On his new album, Kids in the Street, Justin Townes Earle includes a cover of Paul Simon's "Graceland"; the theme of the song resonated with Earle. "You might actually have to go somewhere to seek out what you need," he says. "It's not just going to fall into your lap. You might have to go."
And go Earle did. Rather than looking at the Nashville where he grew up as a place to record the album, Earle decamped to Omaha, Neb., where he worked with producer Mike. It was a new experience for Earle, but he embraced it. "It was definitely still a bit nerve-wracking," Earle says. "But I had to walk away and let Mike do things the way he does things. You've just got to have faith." Just before the album's release, Justin Townes Earle was in Minneapolis for a show at First Avenue. Earlier in the day, he stopped at The Current for a session hosted by Bill DeVille.
Although Earle worked in a different way on the new album, he stuck with a blues sound he's long appreciated. "You know what kind of player you are when you pick up a guitar and you start playing," Earle says. "What do you automatically go to? Ever since I was a kid, I go into E position and go [sings standard blues riff] if I'm just messing around with a guitar. So the sounds of the blues and Memphis, Tennessee, infected me music-wise a long, long time ago and haven't made their way out." Earle himself has made his way out of Tennessee, noting that the gentrification of the Nashville of his youth has altered the city indelibly. "They came in and cleared out my neighborhood," Earle says. "They like to call it 12 South now, but it was called Sevier Park-Sunnyside neighborhood when I was a kid. It was a very racially mixed neighborhood, it was a very poor neighborhood. Now it's million-dollar homes and nothing but lilywhite children running around those damn streets and it don't look right. It ain't the neighborhood I grew up in."
It's a subject Earle, who now lives in Portland, Ore., explores on Kids in the Street. "Nashville did away with my home," Earle says. "It's definitely not my home anymore, other than the fact that my mom's there."