]

Honors and distinctions[edit]

In September 2009, Earle received an Americana Music Award for New and Emerging Artist of the Year.[12]

In 2011, Earle received the Americana Music Award in the Song of the Year category for "Harlem River Blues".[13] His album of the same name has been described as having a "gently flowing, urban Americana sound, with horns, organ and tangy electric guitar".[13] That year he also contributed a cover of "Maybe Baby" on the 2011 tribute album Rave on Buddy Holly,[14] and played Newport Folk Festival[15] and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival.[16]

Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now was listed at album number 37 on Rolling Stone's list of the top 50 albums of 2012, with the annotation as follows: "The son of country-rock renegade Steve Earle has grown into a songwriter to rival his dad."[17]

On January 4, 2021, Steve Earle & the Dukes released the album J.T., a tribute to Justin Townes Earle.

On January 4, 2023, a tribute concert was held at the Ryman Auditorium in memory of Justin. Performers included Steve Earle & The Dukes and special guests: Shooter Jennings, Bonnie Whitmore, Amanda Shires, Willy and Cody Braun, Buddy Miller, Ben Nichols (Lucero), Dustin Welch, Elizabeth Cook, Emmylou Harris, Jason Isbell, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Joe Pug, Jon Langford, Lilly Hiatt, Scotty Melton, Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Earle began using drugs at age 12 and continued for many years. In his words, "I discovered very fast that my way of doing things was going to get me in trouble, and I kept going with it, because I believed the myth for a long time, and I believed I had to destroy myself to make great art."[19]

He went to rehabilitation clinics nine times followed by periods of sobriety. He relapsed in September 2010 then again in 2017.[2][6][20][21]

Earle moved to New York City in 2009,[22][23] but returned to Nashville in 2014.[24] He married Jenn Marie Maynard in 2013[25] and he and his wife lived on the West Coast.[2] Their only child, a daughter named Etta, was born in June 2017.[26]

Earle died on August 20, 2020, in Nashville, Tennessee, at the age of 38,[27] from an accidental overdose of fentanyl-laced cocaine.[28]



Title Album details Peak chart positions
US Country
US Rock



Yuma (EP)
The Good Life
  • Release date: March 25, 2008
  • Label: Bloodshot Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, music download
Midnight at the Movies 15 41
Harlem River Blues
  • Release date: September 13, 2010
  • Label: Bloodshot Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, music download
47 18 9 3
Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now
  • Release date: March 26, 2012
  • Label: Bloodshot Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, music download
62 19 11 4
Single Mothers 56 19 13 3
Absent Fathers 16 13 5
Kids in the Street
  • Release date: May 26, 2017
  • Label: New West Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, music download
161 37 3 6
The Saint of Lost Causes
  • Release date: May 24, 2019
  • Label: New West Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, music download
9 23
"—" denotes releases that did not chart/not relevant


  1. ^ Minsker, Evan (August 23, 2020). "Justin Townes Earle Dead at 38". Pitchfork.
  2. ^ a b c Dollar, Steve (November 24, 2010). "Riding That Country Wagon". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 28, 2010.
  3. ^ St. John, Lauren (2002). Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle. HarperCollins/Fourth Estate/Harper Perennial.
  4. ^ Eakin, Marah (September 17, 2010). "From Rogers Park to Crown Heights, Justin Townes Earle reminisces on all his shitty apartments". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  5. ^ Sheperd, Fiona (January 10, 2015). "Justin Townes Earle battled addiction and his father". The Scotsman. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Deming, Mark (March 25, 2008). "Justin Townes Earle : Biography". CMT.com. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  7. ^ "Wanda Jackson 'In the Studio'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  8. ^ "Past Shows." Stuart's Opera House: Nelsonville, Ohio. Stuart's Opera House: Nelsonville, Ohio, n.d. Web. !October 8, 2012.
  9. ^ "Nelsonville Music Festival." Nelsonville Music Festival, n.d. Web. October 25, 2012.
  10. ^ "Justin Townes Earle: Tour". Groundcontroltouring.com. Archived from the original on February 18, 2010. Retrieved March 23, 2010.
  11. ^ "Steve and Justin Townes Earle on HBO's Treme". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 15, 2021. Retrieved February 13, 2015.
  12. ^ Photo by Ray Kennedy (September 21, 2009). "Buddy Miller, John Fogerty, Justin Townes Earle Amongst Notable Winners at Americana Music Awards". Paste Magazine. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  13. ^ a b DeBarros, Paul (July 12, 2012). "Justin Townes Earle and Tristen pack a double punch". The Seattle Times. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  14. ^ "Various Artists: "Rave on Buddy Holly"". www.allmusic.com. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  15. ^ "Review: Newport Folk Festival 2011". www.glidemagazine.com. August 9, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  16. ^ "HSB 2011 Schedule" (PDF). www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com. Retrieved June 25, 2016.
  17. ^ "Justin Townes Earle, Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now". Rolling Stone. December 11, 2012. Archived from the original on December 11, 2012. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  18. ^ "Justin Townes Earle Benefit Show". Ryman Auditorium.
  19. ^ Hiatt, Brian (August 24, 2020). "Justin Townes Earle: The Rolling Stone Interview". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 7, 2021.
  20. ^ "Earle Postpones Tour, Enters Rehab". New York Times. September 23, 2010. Retrieved September 23, 2010.
  21. ^ "Justin Townes Earle review: A night in jail can't keep him down". Louisville.com. September 18, 2010. Retrieved May 11, 2017.
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ [3]
  25. ^ Moss, Marissa (September 4, 2014). "With his latest, Nashvillian Justin Townes Earle gives praise to single mothers and refuses to be pushed around". Nashville Scene. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  26. ^ McPherson, David. "Dad-to-be Justin Townes Earle looks back at Nashville in new record". No Depression. Archived from the original on October 27, 2017. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  27. ^ Sisario, Ben (August 24, 2020). "Justin Townes Earle, singer-songwriter in father's footsteps, dies at 38". The New York Times.
  28. ^ Bernstein, Jonathan (December 1, 2020). "Justin Townes Earle Death Ruled an Accidental Drug Overdose". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 1, 2020.
  29. ^ "Justin Townes Earle Album & Song Chart History – Billboard 200". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  30. ^ "Justin Townes Earle Album & Song Chart History – Country Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  31. ^ "Justin Townes Earle Album & Song Chart History – Rock Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  32. ^ "Justin Townes Earle Album & Song Chart History – Heatseekers Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  33. ^ "Justin Townes Earle Album & Song Chart History – Independent Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  34. ^ "Justin Townes Earle Chart History". Billboard.
  35. ^ "Justin Townes Earle Album & Song Chart History – Folk Albums". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  36. ^ "Justin Townes Earle Chart History". Billboard.

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]