As the son of outlaw-country legend Steve Earle, Justin Townes Earle couldn’t help finally addressing his hardscrabble Nashville upbringing — during which dad was mostly MIA — with the 2014 album “Single Mothers” and 2015’s “Absent Fathers.”
He got the angst out of his system in time to track his optimistic latest, “Kids in the Street” in Omaha, Neb. with Bright Eyes producer Mike Mogis.
“Instead of looking back on the past, I feel like I’m really looking forward to the future for he first time in my life,” he says. “And that has made a huge difference. I mean huge.”
Earle, who plays San Francisco this week, began his recording career with the eclectic 2007 EP “Yuma,” but found his laconic raconteur footing his third CD, 2009’s “Midnight at the Movies.”
Now, at 35, he’s made what he considers to be his first truly grown-up album, and it coincides with his own resolute steps into adulthood.
Over the past couple of years, the former hard partier got clean and sober, married his equally tall-and-tattooed sweetheart Jenn Marie (he’s 6’4”, she’s 6’3”), moved to Northern California for a year, and relocated to Portland for better hospital access. In July, he’ll become a father, to a daughter he’s already christened Etta St. James.
A decade ago, parenthood was a frightening concept for Earle. “But at this point in my life, I’m really cool with it, and we’re in a nice neighborhood in Portland,” he says.
He’s strangely calm and confident about Etta’s pending arrival, which he believes will revolve around five key components: diapers, a stroller, a car seat, a safe crib and changing station. “We’ll baby-proof the electrical outlets and pad any sharp things,” he says, adding, “But a kid also needs to understand that if you run into the corner of a table, it hurts.”
The forward-looking “Kids” does pay tribute to musical history, Earle admits. The opening rocker “Champagne Corolla” echoes Chuck Berry, the jittery “15-25” was inspired by Professor Longhair, and the lament “Faded Valentine” is his best impression of a Lucinda Williams standard.
The pedal-steel foot-tapper “What’s She Crying For” is the man at his observational best, eavesdropping on the tearful tavern phone call of another failed Music Row hopeful.
“In daily life, I’m very much a people-watcher,” Earle says of his writing style, which will probably soon include some Etta anthems. “I think people would be very uncomfortable if they realized just how much I notice about what they do. So I’ve always selected my songs from my experiences, and from conversations I’ve overheard, too.”
IF YOU GO
Justin Townes Earle
Where: Slim’s, 333 11th St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Friday, June 2
Contact: (415) 255-0333, www.eventbrite.comAbsent FathersJustin Townes EarleKids in the StreetMike MogisPop Musicsingle mothers