Steve Earle was brought back to the blues for latest album Terraplane as a result of his fascination with Robert Johnson, he’s revealed.
And he argues that it’s all-but impossible to downplay the influence of the pioneer, who died in 1938 aged 27.
Earle – who’s better known for his country rock output – tells WBUR: “I always approach it from the songwriting standpoint. He was Robert Johnson because of the songs.
“He wrote every song that’s a big deal. Every form of the post-war alleged blues is based on one Robert Johnson song or another. And it’s absolutely the truth. He’s every bit the father of the modern genre.”
He continues: “Johnson, as a songwriter, is pretty fascinating – there are no earlier versions of these songs that anybody’s been able to find. They all begin with him, which I think’s fascinating.”
Earle, 60, adds that switching genres gave him the impetus to write more. “You start looking for ways to find a reason to make another fucking record, especially the way the business is now,” he reports.
And he says of working to a stricter pattern: “It’s kind of like working with a 32-box of crayons and limiting yourself to six. It makes you work harder and dig deeper.”