Steve Earle makes his second appearance on Walking the Floor this week, talking with podcast host Chris Shiflett about a life spent onstage, in the writing room and inside the recording studio.
Along the way, the two cover some of the lesser-known moments of his career, too, from his first interaction with Miranda Lambert to his obsession with London’s Arsenal soccer team. Making its premiere two months after the release of Earle’s newest album, So You Wannabe an Outlaw, the episode is available in full below, right after a quick round-up of the podcast’s highlights.
Although he doesn’t always find the time to explore new music, Earle is a big fan of Canadian folksinger Colter Wall.
“Colter Wall kind of blows my mind,” says the veteran songwriter, who has shared a handful of shows with Wall this year. “He’s the best young singer-songwriter I’ve seen in 20 years. He has this voice that sounds like he’s 80. He talks like that. I thought it was fake, then I met him.”
His tour bus is stocked with several fishing rods.
“I fish with a fly rod,” explain Earle, who tries to work a half-dozen or so fishing trips into his yearly schedule. Don’t expect him to get too serious about the hobby, though. “I’m mainly a trout fisherman,” he adds. “I’m not into the big-dick fishing, like big salmon runs and all that stuff. Because trout don’t live in ugly places.”
Growing up in San Antonio, a young Earle found a kindred spirit in Johnny Cash.
“For people like me, that sorta had one foot in country music and one foot in rock & roll, it’s all about Johnny Cash,” Earle says. “By the time I got a guitar, and I’m 12 or 13, the Johnny Cash Show is on. I’m this kid with long hair and cowboy boots, getting the shit kicked out of me on an almost constant basis, and all of a sudden, here’s this TV show where I can see Neil Young and Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard and Derek and the Dominoes. But you [also] see Mother Maybelle Carter herself, you know, and the Carter Family, the Statler Bothers and Carl Perkins every week.”
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A longtime, outspoken liberal, Earle was crushed when Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential race. Even so, he never considered moving elsewhere.
“I was in Canada right after the election,” he remembers, “and somebody said, ‘Well you should move here,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m gonna go back and fight.'” One year later, he’s putting the finishing touches on a new, politically-charged album whose characters live in a country divided along political and racial lines. Whenever the harsh realities of Donald Trump’s presidency threaten to sour his mood, though, Earle tries to widen his perspective. “This country is not a progressive country,” he admits, “but the world is a progressive place. The human race is progressive. We are so much more humane than we were as a species a thousand years ago. Sometimes, all you can do is look at the big picture, ’cause when it’s close, it’s just gonna bum you out.”
Miranda Lambert co-wrote a track on Earle’s new album, So You Wannabe an Outlaw, more than 10 years after giving Earle songwriting credit for inspiring her first hit, “Kerosene.”
“She wrote a song years ago that she decided sounded too much like one of mine,” he tells Shiflett. “I hadn’t even heard it. I knew who she was, but I didn’t even listen to country radio much when I was on it.” Lambert’s manager wound up calling Earle’s team offering a share of the songwriting profits for “Kerosene,” whose melodic line and rhythmic punch strongly resembled the title track from Earle’s album I Feel Alright. Earle accepted, and the two remained in touch over the years. Recently, Lambert joined Earle during the writing and recording of “This is How it Ends,” one of Outlaw‘s highlights.