Justin Townes Earle plans to go to London with his body and Memphis with his next album -- both this year.
The singer-songwriter son of Steve Earle tells Billboard.com that after he finishes touring to support his fourth album, 2010's "Harlem River Blues," he intends to shift his base of operations across the pond. "I've got some really good friends over there who are also great musicians," Earle says of a list that includes the Pretenders' James Walbourne. "I've got enough players to put together a band over there.
"I've always gone to London and Glasgow, places like that. But I've never been able to shoot off and go see all the little places on the outskirts and things like that. For the past two years I've consciously ignored the European market to put focus on the American market, and on Australia. Everything's gone the right way with all that, so I'm going to take a year to live in Europe and concentrate on that market."
Ironically, however, Earle is mining decidedly American roots for his next album. "I think I'm going to make a Memphis record," he says. "I'm going to approach different forms of music that have come out of Memphis over the years, based around everything from Sun to Stax. I think it will be fun. I approached that a little bit by having 'Move Over Mama' and 'Slippin' and Slidin' ' on ('Harlem River Blues'). I'm of the opinion rock 'n' roll and soul music are virtually the same thing, just with a difference in the beat. They're the same chords. The songs are about the same things. One of things I like doing is finding those connections and running them all together."
The album will likely be made in his new home base, however. "I'll record in London, just for a change of pace," he says. "I'll fly my engineer and my people over and just do it in London, just to stir the pot a little bit. It's like, 'Let's do a record about Memphis music, but let's keep Ray Davies in mind and Shane MacGowan while we're doing it.' "
Before the move, Earle will tour in the U.S. and Australia through early May, including a stint opening for the Decemberists and an appearance on April 29 at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. He reports that he's feeling healthy and strong after a trip to rehab last fall following an arrest in Indianapolis last September.
"I fall off the wagon every once in awhile," he acknowledges. "Luckily I've never completely relapsed and decided I wanted to do heroin again. But booze and cocaine are so easy to fall into; eventually it catches you and you take care of it again, and so on and so forth. But now my head's a little more clear, and I'm having a lot of fun on the road."