The Musical History Of Steve Earle, Who Returns To Boise

Aug 16, 2017

Credit Album, So You Wanna Be An Outlaw / courtesy of the artist

On Wednesday, singer-songwriter Steve Earle returns to Boise, playing a concert at the Egyptian Theater. The Grammy Award-winning musician has released 18 studio albums.

Earle’s latest album is called “So You Wannabe an Outlaw.” And “outlaw country” is one way to describe his music, which is also called alt-country, roots music and country rock. But according to Earle: "This music that I play, I consider myself a folk singer. And first and foremost, I’m a songwriter and that’s why I make records."


Earle grew up outside of San Antonio, Texas. One of the first musicians he met was Townes Van Zandt, about whom he boasted: "And I said that Townes Van Zandt was the best songwriter in the world and I’d stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that."


He now explains that infamous quote, saying, "I probably never believed it, literally, but I certainly believe that Townes deserved to be mentioned in the same breath as Bob Dylan. And trust me, Bob believes that, too."


By the 1970s, Earle was playing gigs in the Texas capital, but he lacked focus.


"Austin to me," he recalls, "was a great place and I’ve always played there. But living there, the weather was too good and the girls were too pretty and the dope was too cheap and I knew I wouldn’t get anything done in a place like that. So I went on to Houston and then I went on to Nashville."


He jumpstarted his career there with a string of hits in the 1980s. In the 1990s he was arrested on drug charges and learned to put away his hard-living habits.


"I’ve been clean for 20 years," he announces. "And if I hadn’t gotten clean, I would have died. And we wouldn’t be having this conversation."


Earle has been living in New York City for the past decade. An actor and a playwright, he even portrayed a recovering junkie on the HBO series, The Wire. As a musician, Earle has won three Grammy Awards.


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