Steve Earle: My Wife Left Me for a “Younger, Skinnier, Less Talented Singer-Songwriter”

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In promotion of his new album,
So You Wanna Be an Outlaw, Steve Earle is giving some blunt answers to questions about his most recent marriage to Allison Moorer, autism, his drug abuse and the state of country music.

The singer-songwriter sat down with The Guardian and pinpointed the cause — as he sees it — of his split with the songstress, his sixth wife. The pair, who have a seven year old named John Henry, split up five years ago and the result may have been their only child’s autism.

“I think it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but I think she was going to leave me anyway,” he told the publication. “She traded me in for a younger, skinnier, less talented singer-songwriter.”

The dig seems to be directed at Hayes Carll, who last I knew was dating Allison.

And the dig, of course, isn’t the story. It’s one line that becomes the story because of how inflammatory it is. The real story is John Henry, who largely non-verbal, a fan of drums and “not easily controllable.”

“Autism is the centre of my life, apart from recovery. They are the two things that control my life,” says Steve, who has struggled with addiction for the majority of his career. “I know why I get up in the morning now: to figure out a way to make sure he’s going to be alright when I’m gone. That’s my job. That’s what I do.”

To get back how autism affected his last marriage, Steve is adamant that John Henry should live in New York — where he and Allison moved soon after their marriage — instead of Tennessee, because of the educational opportunities available in the Big Apple.

“She resents being in New York,” Steve adds. “She wants to leave New York and thinks I’m trying to control her life. I’m not. I just don’t want John Henry to leave New York.”

As for his own love life, will Steve marry for the eight time? (He’s technically been married seven times but to six women.)

“Erm, no. I dodged a bullet recently,” admits Steve, who after a long pause continues, “There are women. But I like sitting where I want to in the movies and when you go to the theatre at the last minute you can get a really good seat if you’re looking for a single. If I go to a baseball game I can stay for the whole thing.”

There are a few specific women on his mind at the moment, though.

“The best stuff coming out of Nashville is all by women except for Chris Stapleton. He’s great,” Steve explains. “The guys just wanna sing about getting fucked up. They’re just doing hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people. I like the new Kendrick Lamar record, so I’ll just listen to that.”

The new album even includes a duet, “This Is How It Ends,” with one of Nashville’s most prominent women Miranda Lambert.

So You Wanna Be an Outlaw is out June 16.