Revolution in the head
Earle's latest album is his
most emphatic musical statement yet in an increasingly politicised
career. Whilst in New York several months ago to take part
in the anti-Bush protests coinciding with the Republic Convention,
he told David Davies about the shame of his 'lost' years,
the need for radical change and why his cattle-dog is more
than capable of outwitting Dubya...
big march was actually pretty joyous because nobody had to
do anything - there were five hundred thousand of us and only
20,000 [Republican supporters]," Earle laughs. "They're definitely
behind on this one! New York couldn't go Republican on a bet."
Of course as we now know Bush's failing domestic policy wasn't
enough to see him ejected come the November election, but
recognising that he needed the freshly penned The Revolution
Starts...Now and Rich Man's War to be heard before the polling
day for them to have any real impact, Earle found himself
in the unusual position of writing everyday for this new album.
Working up songs in response to the brewing political storm.
"I was waking up in the morning with a blank piece of paper,
so whatever was going on affected what I wrote." Co-produced
with regular collaborator Ray Kennedy, Revolution... is Earle's
most rough-and-ready album yet.
The righteous anger that infuses the two
aforementioned songs is even more apparent on F The CC, an
anti-establishment tirade that shows just how far he has come
since he was the toast of Nashville in the mid-'80s. However,
lest anyone think his new album is all air punching polemic,
I Thought You Should Know and the gorgeous Comin' Around -
the latter featuring regular collaborator Emmylou Harris -
show there is still a side of Earle interested in what he
terms 'chick songs'. "I Thought You Should Know is back to
the reason every guy picks up a guitar - it's about getting
girls," he admits, and this even extends to a tongue-in-cheek
paean to famously ice-cool National Security Adviser (and
now Secretary Of State) Condoleeza Rice. "I played an in-store
in Washington DC and was hoping she would show up, but she
didn't," chuckles Earle. "To be honest, I was kind of bummed."
he's now undoubtedly one of America's most respected musical
forces, it's a destiny that would have seemed unlikely a decade
ago. Following an initial run of success, his innate tendency
towards hedonism led him deep into drug addiction as the '90s
dawned. After numerous failed attempts to straighten out his
problems, a stint in jail gave him the juddering shock to
the senses he needed. "I've been clean ten years," he says,
proudly. "Sometimes I don't even recognise that guy anymore.
But I'm proud of a lot of the music I made before that and
I don't have a record that I'm ashamed of. Sure, I'm ashamed
of everything I did in the late '80s/early '90s outside of
my craft, but there's nothing I can do about that. I can't
get it back now - I just have to go on."
Earle's artistic drive since he got clean
has been undeniable, with a play and a collection of short
stories appearing alongside his prolific musical output. He's
currently six chapters into a novel, but put the work aside
for a tour that took him through the key 'battleground' states
in the run-up to the election. Like Bruce Springsteen, who
also cast off non-partisan instincts to call for Bush's ejection,
Earle believed there was simply no way an engaged artist could
sit on the fence. "I've got a cattle-dog that's a lot smarter
than the president of the United States we've got right now!"
he laughs. "We're in really crucial times and having a dumbass
at the helm is scary." Professing Bush's re-election to be
an "unthinkable" prospect, Earle didn't rule out emigration,
"I always thought the odds were against me dying in this country,
and I thought for sure I'd be living in Ireland by now," he
admits."[But] I'm not gonna fucking leave my country like
this because my grandchildren are going to have to grow up
here. If I ever leave here, I want to walk not run, so they
may have to put up with me for a while yet."
the PDF version to read this interview in full