Justin Townes Earle has never been one to waste time, especially when it comes to songwriting.
“That’s something I’ve always done,” Earle, 35, said. “My dad (alt-country singer-songwriter Steve Earle) pushed that idea on me — if there are 12 months in a year, do you really think you can write more than 12 good songs a year?
“The songs I’ve written that are on my records, those are the songs. There is no extra catalog. I don’t have enough songs laying around to make a record right now.”
That same mentality rings true when it comes to Earle’s latest album, “Kids in the Street.” The 11 songs on the album are the only ones Earle brought to the studio. He'll perform selections from that album and others in a stripped down set with multiinstrumentalist Paul Niehaus at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Manship Theatre.
However, something was different about the songwriting process for this latest album — the amount of time and effort Earle put into refining his songs.
“I’ve always been a rewrite person. I write things over and over again and adjust little things here and there,” Earle said. “I definitely did that way more with this record. I showed up to do the record with one notepad that had what I needed, but that was compiled out of 10 notebooks of stuff.”
The extra time he spent with the songs wasn’t the only new twist. For the first time, he also brought in an outside producer, Mike Mogis, who brought his keen ear to the album.
“He was definitely able to tap into some different kinds of grooves, the way that songs moved, things like that,” Earle said of Mogis. “He has this incredible ability to still make it seem sparse and leave space, while still having a lot going on.”
“Kids in the Street” finds Earle capably touching on a variety of musical styles. His country roots are well represented on songs like the gently loping “Faded Valentine” and “What’s She Crying For." He also offers up a taste of Professor Longhair-style New Orleans R&B on “15-25,” some bluesy shuffle on “Short Hair Woman,” some easygoing rock on “Champagne Corolla” and “Maybe A Moment,” and even a bit of jazz on “What’s Goin’ Wrong.”
The album comes as his personal life and work have been on an upward arc after some ups and downs that threatened to derail his promising career.
By his early teens, Earle shared his father’s songwriting talent and renegade leanings, as well as his taste for drugs. He temporarily cleaned up his act in his mid-20s and launched his music career with the 2007 EP, “Yuma.”
Earle’s career progressed nicely over the course of his first two full-length albums, but by the time he was ready to make his 2010 album, “Harlem River Blues,” he was using again. Earle started to tour that album, got into a well-publicized bar fight with a club promoter and ended up going into rehab.
He’s been clean since. In 2013, he got married, and in July, the couple had their first child, a daughter, Etta St. James Earle.
Earle doesn’t regret the many misadventures of his youth and early adulthood.
“I mean, when I say from 15 to 25, I’ve got no regrets,” Earle said. “I proved nothing other than I’m hard to kill. Sure, life could have been different. It may not have been easier. It may not have been a lot of things, but my life was crazy and it was fun. I remember more parts of it every day.”
Earle credited his wife with helping him maintain his sobriety and said being clean has also been good for his music.
“These days, I see a clearer path of where I’m going writing-wise,” he said. “(Before) I would have a general idea and have a lot of happy accidents in the past that would help me through. There’s just a little less of that and knowing what I want and how to get to it (now).”
JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE ACOUSTIC DUO
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Manship Theatre, 100 Lafayette St., Baton Rouge
COST: $35-$50 plus fees