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Justin Townes Earle died of a ‘probable drug overdose’

Nashville police said a preliminary investigation into the death of singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle shows his death was a probable drug overdose.

Police spokesman Don Aaron said officers did a welfare check at Earle’s home on Sunday where he was found dead. A friend called police after no one had heard from the 38-year-old since Thursday. 

Aaron said there were no signs of a struggle or foul play. Autopsy results are pending.

Earle was a leading performer of American roots music known for his introspective and haunting style. He was the son of country star Steve Earle, although the younger Earle was mostly raised by his single mother, Carol-Ann. 

Like his famous Grammy-winning father, Justin’s long battle with addiction began as early as age 12 and he completed nine rehab stints after surviving five heroin overdoses by age 21. 

‘It is with tremendous sadness that we inform you of the passing of our son, husband, father, and friend Justin,’ Justin’s official Facebook page announced on Sunday.

‘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. You will be missed dearly Justin.’ 

Justin had spoken in the past about his struggles with addiction. 

‘The first time I did heroin, all the troubles I had just didn’t matter,’ The Saint of Lost Causes musician told The Scotsman in 2015.

‘It’s not that they went away, they just did not matter anymore. And after that it was just chasing that damn 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.’ 

The Nashville native is survived by his wife of seven years, Gyrotonic instructor Jenn Marie Maynard-Earle, and their three-year-old daughter Etta St. James Earle.

‘I find myself a lot more comfortable in life – I have a wonderful wife, and I don’t have all the same problems,’ Earle told No Depression in 2017.

‘I’m not looking inward all the time constantly. I have to pay attention to what’s going on around me more, because with a wife, I’m responsible for another person’s feelings. And I’m about to be responsible for another person’s life. 

‘As a singer/songwriter you tend to inhabit yourself a bit too much. And I do feel like I’m starting to get less in my head as a person and likewise as a writer.’   

Justin released eight albums and he played in bands like the Distributors and the Swindlers, as well as his father Steve’s touring band, the Dukes. 

A conscious throwback to old-time country and blues music, Earle released such albums as ‘Harlem River Blues’ and ‘The Saint of Lost Causes’ and was named Emerging Act of the Year at the 2009 Americana Honors & Awards ceremony. He wrote often of loneliness, flight and forgiveness, and he was open in interviews about his rough childhood and his addictions. 

Author Stephen King was hoping Earle’s death was just a ‘hoax’ tweeting: ‘It appears that Justin Townes Earle has died. I hope it’s a hoax but fear it is not. What a loss.’

Former MTV News anchor Kurt Loder tweeted a video of Justin performing his song Harlem River Blues on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2011 and wrote: ‘Make. It. Stop. RIP #JustinTownesEarle.’ 

Grammy nominee Margo Price tweeted her condolences to his entire family writing: ‘He was always kind to me and he’s gone too soon.’

Musical prodigy Sammy Brue, 18; shared a snap of himself with ‘muse, friend, and brother’ Earle and tweeted: ‘I am beyond heartbroken…I will always remember your kindness. Your songs will live forever. You can rest easy now.’

Choctaw singer Samantha Crain fondly recalled many memories from their two tours together and tweeted: ‘[Justin] always treated me so kindly. He understood struggle. He understood joy. I saw him at the peaks and valleys of both.’

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