Virtually from the start of her career, country-folk singer Stacey Earle has performed with husband Mark Stuart after they met at a songwriter’s night in 1991 — recording four discs and playing 170 shows a year.
So imagine the surprise when, in late 2009, the two announced on their website they would dissolve the duo to pursue individual recording careers.
And the surprise when, together again, they not only embarked on a tour that brings them to Listen Live! Music in Zionsville on June 25, but are playing together on a new album they hope to release soon.
Earle, 50, in a recent telephone interview from the road, says she now thinks the announcement was a result of her dealing with the 2008 death of her father, Jack, for whom she was caregiver.
Earle is the younger sister of alt-country singer Steve Earle. She played and sang on his albums “The Hard Way” in 1990 and “Transcendental Blues,” his second-highest-charting disc, in 2000. She played her very first show backing him in at an arena in Sidney, Australia.
Earle says she and her brother had dinner together two days before the interview. He was rehearsing in Nashville for the start of a tour for his album, “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.” The disc, released in April, hit No. 4 on the country charts.
In her 20-year career, Stacey Earle had had successes of her own: Her 1998 debut disc “Simple Gearle” was chosen among the New York Times’ “Favorite CDs You Nearly Missed.”
Stuart has released two solo discs, “Songs from a Corner Stage” in 1999 and “Left of Nashville” in 2007, and Earle says she expects she eventually will record a solo disc.
In a recent telephone interview, Earle (and Stuart) discussed their career and lives together, and the future.
Here’s a transcript of the call:
LEHIGH VALLEY MUSIC: Am I correct – somewhere I read that back in 2010, you guys said that you were no longer going to do the solo thing, but were going to concentrate on your solo careers?
STACEY EARLE: “Yeah, that is correct. Pretty much a lot of that was coming from … I mean, I am going to make a solo record at some point, and Mark did make a solo record. But I think we’ll continue to tour as a duo. That’s the way it looks.
“I pretty much, after my dad passed away, I just didn’t really feel it anymore. And I think it was just my mourning period took maybe a little bit longer than some people, I don’t know. Took me a couple of years, and I had my mother, too, that I need to look after. So I kind of just went into shutdown. And so we really had to start thinking, well, Mark wants to and needs to keep touring, and I want to tour, but I was wanting to just out and do a few shows here and a few shows there, and not be out so often. But, you know, after a couple years, I just started feeling better and mom and I got in a routine and we saw she was going to be OK and I was going to be OK. And I’m back out doing it again. (CONTINUES)
STACEY EARLE AND MARK STUART, with Peter Scapegrace, 8 p.m. June 25, Listen Live! Music, Upper Milford Township Center, (former Kings Highway School), 5671 Chestnut St., Zionsville. Tickets $20.Info: www.listenlivemusic.org, 610-966-6419.
“We’ve been doing this together for a really long time. So I think, you know, let’s let me plead insanity. I guess everyone needs to … some people just take a little bit longer. But I was my dad’s caretaker when he was at his sickest. So it was hard for me. So you just can’t be out there every night if you’re sad. And so that’s what that was all about.
Mark Stuart, left, and Stacey Earle
“And as far as writing a solo record, I said I’d better lay off and laid back on that ‘cause it was getting to be such a sad record and I don’t want it to be completely sad, because I write very personal. And it was a good thing to kind of kick back. And that’s what I should have done – I should have just said, ‘You know what? I think I need two years. But I think that my brain didn’t really know what was going on with me. It’s just a mourning process. So let’s say that’s what that was.
“But we’re back at it. I mean, I can go out there as a solo artist, but if I did, Mark would probably still be by my side because you have to remember, from my very first record, he was half of it. ‘Simple Girl’ is Mark Stuart’s backing vocals, Mark Stuart every guitar on there, except for my rhythm, is Mark. By the next record, it was kind of just like a ‘duh’ – we’re married, we’ve been playing together since the first night we met and it wouldn’t be that sound. If I was in Nashville, I would pick out some great players, I could pick through a lot of players, but as a rule I don’t believe in going in and getting yourself an A-string player and telling him what to play. Some people do that, but that’s their art. Our sound is what Mark sounds like with me together and now, after 19 years of playing together, they have melded, I think, totally together. And he knows the set list – we both can be spontaneous and our guitars will find each other. The guitars are very much a part of the show. ‘Cause I’m also a person who says a song is 100 percent lyric, 100 percent melody, 100 percent groove and 100 percent arrangement. So we give 100 percent always – the 100 percent that we have. Trying to get better every day.”
The last album you guys put out was 2008?
