Justin Townes Earle
stopped by the Paste Studio in New York City on Tuesday to preview a trio of songs from his forthcoming album, Kids in the Street, and chat with our own Hilary Saunders about the emotions, experiences and stories that inform the record.
“If you were a young, reckless kid that didn’t have anybody watching over you and you liked punk rock music, that didn’t happen in Nashville,” Earle recalled of his teenage years, detailing youthful adventures that inspired a verse on his song “Maybe a Moment.” “We would pile into whoever we could find that had a car, maybe the oldest person 16 and everybody else ranging from 12 to 16, and we’d go to Memphis. We’d leave at 8 o’clock at night and drive to Memphis to catch midnight shows…and try to get back for school,” adding with a laugh, “We’d usually just stay in Memphis.”
Earle also discussed the more uplifting themes and newfound perspectives making their way into his songwriting on Kids in the Street, which stand in notable contrast to the darker and sadder ideas to be found throughout his catalogue, from 2007’s Yuma to the paired Single Mothers and Absent Fathers, released in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
“There’s a song on the record called ‘15-25,’ and that’s basically the time period that this record deals with; between those ages. I’m definitely seeing the brighter side of things in a lot of ways now, but you know, I still haven’t processed up to 25 yet,” he explained. Earle, 35, credited his recent marriage and impending fatherhood with brightening his point of view, “which is great because I’m not quite through processing all that stuff that happened, and you can only say it so many ways looking at it from one perspective. It’s definitely helped a lot.”
Earle, son of alt-country kingpin Steve Earle, has also found a sunnier disposition in rainy Portland, Ore., where he has settled with his family. “I’ve got a daughter on the way and I’m married,” he said with a smile, cracking, “Married once and one child on the way? That’s pretty good for 35 years old and an Earle!”
Kids in the Street, Earle’s seventh full-length, is out May 26 via New West Records. Check out the full Paste Studio session above, where he also discussed working with Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis, who produced the album, and his philosophy on album covers. (Kids in the Street marks the first time he has appeared alone on a cover, sans accompanying female.) You can also check out exclusive footage from Earle’s Paste Ruins set at the Newport Folk Festival in 2013 via the Paste Cloud below.