Justin Townes Earle, singer/songwriter and son of Steve Earle, dead at 38

Justin Townes Earle
Justin Townes Earle (Image credit: Matt Winkelmeyer - Getty)

Justin Townes Earle, the singer/songwriter and son of Steve Earle, has died at the age of 38.

The news was confirmed on the musician’s Facebook page, with a statement reading: “It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you of the passing of our son, husband, father and friend Justin. 

“So many of you have relied on his music and lyrics over the years and we hope that his music will continue to guide you on your journeys. You will be missed dearly Justin.”

The post also featured a lyric from his 2015 song Looking For A Place To Land: “I’ve crossed oceans. Fought freezing rain and blowing sand. I’ve crossed lines and roads and wondering rivers. Just looking for a place to land.”

Earle, who was born in 1982 and named after Townes Van Zandt, spent this early years estranged from his father, who left his mother Carol-Ann Hunter when he was two years old.

He had a turbulent childhood and struggled with addiction from an early age, using heroin by the age of 12 with his later teenage years marked by petty crime, drinking and serial drug use.

However, it was the release of Nirvana’s unplugged version of Lead Belly’s Where Did You Sleep Last Night that proved to be a turning point for Earle.

He told Classic Rock in 2014: “Suddenly it all made sense to me. Everybody was taking things from the generation that had gone before. So I threw away my electric guitar and bought myself an acoustic one.”

That led to the release of his 2008 debut album The Good Life, with his most recent record The Saint of Lost Causes arriving in May 2019.

On his 2014 album Single Mothers, Earle paid tribute to Carol-Ann.

“She raised me and did what a man should’ve done,” he told Classic Rock. “She was a roadie and drove a truck, because it was the best money she could make. 

“My mom worked her ass off. What I am today is way more because of her than my father.”

Tributes have come in for Earle on social media, with artist Samantha Crain saying: “My friend, Justin Townes Earle, has passed away. Such a tremendous songwriter, he took me on two tours and always treated me so kindly.

“He understood struggle, he understood joy – I saw him at the peaks and valleys of both through the 13 years I knew him. We will miss you JT.”

The band The Head & The Heart added: “RIP Justin Townes Earle. We had the pleasure of playing a few shows together. He was such an immense songwriter and authentic soul. This year is a thief.”

Author Stephen King said: “It appears that Justin Townes Earle has died. I hope it's a hoax but fear it is not. What a loss.”

No cause of death has been made public.

Scott Munro
Louder e-commerce editor

Scott has spent 35 years in newspapers, magazines and online as an editor, production editor, sub-editor, designer, writer and reviewer. Scott joined our news desk in the summer of 2014 before moving to the e-commerce team in 2020. Scott keeps Louder’s buyer’s guides up to date, writes about the best deals for music fans, keeps on top of the latest tech releases and reviews headphones, speakers, earplugs and more. Over the last 10 years, Scott has written more than 11,000 articles across Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer and Prog. He's previously written for publications including IGN, the Sunday Mirror, Daily Record and The Herald newspapers, covering everything from daily news and weekly features, to tech reviews, video games, travel and whisky. Scott's favourite bands are Fields Of The Nephilim, The Cure, New Model Army, All About Eve, The Mission, Cocteau Twins, Drab Majesty, Marillion and Rush.