Steve Earle shared a trio of songs from his new album, J.T., on his second appearance on Rolling Stone’s In My Room series.
J.T., which was released earlier this month, finds Earle paying tribute to his son, Justin Townes Earle, who died from a probable drug overdose in August at the age of 38. Setting up in the kitchen of his New York City home, Earle spoke earnestly about the devastating loss, but said making J.T. — which features covers of 10 Townes Earle songs — turned out to be the best antidote to the hurt.
“Cathartic,’ I don’t know whether that’s the word for it,” Earle says. “I think it’s just a way for me to say goodbye, and a way for me to make sure that I was giving him his due because we do the same thing.”
Earle opened his set with a rendition of “They Killed John Henry,” which was Townes Earle’s take on the classic John Henry folk song. He followed that up with what’s arguably his son’s best-known track, the 2010 song, “Harlem River Blues.”
Earle closed the performance with the one new song he wrote for J.T., “Last Words,” which he says he started working on several days after his son’s death. “I did nothing but hurt for a couple of days,” Earle says of how the song came about. “I was kind of in shock for a day, and excruciating pain for a day, and then the third day, everything still hurt, but I got up and I picked up a guitar and I wrote two verses of this. Normally, it doesn’t take me more than a day to write a song, but this one I had to take another run at it to write the third verse.”
Earle previously appeared on In My Room back in April. Other artists to take part include Aimee Mann, Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, Ava Max, Thurston Moore, Black Pumas, Lucy Dacus, Boy George, Rufus Wainwright, Sting, Joan Jett, Lucinda Williams, Waxahatchee, and others. To support musicians undergoing financial hardship, please consider giving to the Sweet Relief Musicians Fund or MusiCares’ Covid-19 Relief Fund.