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Duchess Of Earle

Stacey Earle's music is a family affair

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The Earle family extended is a hardscrabble lot. No, they're not going to blackjack you in an alley, but they will fight you or anyone else for whatever it is that's important to them: their music, their right to play music as they see fit, and indeed, their rights in general. Some of them have vanquished their own demons in a more public sphere -- either monetarily or pharmaceutically or artistically -- and some of them, like family patriarch Jack Earle, work behind the scenes in an attempt to exorcise more political demons from the world at large.

Songwriter Stacey Earle, sister of Steve and daughter of Jack, is somewhat overshadowed in the popular media by the rather large visage of her famous brother, a visage that, to some, is now the face of the Evil American due to his song "John Walker's Blues," -- a song written from the view of the famed "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh -- off his upcoming album Jerusalem. The wife of musician Mark Stuart, a mother to two children (one of whom is her sometime-drummer) and -- did we mention? -- a laudable songwriter in her own right, Earle recently chatted with Creative Loafing about a number of topics, including the Earle family's reaction to Jerusalem, printed here for the first time anywhere.

Stacey Earle on performing with family: Mark and I met each other at a songwriter's night. We both knew then and there that we were both at that songwriter's night for the same reason. We were both songwriters, we loved to play, and we each had something to say within ourselves. I believe what made our relationship all that much stronger was that we were both chasing the same dream and being supportive of each other. At the same time, Mark also has what we might call "the curse" -- being up front and also being an incredible guitar player. While he was trying to do his thing for the last eleven years he's been lending 90 percent of his body and soul to my music. I was pursuing Stacey Earle, and when he had time, he was pursuing Mark Stuart.

I was opening for my brother, which was the first time I had ever toured without Mark, and he went out and did a stretch of his own shows. We didn't know what to do without each other, and it wasn't the same. If you spend eleven years together, and all of a sudden one is missing, you notice it. It was like the heart and soul was missing. There was the heart and there was the soul, but there was something missing. I said, "You know, we're married, why don't we just do this together for the rest of our lives?" We agree that we could both stand front and center on our own, but what is that? That's just ego. When you've been married for a long time, you've raised children, and been through everything from starting out single, being on food stamps, and having your lights turned off, there's no room for ego or pride. And I see it happen all the time. The main thing is we're having fun, and for whoever did come see us at night -- whether it's ten people or hundreds -- to have fun, because this is all we have for the rest of our lives. Because all we have is the rest of our lives, and then maybe you move on to different, grander things.

...on her brother: We've been out there touring so long that (if Stuart's not there) immediately the audience goes, "Where's your Mark?" And the reason I call him "my Mark" is because I have a brother named Mark, and he has a brother named Steve, so we call him "my Steve" and "your Steve," and there's "my Mark" and then there's "your Mark." Mark Earle, Mark Stuart and Steve Earle, Steve Stuart. It's very tough at the holidays trying to tag their gifts, let me tell you.

I don't mind if people come see my shows out of curiosity, frankly. If they came just because I'm Steve's sister, they usually come tell me. Once in a blue moon -- and only in a bar or a club, not a theater, or folk venue or Unitarian church -- we'll get one to yell "Copperhead Road." (laughs.) And I'll say, "well, he doesn't play mine." We always stay after the show, shake their hand at the door and say thank you for coming to hear us. At that point a few people will say, "I came to see you because I was curious - you're Steve Earle's sister," and I will say, "He's my brother." They'll say, "I'm one of his biggest fans" and I say, "Me too!" But they always say that next time they're coming just to see Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart. That's all I can ask.

...on the furor behind Jerusalem: Steve was in Europe when it was released, and he called the family because he was worried about us, especially our mom and dad. We were all worried about mom and dad. There were some pretty harsh things said at the beginning. He could not defend himself in any way at first because he was in Europe. He was on his first vacation in quite a while, and by golly, he was going to take it. That's one thing about Steve and I -- we're both workaholics. To get either one of us to stop just to take a vacation is almost impossible. He was actually taking his very first one in some time, and we said and he said he wasn't going to put it to an end. He's a folk singer/songwriter of many areas...he was just writing in first person. Some people thought it was something he was saying. We didn't know what to think about it, the whole family. What it was to me was the first instance of negativity on 9/11, it was the first bit of tabloid (news) that anyone could get a hold of and run with.

I grew up in a very, very patriotic family. Not to vote is not an option for us, because you don't get what you need or want otherwise. I think everyone on Capitol Hill knows who Jack Earle is -- he writes everybody. The question is, "when is the right time?" Like Steve said, everyone had already written songs that went in the other direction. I'm not going to say what was going through his head, but I can tell you that he has a very big heart. It was just a song. He was trying to imagine what was going on. JT, his son, is the same age and our son is the same age (as Walker Lindh)...He's writing what he thought was going through the kid's mind. If you take that from him, then you're taking his rights. Our job is to write songs and he was moved to write it. We all get frustrated with America at times, but we love it, and we also love to hate it. You get frustrated, you know? I have friends who live in England, and all they do is curse everything. We all do it, but that's called fighting for your rights. If you just sit back and say "everything is rosy," you get nothing.

Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart will perform as part of the Spread Your Wings Benefit Concert being held Saturday, September 21 at Neighborhood Theatre. Showtime is 6:30pm and tickets cost $12. Call the theatre at 704-358-9298, for more details.


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