Steve Earle

A CONVERSATION WITH STEVE EARLE             by Frank Goodman

Steve Earle, back seven years from the Point of No Return, now threatens to become one of modern music's Renegade Renaissance Men. He was on a one way ride right off this planet when they locked his ass up, and he came out with 90 days clean and never looked back.

It's staggering that a short seven years later he cut another half dozen records, started a successful record company, wrote and had published a great book of short stories, started a theater company, and he tours most of the year to an international following that is among the most rabid in the business. His myth is archetypal, it's irresistible. In a jaded town like Nashville, I can't tell you how many of the finest and smartest women here have said to me "I love Steve Earle! Don't even talk to me about Steve Earle!" and stuff like that -- it's insane, I'm telling you. He's revered by literati and bikers alike, from Yale to jail. There's nobody like him.

He combines the essential outlaw ethic (not the image, the reality) with the man of letters, writes songs that absolutely lay you right out, and embodies the I don't give a good goddam attitude that makes the myth grow on its own steam, he doesn't really do a thing to further it but work like the devil. So you got to love him, what can I say. He's funnier than hell, donates his time and energy tirelessly for a number of important issues like the death penalty and a landmine-free world, and is one of the ten most respected singer songwriters of any style on the planet today. His catalog of over a dozen records still sell very well, and many freely combine the styles of music at which he excels: Bluegrass, Rock, Folk, Country, and Country Blues. He'll release a stone Bluegrass record and then a Rock record right behind it, and they'll both sell. Nobody gets away with that in this business except Steve Earle.

I was lucky to catch him in town between projects, and we sat down in Fido for a hot forty minutes. Typically, we hit topics that ran all over creation, and Steve offered very informed and opinionated views on every one. Some interview subjects are so naturally and entertainingly talkative that they don't really even need questions, just turn on the tape, maybe turn over a few flash cards with pictures of Bo Diddley or Saddam Hussein, or a quote from the Koran. We're grateful he took some time out of his busy schedule for a Puremusic interview.     continue