Steve Earle is a phenomenal musician, and the one man in country music unafraid to speak his mind contrary to popular views. He is a purist in every sense. Although inspired and influenced by Pete Seeger and Townes Van Zandt, SteveEarle is a master storyteller in his own right.
Earle was born in Fort Monroe, VA, but raised near San Antonio, Texas, He received his first guitar at the age of 11 and, by the time he was 13, had become proficient enough to win a school-sponsored talent contest. Despite his talent for music, his rebellious, long-haired appearance and anti-Vietnam War stance were scorned by local country fans. After dropping out of school, he traveled across the state with his uncle Nick Fain and eventually settled in Houston. There he met singer/ songwriter Townes Van Zandt, who would become Earle’s foremost role model and inspiration.
At age 19, Earle moved to Nashville, TN, where he worked blue-collar jobs during the day while writing songs and playing bass in Guy Clark's backing band at night. He appeared on a cut on Clark's 1975 album Old No. 1. Before long he developed a reputation as a song-writer, whose writing credits included "When You Fall in Love" by Johnny Lee, “Mustang Wine”, by Carl Perkins, and two songs recorded by Zella Lehr.
Steve Earle’s songs have recorded by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Travis Tritt, The Pretenders, Joan Baez and countless others.
Earle emerged as a performer on the national music scene in the 80’s. His first release was an EP, Pink & Black, issued in 1982. The record featured found a warm reception amongst critics. His 1986 debut album Guitar Town shot to number one of the country charts and immediately established the term “New Country.”
What followed was an extremely exciting array of twelve releases, beginning with the biting hard rock of Copperhead Road (1988), and the minimalist beauty of Train A Comin’ (1995).
Earle’s relationship with the music industry has often been plagued by creative differences and by adverse reactions to his leftist political steak. His vocal opposition to the death penalty was particularly controversial. His leftist view took center stage on his 2002 politically charged masterpiece Jerusalem, written and recorded in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Jerusalem dealt openly with Earle's divided feelings about America's "war on terror" and the West's ignorance of the Islamic faith, and it included a song about John Walker Lindh, a young American who was discovered to be fighting with Taliban forces, called "John Walker's Blues." Earle's refusal to condemn Lindh in his lyrics quickly made the song (and the album) a political hot potato. Earle embraced the controversy and became a frequent guest on news and editorial broadcasts, defending his work and clarifying his views on terrorism, patriotism, and the role of popular artists in a time of crisis. Earle's tour in support of Jerusalem was documented in the 2003 concert film and live album Just an American Boy
As the American occupation of Iraq dragged on and an upcoming presidential election loomed in the minds of many, Earle released The Revolution Starts...Now, an album of songs informed by the war in Iraq and the George W. Bush administration. Not only did Earle receive a Grammy for the CD, he received the First Amendment Center / Americana Music Association “Spirit of Americana” free speech award for 2004.
Live at Montreux, recorded at a 2005 show, was released in 2006, followed by Washington Square Serenade in 2007. Washington Square Serenade, which includes the song “Steve’s Hammer (for Pete)” included on Forgotten but Not Gone, won Earle his second Grammy.
Earle’s album of Townes van Zandt cover entitled Townes was issued in 2009. Earle also produced the Grammy nominated album, Day After Tomorrow, by the legendary Joan Baez in 2008.