Singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle, a leading performer of American roots music known for his introspective and haunting style, has died at 38.
New West Records publicist Brady Brock confirmed his death, but did not immediately provide details. Earle was the son of country star Steve Earle and over the weekend his family posted an Instagram announcement of his death, telling his fans, “So many of you have relied on his music and lyrics over the years and we hope that his music will continue to guide you on your journeys.”
His family also posted lyrics from the ballad ‘Looking for a Place to Land,’ from Earle’s 2014 album Single Mothers.
“I’ve crossed oceans
Fought freezing rain and blowing sand
I’ve crossed lines and roads and wondering rivers
Just looking for a place to land”
A conscious throwback to old-time country and blues music, Earle released such albums as Harlem River Blues and The Saint of Lost Causes and was named Emerging Act of the Year at the 2009 Americana Honors & Awards ceremony. He wrote often of loneliness, flight and forgiveness, like in the mid-tempo rocker ‘I Wanna Be a Stranger.’
“Don’t wanna walk away but
I’m tired of acting in anger
Too tired to even try and
I just wanna be a stranger”
Earle was a Nashville native and his father named him in part for songwriter and family friend Townes Van Zandt, although Justin would say that his mother, Carol Ann Hunter, would have preferred a different name.
“My mother hated Townes Van Zandt,” he told Rolling Stone in 2019. “My first name was supposed to be Townes, but my mother would not have it. She hated him because of the trouble that Dad and him got into, but she still played his music.”
Earle struggled with drug and alcohol addiction throughout his life. He survived five heroin overdoses by the time he was 21 and was also fired from his father’s band, the Duke, due to his drug abuse.
The musician has left behind his wife Jenn Marie and daughter Etta St James, who was born in July 2017.
(With inputs from agencies)