If Steve Earle weren’t a living, breathing person, he’d be a character in a blues song — a raucous ballad about a gifted rebel who drank too much, lost most of his women in a blizzard of crack and cocaine addiction, and always came out on the wrong side of the law. Somewhere in the midst of all this, he also managed to weld rock to country, the Beatles to Springsteen, and bluegrass to punk, establishing himself among the most thoroughly original and politically astute musicians of his generation. Granted unrestricted access to Steve and his family and friends, Lauren St John has given us a sometimes shocking, often moving, and completely unvarnished biography of one of America’s most talismanic sons.

“One of the most remarkable music histories ever written. ”

Robert Chalmers, The Sunday Independent

“The opening tale from St John's bio, Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle, of the country-rock hellion is the perfect hook: En route from Nashville to Manhattan to sign a career-reviving contract in 1992, Earle sells his plane ticket, scores crack, then vanishes into addiction for four years. Earle's 1986 debut, "Guitar Town" had critics pronouncing him the next Springsteen. Problem was, Earle was chockful of talent, smarts, and self-sabotage—hooked on everything from heroin to love. "I've only been arrested about 50-60 times in my whole life," quips the now-thriving singer. St John uses her full access to Earle, his family, and even two of his five ex-wives to write a no-holds-barred portrait of a controversial artist who came back from the brink.”

Entertainment Weekly

“A fascinating book, like its subject: utterly compelling. ”

Time Out

“A clear-eyed and compelling midlife bio that leads one to believe that Steve Earle's next 40 years will surely warrant another book. ”

Country Music Magazine

“ Complete access to Earle, his family and friends has produced a portrait of a man trapped by his muse, so crazily driven he'd bring guns into the studio, crash cars and, tragically, put loved ones second to songwriting glory.”

Q Magazine

“This biography of country rocker Earle begins with him skipping a 1992 meeting with record execs to sign a potentially career-reviving, multimillion-dollar record contract. Instead, he sold his airplane ticket for $100 and went to score crack in the slums of Nashville, beginning what Earle calls his four-year "vacation in the ghetto." It's a brilliant opening hook, and St. John (Walkin' After Midnight) never lets the reader go, breezily guiding through Earle's wild childhood (he dropped out of school after the eighth grade and was living on his own by 16), his five tumultuous marriages, his many run-ins with the law, his restless wanderings through the American South and Mexico-and a quarter-century of addiction to booze, cocaine and heroin that finally ended after some jail time in the mid-1990s. By talking to many of Earle's closest friends, family and former wives, St. John manages to demythologize a man whose life often threatens to overshadow his music (unfortunately, however, she herself doesn't spend much time on Earle's actual recordings). She interprets Earle's death wish simply as an attempt to break away from his middle-class upbringing. Like his literary heroes Hemingway and Kerouac, he courts disaster to fuel his writing. As St. John writes, "It was no accident that his life was a series of belief-beggaring dramas; quite often he was the cause of them. Consciously or unconsciously, he cultivated his own legend." Springsteen may have been the "consummate chronicler of welfare-line blues," she writes, "but Steve had lived the life." ”

Publishers Weekly

“This vibrant book takes you by the scruff of the neck, hauls you aboard the tour bus and heads off down Highway 51. Marvellous.”

Worcester Evening News

“Acclaimed singer/songwriter Earle granted St. John, a frequent contributor to the London Sunday Times, unrestricted access to write this unfliching portrait. Drawing on interviews with Earle as well as his friends and family (including six ex-wives), she traces the songwriter's life in gritty detail, from his childhood in rural Texas through his addictions, arrests, and breakups to his most recent triumphs. St. John also chronicles Earle's diverse musical influences, which range from Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark to Gram Parsons and Bruce Springsteen. When Earle's debut, Guitar Town, was released in 1986, he achieved success by reviving the pure sounds of legendary country musicians and combining it with the bluesy strains of rockabilly. Not long after the album's release, though, Earle began his slow descent into an inferno of drug abuse that nearly ended his life. After a four-year rut, Earle came roaring back to life with two flawless albums: El Corazon (1997) and Transcendental Blues (2000). On one hand, this first full-length portrait doesn't break any ground-the sordid aspects of Earle's life were already well documented. On the other, however, by using Earle's own words, St. John brings us closer to her subject's intimate relationship to music, which often gets overshadowed in the press. Ultimately, Earle emerges as a guy who wants to make damn good music. Recommended for all collections.”

Library Journal

“Fascinating reading... a riveting portrait of an artist who, for good or for ill, has made it his practice to stare into that abyss... and who has survived to tell the tale.”

Playback, St Louis Pop Culture

“Lauren St John's massively detailed, brilliantly researched biography is mind-blowing from start to finish. Given complete access to Earle, his family, friends and enemies, St John's book ripples with authenticity and a fearsome honestly redolent of the great man himself.”

Colin Hall, What's On In London

“A dark and compelling tale. ”

Chicago Tribune

“Steve Earle's never been shy about living his life in public. Even the casual music lover probably knows about his five or six wives, the drugs that nearly ended his career, and his ability to write songs that made Townes Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen envious. Lauren St. John, who writes for the London Sunday Times and the Independent, was granted unrestricted access to the people that have been a part of Earle's life, and the results are both unflinching and remarkable. St. John brings it all to life in a way that's engaging and leavened with Earle's down-home Texas humor even when the subject matter gets downright tragic... Hardcore Troubadour paints Earle as a musician whose rebellious, intellectual, and self-destructive tendencies have given voice to a survivor committed to making a difference.”

The Austin Chronicle

“If you are a woman contemplating marriage to Steve Earle, well, don't do it. Read this book instead. It's the mother of all cautionary tales, full of guns, heroin, crack, rotted teeth and six compulsive marriages, twice to the same woman. ”


“Superb... If you love Steve Earle's music you'll buy this book. If not, get it anyway. It's one helluva story.”


“ Meticulously researched and well-written... captures the heart and soul of one of America's most talented, troubled and controversial songwriters.”

Charles R Cross, Author of Heavier than Heaven, the Biography of Kurt Cobain

“Earle granted St John... unrestricted access to write this unflinching portrait... Recommended for all collections. ”

Starred Review, Library Journal