Justin Townes Earle, the singer-songwriter known for his mix of old-timey roots music and modern-day Americana, has died, according to a post on his official Instagram account. A cause of death was not immediately revealed. He was 38.
Born January 4th, 1982, Earle was the son of Steve Earle, who named him after his friend, the songwriter Townes Van Zandt. His mother, Carol Ann Hunter, never cared for the name, Earle told Rolling Stone last year.
“My mother hated Townes Van Zandt. My first name was supposed to be Townes, but my mother would not have it,” he said.” She hated him because of the trouble that Dad and him got into but she still played his music.”
Earle first came on the scene with the 2007 EP Yuma, and would release a string of albums on the Bloodshot Records label. In 2017, he started working with New West Records, who released his last two albums, beginning with the LP Kids in the Street.
Like his father, Earle battled drugs and alcohol during his career. But as he told Chris Shiflett on the Walking the Floor podcast in 2017, he was sober when he began making records. “I got all my craziness out of the way as a coffeehouse musician and a roadie,” he said.
Earle, who was born in Nashville, recalled the first time performing with his father, when he was just 17.
“Me and my dad played a few Doc Watson songs,” he told Rolling Stone. “We’re Earles, we’re arrogant, and we always feel good about what we do, but it was intimidating. I’ll tell you, the second time we played together, I had to play with him and Guy Clark at MerleFest, in front of Doc Watson. It scared the shit out of me.”
Earle’s last album was last year’s The Saint of Lost Causes.