"It was kind of stunning," he said. "After four or five years of working with someone, there's this kind of 180. It just proves to me that no matter how long you're with [a record label], you can never trust them."
The trouble came on the heels of his fifth record, "Nothing's Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now." The 2012 release got good reviews and performed reasonably well on several Billboard record charts.
He started work on a sixth record with a new record company, Communion Records -- and that's where it went wrong.
"I was working on a single record and was negotiating a contract," he said. "That's when the people that ran my record label acted like children. They tried to f--- me over. They tried to do a power play, thinking I'd buckle because they have money."
The record company said he promised them 30 songs for a double record. He said he'd told them no such thing. Ever.
"I've never done that in my life," he said, explaining he'd never written 30 songs in a year.
The problem, to him, was that Communion Records wanted him to simply crank out a bunch of songs, just to cash in. There didn't seem to be much consideration for quality or even art.
"I do a lot of things specifically to make money, but my art is non-negotiable."
After a few choice words, Earle walked away.
"I've been poor before," he said. "I'm not scared of being poor again."
The singer/songwriter said he was looking at other avenues for releasing music, but would most likely move to forming his own imprint and just doing it himself, without the middleman of a record company.
"I'll private finance," he said. "I'll pay for my studio myself, pay for my musicians myself."
Earle thought he had enough experience and a good enough relationship with distributors and record stores from his years of touring to patch together his own distribution. A lot of work was ahead for him, but Earle sounded confident. Anger is a pretty good muse.
"I've written a few angry songs," he said. "I've also written some 'I'm going to show you' songs."
With his new marriage, it's not impossible to imagine, he might even work a love song or two in there.
"It's going to be a double album," Earle promised.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.