On Sunday evening (August 23), a post on singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle’s Facebook page shared the tragic news that Earle, the son of folk artist Steve Earle, had died at 38.
“It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you of the passing of our son, husband, father and friend Justin. 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. You will be missed dearly Justin,” the post read. No cause of death has been made available. Earle leaves behind his parents, his wife Jenn Marie and their 3-year-old daughter Etta St. James Earle.
“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”
About a decade ago, Earle had told CMT.com what it was like growing up in Nashville as the son of a legendary singer-songwriter. “I spent many years, luckily, not in the public eye but trying to separate myself from my father. But, you know, I really realize that I sing different than my father,” he’d said, “I write different than my father, I sound different than my father and any separation other than that is personal. And nobody else’s business.”
Earle got his start as a young teenager when he played weekly gigs at the Springwater Supper Club in Nashville, where rising artists like Dierks Bentley got their start. He released the first of his nine albums, Yuma, in 2007. His most recent album, The Saint of Lost Causes was released in 2019.
Earle’s father’s 1986 debut album Guitar Town — released just four years after Justin was born — was ranked as No. 27 on CMT’s 40 Greatest Albums in Country Music. In 1982, Steve Earle and his then wife Carol-Ann Hunter Earle had named their son after iconic singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt.
As the news started to spread of Earle’s death, artists from all of the genres he touched began sharing their condolences on social media:
Had a lot of good times and made a lot of good music with JTE. So sad for his family tonight.
— Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) August 24, 2020
sending love and condolences to Steve Earle and the entire family of Justin Townes Earle… he was always kind to me and he’s gone too soon
— Margo Price (@MissMargoPrice) August 24, 2020
RIP Justin Townes Earle…
We had the pleasure of playing a few shows together. He was such an immense songwriter and authentic soul. This year is a thief.
— The Head & The Heart (@headandtheheart) August 24, 2020
What awful news to hear about his passing. Way way too young. https://t.co/VJVZCdutSv
— Chris Shiflett (@ChrisShiflett71) August 24, 2020