PICKIN’ AND GRINNIN’

HE MIGHT BE the ultimate lonesome dove, but Justin Townes Earle is finally emerging from the shadows of his famous father (Steve Earle) and making his own name for himself. It’s been a long road, riddled with more than a few battles with personal demons, but Earle’s critically acclaimed new album, Midnight at the Movies (some of which we caught live at SXSW), is evidence that he’s here to stay. It’s an act 10 years and two CDs in the making, but for summer audiences ready to yield to Earle’s lyrical ballads and gently twanged between-set narrative -- trust us -- lovesick blues never felt so good.

What was the best part about playing SXSW? Remembering it. I’ve been coming for 10 years, and it was always a pure drunken [party].

So, then, what do you actually remember about this year? How much work it was, playing from nine a.m. to four a.m., five days in a row.

What’s life like now that your personal problems are over? Pretty beautiful. I do what I love, play music, and travel the world. I used to think I had it all together. I realize now I missed out on a lot.

How do you keep yourself in check? I have two people I live with -- one is regular Justin, the other is my alter ego. I make sure one person steps onstage, the other steps off. I’m not that exciting, really, but you gotta make a show of it all.

And how do you do that? I’ve watched a lot of Grand Ole Opry, Louvin Brothers, and Delmore Brothers acts. I’ve learned how to keep things rolling on stage.

What has you psyched about playing Bonnaroo? It’s huge -- I’m wary. But I’m excited to see all the insanity. And I’ll try and find a way to catch Springsteen.

Is it hard dealing with everyone’s increased expectations of you? Nah. I’m still ridin’ in the same van, still stayin’ at the same motels. But I’m still smilin’.

-- Neal Webster Turnage