Earlier this week Justin Townes Earle started out on his first tour after a rehab stint following an altercation in Indianapolis in September that ended in Earle being arrested for assault, public intoxication, and resisting arrest. Earle has insisted that some of the accounts of the incident that night have been false, a few of which recounted a drunken Earle publicly looking for drugs. JTE’s state of sobriety could have been inferred by his voluntary rehab assignment, but in an interview with The Dallas Observer, JTE cleared up that one outstanding detail from the night.
I’m not gonna say I wasn’t looking for drugs or that I wasn’t drunk fuck yeah, I was. I was completely out of my mind drunk, and when I’m drinking I’m always looking for drugs. It turns that switch. But some other things didn’t happen.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he elaborated on the extent of his relapse:
“Up until Indianapolis, for close to a year before, I’d been performing s—face drunk every night. I was able to pull through but it got to the point where it didn’t work anymore. It takes a lot for someone with the substance abuse issues I have to stay away from such things,” said Mr. Earle, who added that he was consuming a half-gallon of vodka a day, cocktail by cocktail.
Justin has been very somber and realistic about his battles with addiction, not wanting to set the bar so high that he faces inevitable letdown. From The Nashville Scene:
The last time I was clean for six years. And that’s the longest I’ve gone without doing drugs since I started using drugs when I was 10 years old. I’m at that point where it’s like I’ve been high the majority of my life. It’s a really hard thing to get away from. It’s one of those things that you watch it crush people on a daily basis. … I’m never gonna say that I’m never gonna take a drink again, and I’m never gonna say that I’m never gonna use drugs again, because all that does is set me up for disappointment.
JTE also talked about how drinking and drugs affects his music. While the vast majority of outlets wrote positive reviews for his latest album Harlem River Blues, including Paste Magazine just naming it #15 of the year, Saving Country Music gave it a mixed review, and openly wondered if his sobriety was affecting the quality of music. While talking with Blurt Online Justin said:
The abuse I put my body through never once helped me write a song. Luckily, I haven’t done any permanent damage to my brain. Often, drugs destroy your creative process.
Also in the Blurt Story, after it was published, it states JTE’s publicist contacted them and information was added that “online media outlets covered the story with occasionally intrusive, tabloid-like detail” and specifically named Saving Country Music and My Old Kentucky Blog as culprits.
I cannot speak for My Kentucky Blog, but I can say that SCM offered eyewitness accounts from sources verified individually from people who were there. What we did not offer was accounts of the actual assaults, but deferred to My Old Kentucky Blog. Some of the incidents described by MOKB were later verified by the police report. Saving Country Music only reported on the scene leading up to the incidents JTE was arrested for, including that the crowd was rude and loud by some accounts, that they were yelling at him onstage, and that someone threw a shirt at him during a song, though this information was run by numerous other outlets without any credit given to the source.
Justin also said to The Nashville Scene “There are several press organizations that jumped the gun without speaking to me first and have fallen from my graces with their half-cocked accounts of what happened.” Nashville Scene gives most of the credit to My Old Kentucky Blog for that statement, but I am sure at least some of that venom is aimed at Saving Country Music. For the record we did try to contact Justin Townes Earle to no avail, though eventually we were in communication with his label Bloodshot Records while the story was developing.
Regardless of the nature of my reporting or anybody elses, it is my assertion that Justin Townes Earle remains innocent until proven guilty, and that his health remains my #1 concern, then his music, then any personal matters that are relevant to the first two. The 2009 Album of the Year winner will continue to receive my support, as long as he’s making good music, live or recorded, regardless of his or his management’s feelings towards me or my reporting.