Justin Townes Earle was supposed to be one of the biggest names at this year’s CMJ festival, having just released “Harlem River Blues,” the strongest album of his career.
Instead, Earle, 28, canceled that show, along with a month’s worth of tour dates to enter rehab.
The decision came days after Earle — the son of country-rock musican Steve Earle — was arrested following a fight with a club owner and his daughter in Indianapolis.
Now the country-rockabilly singer who has made no secret of his long battle with substance abuse is clean and back on the road.
amNY spoke with Earle.
How are you feeling after your stint in rehab?
I feel great. It usually only takes a few weeks to get the stuff out of your system.
Your father, Steve, also had problems with drugs. Did watching him make you think drugs were part of the creative process?
When I was younger, I had some idea that you had to be tortured and [messed] up in order to write and be creative, but I’m glad I was able to put that lie to rest in my own head. I think it has to do with genetics. There’s just something wrong with me. The abuse I put my body through never once helped me write a song.
What inspired you to expand your sound on “Harlem River Blues”?
Southern people are responsible for creating all forms of American music and I find it interesting going through and creating each level of it. With this album, I was leaning toward [music from] Muscle Shoals and Memphis, but also the hills of North Carolina and different forms of gospel music.
How much does living in New York influence your music?
That’s why the record is called “Harlem River Blues.” I don’t see how you could live in a great city like this and not be influenced by it. If you aren’t, you’re either stupid or a shut-in.
If you go: Justin Townes Earle is at Webster Hall on Saturday at 7 p.m., 125 E. 11th St., 212-353-1600. $20