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Steve Earle chat transcript
Singer/songwriter Steve Earle chatted with JAM! Music on Thursday November 2nd about his new album, his favourite authors and the upcoming U.S. election.
Read the transcript:
Steve Earle: Steve Earle will be joining us in a moment
Canada has always been disproportionately a bigger market
for your music. Any thoughts on why?
Steve Earle: That's not as true as it used to be. We play about the same sized places in the U.S. and Canada. It was true in the 80s.
The Canadian Content rule made me get a lot of airplay on the country stations and the record label said we might get it on the rock stations. I think the record label just did a better job than in other places.
A number of recording artists are trying to get out
the vote. There have also been a number of singers who have expressed
their fear of George W. Bush. What are your feelings?
Steve Earle: I don't endorse political candidates. These two guys are both pretty far to the right of my politics. George Bush scares me because I do a lot of death penalty abolishment work and anyone who smiles when talking about the death penalty ... I'm not comfortable with anyone who smiles when they talk about this issue. When they don't see what a solemn subject that is...he can't seem but help to smile. He's very proud of it.
You included Breed in the Japanese version of Transcendental Blues. Are you a Nirvana fan and do you like their other songs too?
Steve Earle: I think Nirvana was one of the most important bands to come along and one of the reasons I believe that is because what they had were the songs ... coming out of what was a really bad period for songs in rock music. I was just kind of around when all that happened. I was married to an A & R person during the big arena hard rock thing, but it got further and further
away from songs. As hard as Nirvana rocked, Kurt Cobain had really good
songs that had melodies. Nirvana distinguished themselves cause of the songs.
What direction do you think you'll take with your next
album? Have you already begun writing songs for it?
Steve Earle: I haven't written a song for my next record. I've got a song in the movie "Pay It Forward," but the soundtrack won't include my song.
Our original agreement with them was that there wouldn't be in a soundtrack.I
own the track. They don't have the rights to use my songs. They're making
a soundtrack record when they said they weren't going to. The song is called "Open Your WIndow." It's a good song.
Hudson Bay, SK:
Here's my question for Steve: In your song 'The Other Kind' you mention Jack Kerouac, and during your performance on Sessions At West 54th you told a humourous story about looking for William Burroughs' house in Lawrence, Kansas.
How much of an impact did the Beat Generation writers have on you, and
what piece of Beat literature affected you the most, and why?
Steve Earle: Probably, my interest like a lot of people -- but I'm a little younger, I was born in 1955 -- I got into it with the Electric Kool-Aid Acid test by Tom Wolfe. On The Road had an effect on me...like it does for anyone who reads it when they're young.
What I discovered over the years is that Jack Kerouac's poetry was very good!
All of his poetry is breathtaking. Kerouac was one of the first people to
write Haiku in english. I love Gregory Corso, also. My interest in Japanese poetry came from Beat poets.
I'm writing a Haiku a day. I'm going to finish the cycle in February. Then I'll
probably go back to free verse. It's been the extent of my poetic output.
It's kind of a cool journal. I might write some connecting prose pieces as I travel. When I finish the cycle I might consider publishing it.
Push comes to shove, what is your desert island record, and
Steve Earle: Probably,
"Beatles For Sale"
The reason I chose that is because.....
Songs like Dylan's songs and Springsteen songs, the work just as a song without a band .... We're assuming I have a way to play records on the island, for me it would be "Beatles for Sale"
A number of years ago, you did a riveting interview with
SPIN magazine, in it you told the story about when you realized you had hit
rock bottom. Who was the star of the grande ole opry that you encountered
that night out front of a liquor store in Nashville.
Steve Earle: I don't remember that story or that interview.
I ran into a lot of people when I was in bad shape. I never
granted an interview with Spin. They did a piece on me right after I got
out of jail. I HATE Spin magazine and I never did an interview with them and
LIL KING OF EVERYTHING:
Your label E-Squared has put out some great records. I
really enjoy Marah, Cheri Knight and Six String Drag. Are
you still looking for acts, and what have you got in the
works from those artists and anyone new?
Steve Earle: We're kind of always looking for acts. And hoping we don't find great one 'cause we can't do everything. We have to not sign people that
we dig sometimes. The Six String record ("High Hat") is one of my favourites but the band doesn't exist anymore
so there won't be another Six String Drag record. Cheri Knight is writing a new record right now. Marah is writing songs for a new record. They are the real deal.
What should we expect with the new Transcendental Blues VHS
video release? I was excited to hear that your fans will
get some good live video footage of your recent songs.
Steve Earle: It's the show from Toronto at Convocation Hall and there's also the two videos that have been made.
One is just coming out on this 'cause it's not likely to be on MuchMusic.
"Over Yonder" - you'll just have to see it. I'm barely in it but it's amazing. (Note: JAM! Music will be streaming the video shortly. Check back soon!)
Since you are against the death penalty, how would you
treat a person convicted of a premeditated murder?
