Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters Podcast

Steve Earle

Ep. 122 - Steve Earle 

"So You Wanna be an Outlaw" - The Master Craftsman of Contemporary Folk


Scott and Paul tell you how you can hear their wild story about getting ready for the Steve Earle interview, and they explain why this episode is particularly special.

PART TWO - 7:12 mark
Paul and Scott meet up with Steve to discuss his wide-ranging career.

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Paul and Scott head over to Steve's Los Angeles hotel to get the details on how a Chicago radio station saved his career; why reading is more important than listening to records; the book Townes Van Zandt loaned him that transformed his view of writing; the concert that inspired Steve to write "Guitar Town;" what he really thinks of the "Copperhead Road" line-dancing phenomenon; the first song he wrote after a long period of drug addiction and homelessness; why bluegrass is like bebop; who he says is THE badass country singer/songwriter in Nashville today; why he's working on a new political album that isn't just about preaching to the choir; and which song he would play for Guy Clark today to try to impress him. 

Singer, songwriter, musician, author, actor, record producer, and progressive political activist Steve Earle rose to prominence in the 1980s with his album Guitar Town, which topped the Billboard country album chart, earned two Grammy nominations, picked up a Top New Male Artist nomination from the Academy of Country Music, and is included among Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of all Time.

Raised in Texas, Earle launched his career in Nashville playing bass in legendary songwriter Guy Clark’s backing band. Following a stint recording with a rockabilly-influenced sound for Epic Records, Earle switched to MCA where he broke through with now-classic songs such as “Guitar Town,” “Someday,” “Goodbye’s All We’ve Got Left,” “My Old Friend the Blues,” “Fearless Heart,” “Nowhere Road,” “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied,” “The Devil’s Right Hand,” “The Other Kind,” and “Copperhead Road,” which reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart.   

Drug addiction, homelessness, and a period of incarceration derailed Earle’s career for several years before he reemerged in the mid-1990s as standard-bearer for contemporary folk and Americana music. His eclectic comeback albums Train a Comin’, I Feel Alright and El Corazon garnered near-universal critical praise.

The new millennium found Steve continuing to earn attention for his songs, including “Galway Girl,” “John Walker’s Blues,” “Jerusalem,” “The Revolution Starts Now,” and “City of Immigrants.” Always difficult to categorize, Steve has recorded the highly-acclaimed bluegrass album The Mountain with The Del McCoury Band, a traditional blues album called Terraplane, and a duet album with Shawn Colvin.

In total, Earle has released nineteen studio albums and has earned sixteen Grammy nominations, including three wins in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category. Steve’s songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Patty Loveless, Joan Baez, Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Wanda Jackson, Bob Seger, Levon Helm, and many others. His son, Justin Townes Earle, is a respected singer-songwriter in his own right.

Songcraft's Steve Earle Playlist: Spotify users can select the song you'd like to hear below, or simply start the player and enjoy a selection of 50 great songs from the Steve Earle catalog. If you don't have a Spotify account, follow the prompts to sign up for free. Click this link to take you directly to the playlist in the Spotify web player.