You might say that Steve Earle is settling down. He’s moved to New York with his wife Allison Moorer (his seventh, and the first fellow musician), and has no plans to leave. His latest album, Washington Square Serenade, is a tribute of sorts to his new city, the first place he says he’s ever felt at home. Unlike 2004’s The Revolution Starts Now, it’s an album of commentary and love songs, without the fueled anti-capitalism, anti-Bush, and war messages.
But that doesn’t mean he’s changed his mind. City Paper caught up with Steve:
CITY PAPER: This is a solo acoustic tour. What’s the breakdown of a typical show?
Steve Earle: Allison will open solo, then I’ll do a little less than half of my show solo as well. The other half is me and a DJ with digital turntables or me and Allison. I fronted a ridiculously loud adult rock band for 10 years that I’m really proud of, but I needed to do something different to keep myself interested. This tour’s about revisiting stuff I recorded earlier, and experimenting with using really organic acoustic instruments to play with beats.
CP: It’s your first tour with your wife, Allison. What’s it like to be on the road with her?
SE: It’s a whole new world. We spent the last three years trying to synch up our careers so we can tour together. Most of our lives are lived in a one-bedroom apartment in the Village or a bus. It’s a big adjustment. It’s good for me. When you’re the only artist in the house, it’s really easy to start thinking you’re the only person in the world. Unfortunately that’s a character flaw I can’t constantly exercise.
CP: I’ve read you seem to love living in New York. Do you think you’ll stay there?
SE: I do miss the live-fast-and-leave-a-good-looking-corpse thing. I’d like to think I’d die in the back of a bus. But if I had a stroke or heart attack, do I want to be in Tennessee? If I get my wings clipped and can’t travel all around the world every year, this looks like a better place for me. I’d rather be one of those old commies in a wheelchair on Bleecker Street that runs over my foot every once in awhile than end up in Tennessee where you have to drive everywhere.
CP: The last time you played Charleston, in 2004, it was a fired up, political affair just after Kerry lost the election.
SE: What became of that tour was a recovery for people who had worked hard and lost a close election. People say, “You’re preaching to the choir,'” but sometimes the choir needs preaching to. It’s like a USO show for people in the trenches, politically. McCain is a real neocon. He is okay with the U.S. dominating the world. I’ll vote for the Democratic nominee, but the best thing I can do for a candidate I support is to stay as far away from them as possible.
CP: What do you think of the general departure of country music from politics?
SE: I don’t think it’s required of anyone to comment on the society that they live in. I’m not particularly interested in what Britney Spears has to say about the world. But the idea that artists aren’t qualified to comment on society is a relatively new one that, as far as I know, Dick Cheney made up. There’s been no one ever, when I was growing up, who tried to ruin anybody’s career for disagreeing with the government. It shocks me that people were okay with that and stood by while the guy who owns Clear Channel, who was George Bush’s next door neighbor, sets out to ruin the Dixie Chicks. That should scare the f*ck out of everybody, but it didn’t.
For more of City Paper’s interview with Earle, log on to www.charlestoncitypaper.com.