Steve Earle: Guilt or innocence is not an issue to me. I oppose the death penalty because of the damage it does to my spirit. If my government kills somebody so that means I kill somebody. I think it hurts the victims of crime. Without putting the victims families on the stand to testify...they don't get the death penalty until they do it. Those families have to live through that. I oppose the damage it does to the people who have to strap people down to a table and kill them. I think it hurts everybody involved.
What you do with obvious, dangerous criminals is lock them up and never ever let them out. You can prevent them from killing everybody else and at the same time not having to kill anyone yourself.
This summer at a post Edmonton Folk Festival bash, you were
spotted chatting with Winnipeg's favorite celtic combo,
Skruj MacDuhk. Any potential collaboration of any kind
Steve Earle: That was one of the best bands I've ever seen. I was going through cds I collected while I was on the road and found their record and threw it in my truck and I was very, very impressed.
There's no plans for anything but I'm very interested in that band.
You have been through so many very public changes and
challenges in your life, is there any song that you wrote
along that way that you would disavow now? Any songs that
represented you at the time that are so alien to where you
are at now that you would not play these days?
Steve Earle: I don't regret anything but there's some things
I can't get my head around singing. Some things I don't sing cause I
can't hit the notes anymore. Some things don't make as much sense to me anymore.
A lot of the songs on "The Hard Way" don't resonate for me. But it's not
like I want anything back. The songs I wrote are about where you are at any given time. That's what a record is.
How did you and Ron Sexsmith meet and is his new album
coming out on E-Squared? If so, when?
Steve Earle: I'm trying to sign him on. Whether we can come to a deal I don't know. We're working on that right now. How did we meet? We met in 1988. I was in Toronto doing press and Cam Carpenter, who worked for my label at the time, and I were going out to hear Sacred Reich and we stopped for drinks at the El Mocambo and Ron was there. It was a regular gig he had, I think.
I was absolutely blown away. We stayed in touch for a couple of years.
When I got out of jail I noticed he had a record out. He showed up at a gig
of mine in Nashville.
Andrea M. Dyche:
Greetings from Lawrence, Kansas. Steve, your decision to
open for the Dave Matthews Band has been a fairly hot topic of conversation
between your fans recently. Some think it's wonderful, while others feel
that you have already paid your dues (so to speak) and shouldn't be
opening for anyone. Why did you chose to open for the DMB?
Steve Earle: Because they're playing two nights in Madison Square Gardens. I don't intend to make a career out of it. DMB is one of the handful of bands that I can afford to open for. It worked out schedule wise for me and its in front of a lot of people. It's like ... it's getting in front of a number of people equal to the number of records I've sold up to this point in five days. The vast majority of my gigs will be me on my own. But occasionally these opportunities come up. I didn't get any of these questions when I did shows with Dylan and Neil Young.
You've said that Garth is the Anti-Hank, and many people
agree. I know that there's a bootleg of Garth playing a bar in
1986 where he covers "Guitar Town". He's listed Townes as one of his
favourite songwriters and he plays "Copperhead Road" (the album)
before he goes onstage at his shows. How do you feel about these things?
Steve Earle: I stole that actually. Kinky Freidman called him the Anti-Hank. I didn't say that originally.
I give Garth a hard time and I probably should feel worse about it than I do.
He seems to be concerned with how many records he sells. I just don't
think that way and I think that he knows sort of...his existence has kind
of dumbed down country music.
I don't expect it to be art but...I think Garth has been such a huge thing
that all of a sudden we're up to our asses in cowboy hats. It's probably not his fault it's probably just the way the music business reacts to it.
Steve, I too, am a recovering addict. I'm 23 years old and
I have been writing poetry since I was about 15. For some reason I
find that the physical act of writing helps keep me sober; makes me
think about other things than getting high. What are some of the things that
you do on a daily basis besides your art to keep yourself clean?
Steve Earle: I do the same stuff that every addict that stays clean does. I call my sponsor and I go to meetings. They're 12 step programs. I'm a
by-the-book 12-step recovering addicts.
Who are some of your favourite singer/songwriters on
Steve Earle: Patty Griffin, Matthew Ryan, Jay Farrar. I have heard his solo album, and it is really good. He's looking for a home for his album, too. He's not with a label any longer. That reminds me, I have to call him. I heard some really good song writers in the last few years. There's also a few people... Malcolm Holcolmbe from North Carolina.
With all that you've been through in your life, would you
ever consider writing an autobiography, since I heard you are
into writing short fiction and stuff like that?
Steve Earle: No, it would take away material I could use for prose and poetry. Writing an autobiography would be a huge waste of material. There is an authorized biography being worked on right now (someone I trust).
I don't feel a need to do that. This collection of fiction of mine called 'Doghouse Roses' will be out in June. Canada, I'm not exactly sure what's going on with that. I'm working on a play right now, there's also this Haiku that may end up being a book.
I've got a couple of ideas for novels. I'm probably going to write both
of them but I'm not sure in what order. I'm not ready to stop performing but I am ready to make my records a little further apart. Maybe make a record that's unperformable at one point. I think more in terms of staying home than I used to.
Steve Earle: Thanks for writing in and this tours going to go on for a while and we'll see you further on down the road.
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