Steve Earle

Steve Earle

Infobox Musical artist
Name = Steve Earle

Img_capt = Steve Earle and Allison Moorer at Bumbershoot 2007
Img_size =
Landscape =
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Stephen Fain Earle
Alias =
Born = Birth date and age|1955|1|17|mf=y, Fort Monroe, Virginia, USA
Died =
Origin = Schertz, Texas, USA
Instrument = Vocals, Guitar, Mandolin, Bass guitar
Genre = Country, Rock 'n' Roll, Folk
Occupation = Singer, songwriter
Years_active =
Label =
Associated_acts = Alison Moorer
URL = []
Notable_instruments =

Stephen 'Steve' Fain Earle (pronEng|ɝl) is an American singer-songwriter, well known for his rock and country music, as well as his political views. He is also a published writer, a political activist and has written and directed a play. In his early career, he was seen as a saviour of country music and hailed by some as the "new Bruce Springsteen." In the later part of his career, after troubles with the law, drug addiction and his uncompromising viewpoints, he has become known as "the hardcore troubadour".


Stephen Fain Earle was born on January 17, 1955, at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia.

He was the eldest son of Jack Earle, an air traffic controller, and Barbara Earle. Although his parents moved around the U.S. often during his childhood, he spent several of his formative years in Schertz, Texas. He dropped out of school in the 9th grade to move to Houston and learn more about the music business. Earle released his first album, "Guitar Town", in 1986. His sister, Stacey Earle, is a musician herself, having toured with Steve in the 1990s and sung on the song "When I Fall" on Steve's 2000 album "Transcendental Blues".

Earle has been married seven times, including twice to the same woman. His wives were Sandra (Sandy) Henderson, Cynthia Dunn, Carol Hunter (with whom he had his first child, Justin), Lou-Anne Gill (with whom he had a second son, Ian), Maria Teresa Ensenat, Lou-Anne Gill a second time, and finally, in 2005, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer. He also has a daughter. His first son, Justin Townes Earle, is also a musician, and is named for Townes Van Zandt.

Musical career

In 1975, Earle moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he met and worked with fellow Texans Guy Clark and his wife Susanna. Clark was active in Earle being employed as a songwriter by the Sunbury Dunbar publishing division of RCA. Earle did backing vocals on "Desperados Waiting for a Train" (together with Emmylou Harris) on Clark's first album "Old No. 1".

Despite his early success as a songwriter, it was not until 1981 that Earle achieved a top-ten cut with "When You Fall in Love", which was recorded by Johnny Lee.

Earle's early work as a recorded performer was in the rockabilly style, and can be heard on the "Early Years" album. He had to wait until 1986, though, before his first proper album, "Guitar Town", was released. It was a critical success and was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. The follow-up albums "Exit 0" and the certified-gold "Copperhead Road" built on this success.

Earle had been a drug user since an early age and was addicted to heroin for many years. By the time of his 1990 album "The Hard Way", it started to become clear that the drugs were seriously affecting him. In 1993, his drug problems resulted in him effectively stopping performing and recording for two years, a period he refers to as his "vacation in the ghetto". He eventually ended up in jail on drug and firearms charges. Kicking the drug habit while in jail, Earle came out a new man and released two albums within 18 months of his release in late 1994. His comeback album, the acoustic "Train A Comin"', was nominated for the Best Contemporary Folk Album Grammy Award in 1996.

Earle's "second, post-jail musical career" has been noticeably more musically diverse than his early work. Since setting up his own record label, he has been able to follow his own artistic direction, rather than being constrained by the Nashville country pop-rock sound. This has led to experimentation with a range of styles from country and bluegrass music to folk and hard rock music. He has maintained a strict work ethic. Several albums have been released since, as well as a book of haiku and a collection of short stories called "Doghouse Roses". He also wrote and directed a play about the death penalty. Earle also tours often, playing over 200 shows per year. His concerts tend to be either solo acoustic shows or ensemble affairs with one of his two backing bands, the Dukes or the Bluegrass Dukes.

Earle is the subject of a documentary film entitled "Just an American Boy", directed by Amos Poe, which explores his political views as well as his music. In 2005, he caused consternation among his fans by allowing the song "The Revolution Starts Now" to be used by General Motors in a TV advertisement for pick-up trucks. [cite web| url=| title=GM Commercial|| accessdate=2008-05-26]

Earle is also the subject of an acclaimed biography, "Steve Earle: Fearless Heart, Outlaw Poet", by the noted New York-based music writer David McGee.

