ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON JUNE 6, 2012
By Steve Newton
The itinerary for Steve Earle’s North American summer tour isn’t quite what you’d expect for a singer-songwriter of his legendary status. Of the 39 dates that span May 31 to August 26, no less than 14 occur in B.C. and Alberta, including such unglamorous venues as the Gibraltar Room in Williams Lake.
But as Earle explains from a tour stop in Kamloops, he’s got no problems with playing anywhere in Western Canada.
“We’ve always done really well here,” he says. “I mean, in Canada, things kinda started for me here. And when you get up in some of the towns in the mountains on both sides of the [B.C.–Alberta] border, I’ve always done all right there.”
Earle still seems to be doing all right in general these days. At least that’s the vibe you get from his latest album, I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive. In the loping opener, “Waitin’ on the Sky”, he sings over and over about “sittin’ on top of the world”, and you can see why. Photos in the CD booklet show him in the studio doting on his beautiful baby boy, John Henry.
And then there’s the fact that he’s living in New York—his favourite city in the world—with his beautiful wife, Allison Moorer, a successful singer-songwriter in her own right.
“Yeah, my life’s pretty good,” reckons the 57-year-old troubadour. “I make an embarrassing amount of money for a borderline Marxist doing something I really love to do. What would I possibly have to complain about?”
Well, for starters maybe he could whine about having to be away from his little bundle of joy when he’s out touring. Up until recently that hasn’t been an issue, though.
“He was on the road with me every minute of his life until this summer,” explains Earle, “and now it’s gonna get different because we just decided it was time for him to stay off the road. When he starts school he’s not gonna be able to travel with me as much, so we’ll work on ways for me to make money without having to tour so much when we can, and when we can’t then I’ll have to tour. That’s what I do.”
Earle doesn’t rely solely on music to pay the bills, though. When I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive came out last year, his debut novel of the same name saw simultaneous release. He hosts the weekly Hardcore Troubadour Radio show on Sirius XM, and as an actor has held recurring roles in the acclaimed TV dramas The Wire and Treme.
“It’s kinda what I have to do to make a living,” he points out. “There’s not a big, vibrant music business anymore. For everyone to even know I have a record out now, I have to depend on press and the radio show and a lot of things to make that all fit together.
“And then the other part of the puzzle’s artistic,” he adds. “With the acting, I’m lucky because I can pick and choose what I do, and what I do is always stuff that’s really well-written. If you go out and say words written by smart people who can write, you learn a lot about writing, so I think all that makes me a better songwriter in the long run.”