Justin Townes Earle's Widow Blasts Jason Isbell for "When We Were Close"

Jenn Marie Earle says the song has "kept us up at night" and "sent our daughter into tears"

Photos: Kristen Riffert / WFUV (left), Bryan Ledgard (right)

BY Calum SlingerlandPublished Apr 15, 2024

Jenn Marie Earle, the widow of Justin Townes Earle, has criticized Jason Isbell for "When We Were close," his song written about his friendship with the late singer-songwriter that has elicited a "strong, visceral, and extremely painful reaction" from the Earle family.

Rolling Stone points out that Jenna Marie shared her "thoughts on a 'tribute song' and what should be considered" in an Instagram post on Saturday (April 13), taking issue with the song's lyrical mention of both herself and her daughter Etta — which they allegedly were not warned of before the song's release — a "grotesque" lyrical depiction of Earle's death, comments from Isbell in a recent interview about how the song "had to exist," and the songwriter's choice to feature "When We Were Close" prominently in promoting his recent album.

Appearing on Weathervanes, Isbell's 2023 album with the 400 Unit, "When We Were Close" has a lyrical focus on the former friends' shared struggle with addiction. As Jenn Marie notes, Isbell and Earle were estranged in the years leading up to the latter's passing in 2020.

Jenn Marie writes that since Isbell's October 2023 performance of "When We Were Close" on Jimmy Kimmel Live, "I, as well as others, have reached out to him personally, in an emotional plea to try to make him understand the trauma it has forced on our daughter (she has asked to hear it and it has led to moments that I can't bear to share), something she will deal with for the rest of her life. He has not responded, and then made the aforementioned statement, making it clear that he understands there are living, breathing victims. One of which is our innocent daughter."

Jenn Marie Earle's complete statement can be read below.

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