Stacey Earle had taken her time coming to the world of recorded music. Whilst she has always played guitar and sang, often as a means of winding down, it's only been comparatively recently that Stacey has taken this beyond a back porch. Part of that came with her desire to reach a wider audience, part came through being pushed by her brother, Steve Earle.
That delay in coming to the fore has meant that Stacey has
arrived with a lifetimes experiences already behind her. She has
already been where a lot of younger performers can only imagine.
Her roots based sound is tinged with blues and a whole host of
It was with a great amount of interest that I sat down with Stacey for a chat.
#S=Stacey Earle #N=Neil King
#N You came into the music business as a business quite late. At what point did you start writing?
#S It's pretty much a sown up story. Song writing was first reflected on me by Steve. Steve and the family were all musical, by ear. My parents couldn't afford lessons, but we all played piano. There was a ukulele around the house, but we didn't have stage parents. Steve knew at age fourteen that he was going to go to Nashville and write songs. He knew he was going to be a star. He left the house at sixteen on that mission.
Me it was a different story. Even though I could play the guitar and I loved to sing Everybody has dreams of what they're going to be when they grow up. I got pregnant right away, became a young mother and got married for the first time. That did not leave me room to dream something like that. I was not allowed to dream that. It wasn't a vision of any sight. My dream was food in the cabinet, a little bit nicer house.
I played guitar around the house at that time, but I didn't even begin to fantasise. It never even crossed my mind once. Those years went by, about twelve years, something like that. Finally I was getting divorced from my first husband. It wasn't a bitter divorce or anything like that. We both grew up and grew apart. I was struggling so I called up Steve in Nashville.
He had had "Guitar Town" out and was doing pretty good. I called him up to borrow $500 to buy a car. He sent it to me and I bought the car. Then the next day it got stolen. I called him up to tell him the car got stolen and that's when it all took off.
He called me up and said, "Stacey come to Nashville, bring the boys." He was leaving on the "Copperhead Road Tour" at this point. He said the house would be empty and he needed someone to help with his two kids. I took my two boys and went to Nashville. There was his two boys and with Steve that made it five boys.
I went to Nashville, not visioning being a star but seeing myself as a nanny. I got there and got a job at the school where the kids were going. I was the lady in the lunchroom with the hairnet. A year went by and Steve heard me tinkering around with the guitar at the house and singing and stuff. I think he thought that I needed something good to come along. He asked me to sing a backup track on the "Hardway" record that he was making. It was on a song that he and Maria McKee wrote.
When he told me it scared me to death. Studio time costs so much money. I went to his friends and got advice on how to do this. Worked real hard then went in there and nailed it in one take. They all thought I was a pro, like suckers.
Steve came up to me after that and said, "Like now you gotta take it around the world." I asked what he meant and he said that I had to go on tour. I had three weeks to learn four Steve Earle records on guitar, acoustic and electric and vocals. I worked day and night with his guitar player and left on the world tour to Australia, with cheat notes taped all over the floor. I needed an endorsement from Duck Tape, there was just so much of it out there.
Slowly through the tour the cheat notes came up and I got comfortable. It was a good thing, he gave me a great gift. When we got back to Nashville, I had a little money in the bank and I got the taste of it and finally I could dream it. It finally became a vision. I started thinking about songs and saw myself on stage.
I came back to Nashville and wrote a lot of bad songs. I was an under developed writer. I took them into to publishers and because I was Steve's sister I managed to get into their offices. That didn't mean anything, it would open the door, they would pat me on the back and say keep it up. A couple of years went by.
I'm thirty eight now but I've lived a lot more. At one point Steve was seriously ill and I was the only family member in town. My heart goes out to all families in those circumstances. I've had a deep growning up period so of course my started developing.
I dreamed harder and the songs just seemed to be coming around. Publishers started taking note. I was doing these writing nights and saw the publishers lifting their heads up. It was about a two year period.
Then I ran into an obstacle of, "What do we do with this ? It's so different. Where do we put it, where's the mainstream." It was really hard to nail. They would ask what I did and I would say "Stacey Earle music."