Diggin': Steve Earle on Piper, Joni, and the Birth of Outlaw Country

Fans of Steve Earle’s music are likely aware of the songwriter’s ups and downs over the years, through addictions, marriages, guitar collections gained and lost, and roles in multiple acclaimed television series. When we recently had the chance to catch up during a tour stop in Chicago, we were mostly interested in chatting about some all-time favorite records. Thumbing through a stack of wax we brought along, Mr. Earle took us on a biographical journey, sharing opinions about Joni Mitchell, Townes Van Zandt, Emmylou Harris, and why he doesn’t go past Ummagumma in the Pink Floyd catalog.

Take a look at the video above for more insight and picks from the hard-core troubadour.

Records Featured in this Video

While talking records, Mr. Earle also took the opportunity to school us on the origins of outlaw country—the iconoclastic ‘70s sub-genre led by Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and others. In this second video, Steve explains how Doug Sahm wound up in Texas with Willie Nelson, and how “they were called outlaws because they started demanding control over the making of their own records.” He also spins a yarn about George Jones and exactly where he was going at three in the morning.