MARK STUART: “We actually did a record called ‘Town Square’ that came out in 2009. It’s a double CD and its virtually a live record, but we did it in the studio, minus an audience [laughs. I know that sounds kind of strange, but people were always asking us did we have anything at our shows to sell that sounded like we did that night on stage. So we went into a studio and made that record. It’s just basically like what you hear us do live.”
Tell me what you do now. Obviously you’re road-dogging it somewhat; you play some shows. But what is life like? Do you continue to write? Do you have something that you expect to put out at some time?
STUART: “Well, we’re actually planning to go into a studio really soon and make a new record. We’ve got an upcoming tour of Europe late in the year – we go to Europe just about every year – and we plan on having a new record by the time we get over there. We’ve got some newer songs; we’re doing them in the show, a few of them, already. We’re touring real heavy, so one of our issues is we’re trying to work it into our schedule [laughs], where we’re actually not driving and sound-checking and playing shows, and record an album.”
All of your kids are grown now, right?
STUART: “They are. We sold them off scientific experiments a long time ago. [Laughs]
Stacey, you talked about basically how you played with Mark from Day 1 in your career. What part do you think that played in your romance? Did the fact that you guys meshed so much musically lead to the romance, or did you guys know the romance as quickly as you knew the musical pairing?
“We knew the romance as quickly as we knew the musical. We met at a songwriter’s night. At the end of it – I was hosting it – and at the end of it, I got to play another set, and Mark came up and I asked him because I just felt like he could do it. That’s the way it was in Nashville. There were some great players there, so I was used to just guitar players sitting in. And I loved his songs as well. So he came up and I sat in with his songs and he sat in with mine, and then we went out to breakfast afterwards, and we’ve been together 24 hours a day since then. And very few times we’re apart – I could probably tell you every event that we were apart. I did one little stint opening for my brother at one point and Mark stayed back. And that was the only time we’ve performed without each other in 19 years. And I only did that ‘cause I was on Steve’s record; I sing a duet with him.”
That just sound like the definition of soul mates — you just sort of found each other.
“Well we are. And it’s so simple – it’s kind of like The Beatles found each other. I’m not trying to compare us to them, now. That was a musical phenomenon, and we learn from them all the time. But yeah, we found each other and it was meant to be. We have so much in common. Some people ask us, ‘Well how does a married couple spend 24 hours together?’ We get up in the morning, we drive, we get to the venue, we sound check, we go eat dinner together, we do the show together, we go out to eat again after the show, we go back to our hotel room, we check in we’re together. The morning starts the process all over again, together. And that’s because we have a friendship along with being husband and wife. One, we look after each other very well on the road because we care about each other, We’re not every man for himself – like in some bands, it’s just every man for himself till they play at night. And we have the music together.
“I mean, onstage, people don’t realize – I guess you’d say we kind of flirt with each other. With a guitar riff, Mark will move close to me and play something different he’s never played. And he’s playing that for me, to see if he can get me to crack up or something. The audience wouldn’t know it’s there, but I know it’s there. ‘Cause I know the music so well. We’ll talk to each other through our guitar riffs sometimes.”
Wow, that’s amazing. I can’t let you go without asking a little bit about your brother. What kind of contact do you have with Steve these days?
“Uh, we were together the day before yesterday [Laughs]. Yeah, see he lives in New York, but he’s down in Nashville rehearsing. He’s about to start out touring. And so he came by my house and we played with his new baby for a while and then we grabbed my mother, and Mark and I and Steve and Allison and the baby and another niece, we all went to dinner. And so yeah, we’re normal family. We’re just – ‘Hey, y’all want to go to dinner? OK, we’ll be at the house. And they came by and we just visited for awhile.
“I mean, we used to see a lot more of him, of course, when they lived in Fairview, and they still have their house there. But pretty much they just spend their time in New York now. So mostly it’s by telephone, text – we text each other quite a bit.”
Do you share any musical talk at all?
“Not really. I mean, we talk about what each other’s doing. But we’ve never sat down and wrote … well, we have written together, I won’t say that. A long time ago, he helped me out and we sat and did some writing together. But no – we talk about what each other’s doing. We realized we’re both going to be in Europe at the same time.”
Have you read his new book?
“No I haven’t. I’ve read – what do you call it, that the publisher sends out, the galleys? I’ve read the galleys.”
- Josh Kelley Gets Personal On Debut Country Album
- EXCLUSIVE: ‘People of Wal-Mart 2′ debuts as singer Jessica Frech scores her first big deal
- Photos of George Clooney’s girlfriend du ans Stacey…
- RI’s Newport Folk Festival Stays Current At Age 52
- Andre 3000 Clarifies Outkast Rumors: “I’m going to be in Outkast forever…”