The Tell Us the Truth Tour launches tonight in Madison, Wisconsin, during, appropriately enough, the National Conference on Media Reform. The tour was hatched by Steve Earle, Billy Bragg and Tom Morello -- and subsequently snowballed to include R.E.M.'s Mike Mills, Jill Sobule, Lester Chambers, Boots Riley and others at select dates during its run -- with the purpose of addressing the Bush administration and the media's coverage of its doings, with the 2004 presidential election just a year away. In addition to spoken word and music, the tour also seeks to register fans to vote and inform them about issues like free trade and the war in Iraq.
"My concern is the way corporate media has affected the news that we receive and the quality of information that we receive," says Earle, who joins the tour on November 15th. "We've got a really heavily slanted playing field right now, and it will continue to tilt dangerously to starboard if this administration stays in power. The problem is that we went to sleep. The tour is to instill in people the sense that they can do something about this."
Though Earle has campaigned vigorously against the death penalty for years, he says the war in Iraq is currently taking up his activism time. "Right now the most important thing is this election coming up, and stopping this war," he says. "I don't think you can do one without the other. As long as this regime is in power, the war is not gonna stop. The one accomplishment of this administration so far besides this huge deficit is getting us into this war. And lying to get us into it. And this is an emergency, this election. This guy's gotta go. And I believe it can be accomplished."
After recording politically oriented songs on otherwise pop, rock and country records in the past, Earle released his most politically minded record, Jerusalem, last year. He says he's already written two new songs, "and none of them are chick songs so far." Earle plans to go into the studio in April and record another record, which would be released before the election."
In the meantime, Earle has Tell Us the Truth, along with some promotional duty for Just an American Boy, a documentary film directed by Amos Poe about Earle's Jerusalem tour and a companion two-CD live album of the same name. The film will open in New York City and Nashville tonight, with Earle attending the opening in the latter city. "I can't make any judgement about that film," he says. "It's just too much me up there for too long for me to be really comfortable with it and objective about it." As for the live album, it's Earle's first since Shut Up and Die Like an Aviator more than a decade ago. Though Earle kicked the much-publicized dope habit that dogged him in the days of Aviator, the American Boy album isn't lacking for energy, with some of the outrage found on the songs of Jerusalem permeating the older material.
Tell Us the Truth Tour dates:
11/7-8: Madison, WI, National Conference on Media Reform
11/10: Chicago, Park West
11/11: Royal Oak, MI, Royal Oak Music Theater
11/12: Indianapolis, The Vogue
11/14: Nashville, Belcourt Theater
11/15: Asheville, NC, The Orange Peel
11/16: Atlanta, Variety Playhouse
11/17: Tampa, FL, Tampa Theater
11/19: Miami, People's Gala for Global Justice
11/21: Glenside, PA, Keswick Theater
11/22: New York, Webster Hall
11/23: Boston, Berklee Performance Center
11/24: Washington, DC, 9:30 Club