Steve Earle coming to Bluesfest
YOU could say Steve Earle is a reformed renaissance man.
The blues musician, who struggled with and eventually overcame a heroin addiction that landed him in jail, now balances a busy life as a singer/songwriter, producer, actor, author and playwright.
The prolific troubadour, who has 13 studio albums to his name including his most recent Grammy-nominated I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive, will be in the country soon for the Byron Bay Bluesfest as well as a string of sideshows.
It's the first time Earle has played Bluesfest in eight years.
"I love Byron," he said.
"It's my favourite beach town in the world."
This time around it will be a solo show for Earle, who most recently toured Australia in 2008 with his band The Dukes.
"I tried to make the band made sense for Australia and New Zealand but there was no way," he said.
"We were going to lose a lot of money. The economy the way it is, the money just wasn't there.
"I decided I better get a guitar and get my ass out there especially since I didn't get there last cycle (tour).
"I don't want to lose an entire English speaking territory of the world (laughs)."
But rather than seeing solo shows as more work, Earle sees them as a treat.
"Solo shows are one of the luxuries I afford myself since I don't use a set list," he said.
"You're going to hear stuff from the last record a lot because people haven't heard that in Australia yet."
That last record - I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive - was produced by T-Bone Burnett and peaked at No 4 on the American country, folk and indie charts.
And Earle is already hard at work on material for his next album.
"I think it's going to be kind of political," he said.
"I can't help it this time. There's enough stuff going on in politics in a human way and the way politics affects people's everyday lives.
"I'm most concerned with people who don't have jobs. Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday is this year, and we're seeing the kind of stuff that Woody was writing about in the '30s happening again all over the world."
Earle has penned songs for movies and TV shows for the past two and a half decades but he didn't make the leap into acting until taking up a regular role on acclaimed drama series The Wire in 2002 as recovering drug addict Walon.
"It didn't' require any acting (laughs), which is kind of cool," he said.
"A lot of people in probation were involved with show and that kept the writers honest.
"The meetings in The Wire ended up being real meetings.
"A lot of the extras were people actually in the program, and the meetings took place in places where meetings were actually held."
The Wire creator David Simon once again called on Earle to play a character drawn heavily on his real-life experiences in the post-Katrina New Orleans drama Treme.
The role showcased Earle's musical talents as blues/folk singer songwriter Harley Watt.
Despite his character dying at the end of the second series, Earle continues to write songs for the show.
Speaking of writing, Earle is also continuing his fictional writing streak.
Last year his debut novel I'll Never Get Out of this World Alive was published in conjunction with his album of the same name.
Named after a Hank Williams song, the novel tells the story of doctor and morphine addict Doc Ebersole, who is haunted by the ghost of Williams.
Earle is now working on his first play, which also finds inspiration from a real-life musical figure.
"It's about (folk musician) Pete Seegers' testimony in front of the House of American Activities Committee in the 1950s," he said.
But don't expect a memoir from Earle any time soon.
"There are two books about me out there, maybe three. I've never read any of them," he said.
"A memoir, why would I do that? There's so much other stuff I'd rather write about."
Steve Earle plays the Crossroads Stage on Friday, April 6, and the Jambalaya Stage on Saturday, April 7.
The Byron Bluesfest plays the Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm Thursday through Monday.
For more information go to www.bluesfest.com.au.