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ask him about his own mother, he shakes off my attempt to pin the lyrics to something personal and reaches for a more universal assessment: “I think everyone at some point has been disappointed by their mother.” The point is, his insights go beyond attaching a specific person or scenario to any one song. “Most of the people in my songs are composite characters.” That’s why his songs communicate so effectively, because we can all relate to his creations, but there’s always room for ambiguity. “I try to leave things up for discussion,” he adds. These days Justin is living pretty high on the hog. His most recent album received favorable reviews from Paste, Billboard, the BBC, and Rolling Stone, to name a few. And he’s not the first act anymore. As he points out, with a look of incredulity that’s a credit to his humility, “It’s gotten to where guys I grew up listening to are opening for me. It’s crazy. I just try to be as respectful as possible.” Speaking of other opening acts, he singles out NA-

TIVE’s own first cover girl, Tristen, saying “I’ve seen her have a bad day, but never a bad show.” Coming from a man who’s sung his way through concerts he can hardly remember, that is high, high praise. And Justin’s taking better care of himself now, not beating up his body like he once did. As he puts it, “I knew I could do a show messed up, but then I would start being late. And then I stopped showing up. It’s not respectful to my music. And it’s not just me anymore; I have people that depend on me.” Not only does he have a band and crew behind him, but he’s got family as well. “I just bought a quarter of a house that I didn’t even want to buy, but it was for my mother. I would do anything for her. ” He made some serious headway with a pack of American Spirits during the course of the interview, and maybe there was something hand-rolled and suspiciously fat poking out from the package, but the hard drugs and the booze have been replaced by a holistic lifestyle. “I’m just trying not to tempt fate,” he says. “I

eat red meat once a month. I do yoga. You don’t need to get on a treadmill; you can get your cardio from walking the dog.” Not something you’d expect to hear from a guy who’s been to rehab thirteen times by the age of thirty. Walking outside, he whips out that big ole “cigarette” from his pack and lights it—“I smoke about six to eight of these a day,” he adds with a grin—and proceeds to show me quite the eccentric collection of items in the back of his truck. Apparently, Justin collects Native American beadwork and miscellaneous silver and leather goods from junktique shops out west. His next stop after leaving me, in fact, is to Imogene + Willie’s, to see about turning a rather fetching Navajo runner into some kind of vest. As I said before, Justin’s got quite the keen eye for style— going so far as to mention how he’d like to open a store sometime in the distant future. Proving again a wisdom and shrewdness that belies his thirty years, he just shrugs, “This shit won’t last forever.”

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Profile for Native

Native | February 2013 | Nashville, TN  

Featuring Nashville's Justin Townes Earle, Karoake Cab, Kangaroo Press, Poetry Sucks, Odessa Rose, The Stone Fox, No. 308, Chucklet and Hone...

Native | February 2013 | Nashville, TN  

Featuring Nashville's Justin Townes Earle, Karoake Cab, Kangaroo Press, Poetry Sucks, Odessa Rose, The Stone Fox, No. 308, Chucklet and Hone...