Singer Justin Townes Earle Dead at 38

Justin Townes Earle, longtime singer-songwriter and musician, has died at 38. He is survived by his wife and young daughter.

By Samantha Schnurr Aug 25, 2020 11:42 PMTags
Watch: Singer Justin Townes Earle Dead At Age 38

UPDATE: New details are being revealed following the unexpected passing of singer Justin Townes Earle

A spokesperson with the Metro Nashville Police Department tells E! News that following a preliminary investigation into the incident, Earle's death is "likely related to a drug overdose." 

On Sunday, Aug. 23, officers conducted a welfare check after a friend of the 38-year-old contacted authorities and said he hadn't been heard from since the previous Thursday. Nashville Fire Department forced entry into Earle's apartment, where he was found dead. 

"There were no signs of a struggle or foul play," the spokesperson says. Autopsy and toxicology findings are still pending. 


The music world has lost a beloved bright star. 

Justin Townes Earle, the singer-songwriter and musician behind track including "Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now" and "Single Mothers," has died. Justin, the firstborn son of singer-songwriter Steve Earle, was 38 years old. 

"It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you of the passing of our son, husband, father and friend Justin," his official Instagram account confirmed in a statement on Sunday, Aug. 23. "So many of you have relied on his music and lyrics over the years and we hope that his music will continue to guide you on your journeys."

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Before concluding with lyrics from his 2014 song, "Looking for a Place to Land," the statement declared, "You will be missed dearly Justin." No further details surrounding Earle's cause of death have been confirmed at this time. 

In addition to releasing eight studio albums in the span of more than a decade—including his final, The Saint of Lost Causes, in 2019—Justin battled addiction early on during his teenage and young adult years.  

As he explained to The Scotsman in 2015, "I was never one of those people that was confused, 'Oh I can quit in a day'—I knew I couldn't quit any day...I always knew there was something different about the way that I used drugs and drank to the way that my friends did, but it's a wild thing to wake up when you're 16 years old and realize you can't stop shooting up."

"The first time I did heroin, all the troubles I had just didn't matter," Justin recalled. "It's not that they went away, they just did not matter anymore. And after that it was just chasing that d--n feeling that I never got again. There was this major wound inside of me and instead of doing anything about it, I kept picking at it and it never heals because of that."

However, Justin credited his eventual sobriety—interrupted by two relapses—with discovering himself as an artist. "On my early records there are songs I wrote during the period when I was very intoxicated all the time but there was no way I could have made those records back then," the singer told the newspaper. "I definitely had to be sober to figure out who I was as an artist and to have cohesion in my life."

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Behind the scenes, Justin wed Jenn Marie Earle in 2013 and became a dad to daughter Etta St. James Earle in 2017. However, family life and his music career were not so easily intertwined. 

"It's hard, man. I've been committed to music since I was 15 years old," he told The Boot in 2019. "I'm a good father. I taught my daughter to cuss when the Cubs lose—she's an Earle, so she'll be fine. I'm a good father, but I'm a s--tty husband. I'm built for the road; I don't know what the hell to do at home. But you know what? I never said I'd be good at any of that. Nobody can ever ask me to stop doing what I do. If you want to do what I do—like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark—you're committed to it. Everybody else around you has to understand that."

As evidenced by a statement he made six years ago amid his "newly found" clarity, the dedicated musician also had no interest in a life cut short.  

"One day I just realized it's not cool to die young," he said, according to his website, "and it's even less cool to die after 30."

(This story was originally published on Monday, Aug. 24, 2020 at 5:33 a.m. PST)