Steve Earle's songs have appeared in many major motion pictures and television as writer and performer:
* "P.S. I Love You" (2007) (writer: "The Galway Girl")
* "The Guardian" (2006) (writer: Home To Houston) (performer: Home To Houston)
* "Brokeback Mountain" (2005) (writer: "Devil's Right Hand") (performer: "Devil's Right Hand")
* "Silver City" (2004) (writer: "Amerika v. 6.0") (performer: "Amerika v. 6.0")
* "Stevie" (2002) (writer: "I Ain't Ever Satisfied") (performer: "I Ain't Ever Satisfied")
* "The Rookie" (2002) (writer: "Some Dreams") (performer: "Some Dreams")
* "Last Party 2000" (2001) (writer: "Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)") (performer: "Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)") .. aka "The Party's Over" (USA: video title)
* "Big Bad Love" (2001) (performer: "Goodbye")
* "The Pledge" (2001) (writer: "The Other Side of Town") (performer: "The Other Side of Town")
* "Pay It Forward" (2000) (writer: "Open Your Window") (performer: "Open Your Window")
* "You Can Count on Me" (2000) (writer: "I'm Still In Love With You", "Harlan Man", "Texas Eagle", "The Mountain", "Pilgrim") (performer: "I'm Still In Love With You", "Harlan Man", "Texas Eagle", "The Mountain", "Pilgrim")
* "The Horse Whisperer" (1998) (writer: "Me and the Eagle") (performer: "Me and the Eagle")
* "G.I. Jane" (1997) (writer: "Goodbye")
* "Sgt. Bilko" (1996) (writer: "Sometimes She Forgets") ... aka "Sergeant Bilko"
* "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1993) (performer: "Honey don't") (producer: "Honey don't")
* In 2006, several Steve Earle songs were featured in the movie "Talladega Nights": "Valentine's Day", "Hard-Core Troubadour" and "I Feel Alright"
* In 2007, Earle's song "Someday", from "Guitar Town" was featured in the movie "Bridge to Terabithia"

In September 2007, Earle released his twelfth studio album, "Washington Square Serenade", on New West Records. Earle recorded the album after relocating to New York City, and it was his first attempt at using digital audio workstation ProTools, as opposed to traditional analog recording techniques.cite web | author= Schneider, Jason | title= “Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade "| url=| work = Exclaim! Magazine | year=2007| accessdate=2007-11-12] The disc features wife Allison Moorer on "Days Aren't Long Enough".

In 2008, Earle produced Joan Baez's album "Day After Tomorrow". [cite news |first=Thomas |last=Kintner |title=New on Disc: Jessica Simpson, Joan Baez |url=,0,1995085.story |work=Hartford Courant |date=2008-09-09 |accessdate=2008-09-15 ]

In the winter of 2008, he will tour Europe and North America in support of "Washington Square Serenade", performing half the set solo and the other half with a DJ.cite web | author= Schneider, Jason | title= “Steve Earle - Washington Square Serenade "| url=| work = Exclaim! Magazine | year=2007| accessdate=2007-11-12]

The Wire

Earle appeared as a recovering drug addict named Walon in several episodes of the HBO series "The Wire" [ [ List of Steve Earle Television Appearances] ] . He appears first in season one where he addresses a 12-step-type meeting with an account of how he lost everything to addiction: "I pawned my bike, my pickup truck, a National Steel guitar, a stamp collection that my grandpa left me; lost a good wife, a bad girlfriend, and the respect of anyone who ever lent me money." His story affects Bubbles and appears to spur him towards recovery. After season one, Walon does not return until Bubbles hits rock-bottom hard in the season four finale. Picking up the thread, he then appears throughout season five as sponsor, as Bubbles attempts to overcome his heroin addiction and its consequences. Earle's song "I Feel Alright" is used in a montage to close out season two. He also performs the opening theme of the fifth season, performing "Way Down in the Hole".


Since early in his career, Earle has been involved in a number of political causes. In his first public performances, Earle was unable to play in bars due to his age and took to playing in coffeehouses alongside anti-Vietnam War campaigners. These experiences had a strong effect on him, prompting his recent opposition to the war in Iraq.

Earle's mother took part in anti-death penalty vigils, a cause that has been taken up by Earle. He has worked to abolish the death penalty and has recorded several songs about this cause, including "Billy Austin", "Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)" and "Ellis Unit One" (for the 1995 movie "Dead Man Walking"). (Ellis Unit, located in Huntsville, Texas, previously housed the Texas male death row, until it was moved to Polunsky Unit near Livingston, Texas.) He is also a regular participant in the "Concerts for a Landmine Free World", benefiting the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation.

In recent years his music has been increasingly political. His 2002 album, " Jerusalem", was largely inspired by the U.S.-led War on Terrorism. This album featured "John Walker's Blues", which was about the captured American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh. The song provoked widespread outrage; many accused Earle of sympathizing with terrorists since the song was written from Lindh's perspective. Earle responded that he was simply empathizing with Lindh and in no way set out to glorify terrorism. The controversy raised Earle's profile in the media, but did not seem to damage his record sales.

