Justin Townes Earle's age belies his experience. Growing up in Nashville he mis-spent his youth playing in bluegrass/ragtime combo The Swindlers and the louder, more rocking The Distributors and developing some very bad habits. During tours as guitarist and keyboardist ("and not a very good one," laughs Earle) in his father Steve Earle's band, his problems became untenable and he was fired. Ultimately he cleaned up his act, dropped his self-destructive habits and began to focus on songcraft. "You don't have to be fucked up or torture yourself to write songs," explains Earle, "I used to write a lot, a whole lot, and half those songs I don't even remember. Now, I sit there and I write it and I finish it and I keep it."
With inspirations as diverse as Townes Van Zandt (he was named in honor of the elder Earle's hero), Jimmy Reed, Kurt Cobain, The Replacements, Ray Charles and The Pogues, Justin forged his own brand of American roots music. Going through life with a namesake of Van Zandt's stature cannot be easy for a young songwriter, but Earle takes it in stride," saying, "Anyone who tries to live up to Van Zandt is a fool. I'm honored to carry the name, but if I spent my life trying to live up to it, I'd have a pretty miserable life."