Justin Townes Earle: ‘What I Do Is Fun, but the Industry Will Ruin That Every Time’
Despite the fact that Justin Townes Earle has released two albums in the span of four months -- ‘Single Mothers’ landed back in September, followed by today’s (Jan. 13) arrival of companion piece, ‘Absent Fathers’ -- he’s not very optimistic about the current state of the music industry.
“Everybody’s gotta understand a man can take as much as he can take, and I’m getting pushed to the edge by the music business,” Earle said in a recent interview with the Daily Beast. “Everything about what I do is fun, but the industry will ruin that every time.”
The singer-songwriter blames his frustrations on the digital era of music, from the inferior sound quality of MP3s to free streaming services diminishing the value of musicians’ work.
“I remember buying my first records on cassette tapes, and I haven’t heard music that sounded good that I could bring home since,” he said. “All the digital dorks can say what they want, but you lose frequency. You’re taking something that you did your best to expand the sound of in the studio, and all of a sudden the record comes out and you listen to the CD or the MP3 and there’s something gone.”
“You know, you f--k up and give it to the wrong blog early, and it’s all over the Internet for free,” Earle continued. “What’re you, a commie? We’re supposed to get whatever we can in this country! It’s a sticky situation.”
It’s something the singer says his famous father and godfather -- Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt, respectively -- couldn’t have prepared him for.
“[Steve Earle] did instill a lot of business stuff in me, but the business is constantly changing, and what my dad knows has nothing to do with the business today,” he explained. “Guys my dad’s age, the business that they came in on, it's not like the change from the ‘60s to the ‘70s to the ‘80s. You might [as] well have gone from the 1990s to the year 2 billion. Right now there’s not as many people to get advice from because this is all new for everybody.”
While ‘Absent Fathers’ continues what Earle calls a “dismal” nature established in ‘Single Mothers,’ he says there is hope by its end.
“[The songs are] a bit more dismal on the first record, and then still somewhat dismal on the second records,” he said, laughing. “Rather, on the first, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, and on the second there’s a light, but it’s still a pinhole in the distance.”