His 2004 album, "The Revolution Starts Now", which features several songs relating to the war in Iraq, was deliberately released to coincide with the run-up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election, with the aim of encouraging votes for John KerryFact|date=September 2008. It was hoped that it would be more likely to convert new people to Kerry than other anti-Bush musicians (such as those involved in the Rock Against Bush movement) who might be seen as preaching to the converted, as their fan bases lay in the predominantly left-wing punk rock communityFact|date=September 2008. The song "The Revolution Starts Now" was used in the promotion of Michael Moore's anti-war documentary film "Fahrenheit 9/11" and appears on the album "Songs and Artists That Inspired Fahrenheit 9/11", the songs for which were selected by Moore. The song also opened Earle's weekly Sunday-night show on Air America Radio. Just as many other artists, he appears in the 2008 political documentary Slacker Uprising.

Radio shows

Earle's radio show on Air America began in August 2004 and last aired on June 10, 2007, and that was a rebroadcast of a past episode. [ [] , retrieved 2008-10-03] Shortly thereafter, he started DJing on a show on Sirius Satellite Radio called Hardcore Troubadour on their Outlaw Country channel. [cite press release
title = Country Music Renegade Steve Earle to Launch a Weekly Show Exclusively on Sirius Satellite Radio
publisher = Air America Radio
date = 2008-06-04
url =
accessdate = 2008-10-03


* Steve Earle has received a total of thirteen nominations for Grammy Awards.
* He was named Country Artist of the Year for 1986 by "Rolling Stone" magazine.
* In 2004, he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting by the UK's BBC Radio 2.
* In February 2005, he received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album for "The Revolution Starts Now".
* In February 2008, he received a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album (Vocal or Instrumental) for "Washington Square Serenade".


*Co-wrote the Jason & The Scorchers song "A Bible & A Gun".
*Sang on Jason Ringenberg's re-recording of "A Bible & A Gun" in 2002.
*Recorded and performed "Johnny Come Lately" with The Pogues.
*Worked with the Supersuckers, recording their song "Creepy Jackalope Eye" and his song "NYC" (1996).
*Sang backup vocals and played the harmonica on the Indigo Girls song "Shame on You", on their 1997 album "Shaming of the Sun".
*Recorded covers of Alejandro Escovedo's "Paradise" and Warren Zevon's "Reconsider Me" with Reckless Kelly, for Escovedo and Zevon tribute albums.
*Collaborated with the Del McCoury Band on 1999's "The Mountain".
*Performed a duet with Lucinda Williams on "You're Still Standin' There".
* Performed a duet with Chris Hillman on "High Fashion Queen" for the Gram Parsons tribute album "".
* Performed a duet with Siobhan Maher Kennedy on "Poison Lovers".
* Performed a duet with Emmylou Harris on "Comin' Around", "Goodbye", and "I Remember You".
* Performed a duet with Stacey Earle on "When I Fall".
*Played guitar and sang backup on Emmylou Harris's version of "Goodbye" (from her "Wrecking Ball" album.)
*Co-wrote "Go Amanda" with Sheryl Crow (on "Jerusalem").
*Sang with Sheryl Crow on his cover of "Time Has Come Today" on "Sidetracks".
*Covers the Son Volt classic "Windfall"
*Played banjo on Patti Smith's cover of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit".
*Produces and collaborates on Joan Baez's album "Day After Tomorrow".


St John, Lauren. "Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle", Fourth Estate, 2002 ISBN 1-84115-611-6

Song writing for other artists

Before Earle was signed as an artist in his own right, he was employed as a songwriter, writing songs for the likes of Carl Perkins, Vince Gill and Steve Wariner. His song "Mustang Wine" was due to be recorded by Elvis Presley in 1975, but Presley did not turn up for the recording session. The song was released as a single by Carl Perkins.

He co-wrote the Patty Loveless song "Some Blue Moons Ago".

Since his emergence as a performer, his songs have been covered by various well-known artists including Joan Baez, The Pretenders, The Proclaimers, The Highwaymen, Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash. [ [ The Original Unofficial Steve Earle Site ] ] Travis Tritt had a #7 country hit in 1995 with Earle's "Sometimes she forgets."



*Schone, Mark. (1998). "Steve Earle." In "The Encyclopedia of Country Music." Paul Kingsbury, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 160-1.
*St John, Lauren. "Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle", Fourth Estate, 2002 ISBN 1-84115-611-6

External links

* [ Official Steve Earle Website]
* [ Un-official Steve Earle Website]
* [,,426106,00.html "Death in Texas" Article By Earle On Witnessing The Execution Of A Friend]
* [ Just an American Boy]
* [ Lyrics for John Walker Blues]
* [;/ Interview with Steve Earle]
* [;/ Features, CD and concert reviews with Steve Earle at Country Standard Time]
* [ GM commercial featuring "The Revolution Starts Now"]

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